The 2018 Giro d'Italia begins in Jerusalem on Friday, 4th May. Here is Velon's guide to the confirmed teams for the first Grand Tour of the season:
Tom Dumoulin proved at last year's Giro d'Italia that he has the all-round ability and mental toughness to win Grand Tours and it will be fascinating to see how he fares a year later.
The Dutchman will be backed by a blend of experience and young talent across the mountainous route - Chris Hamilton and Sam Oomen are both 22, Lennard Hofstede is 23 and Louis Vervaeke, signed from Lotto Soudal, is 24.
The more experienced campaigners include Laurens Ten Dam, Roy Curvers and Chad Haga. When it comes to the two individual time trials, world champion Dumoulin is well capable of looking after himself.
Laurens Ten Dam
Chris Froome will bid for a Giro-Tour double following his brilliant Tour-Vuelta Grand Tour success last season, and his GC battle with Dumoulin in particular is shaping up to be enthralling, with Dumoulin a fearsome opponent in the time trials and mountains.
"There is an element of risk involved in targeting the Giro before the Tour, but I think I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t give this race a go," Froome said.
Froome will not lack support in the mountains with David de la Cruz, Kenny Elissonde, Sergio Henao and Wout Poels on board. Vasil Kiryienka will expect to be in contention for the two individual time trials, along with Froome himself.
David de la Cruz
Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates are both riders who will relish the challenge of three gruelling weeks of climbing - and both will be ably assisted by a strong and experienced team. Yates has two stage wins under his belt already in 2018, at Paris-Nice and Volta a Catalunya, both against power-packed pelotons.
Spaniard climber Mikel Nieve was signed from Team Sky to add firepower in the mountains, and Czech Roman Kreuziger knows a thing or two about stage racing, with 15 Grand Tour starts and 14 finishes under his belt.
Australian Jack Haig has shown great form in the early-season Classics and stage races and Sam Bewley, Svein Tuft and Chris Juul-Jensen will also provide world-class support.
BMC Racing Team
Australian Rohan Dennis returns to the Giro for a fresh crack at the general classification. His world-class time-trialling abilities and accomplished climbing could see him right in the mix come the final week. Jürgen Roelandts has the speed to win sprint stages, as he has already demonstrated this season, while Nicolas Roche can challenge for stage wins in the mountains.
BMC Racing Team:
Alessandro De Marchi
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Tim Wellens has been on fantastic form in the early season, winning Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana (at Challenge Mallorca) in January and the five-stage Ruta del Sol in February. He also went close at Paris-Niceand soloed away to win Brabantse Piljwith an impressive attack. Can he climb with the best of them at this punishing Giro?
Victor Campenaertsis Lotto Fix ALL's main hope in the time trials while double Grand Tour stage winner Adam Hansen returns to the Giro, incredibly starting his 20th consecutive Grand Tour, a run that began at the 2011 Vuelta. Sander Arméetook a debut pro win at last year's Vuelta and may have licence to attack again.
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Lars Ytting Bak
Tosh Van Der Sande
Kiwi George Bennett will lead the Belgian team at the Giro despite a recent brush with a car on a Giro recon ride. Bennett suffered nothing more serious than bruising in that accident and is confident it will not affect his chances of a serious tilt at GC. He has been in excellent form and was mixing it with the likes of Mikel Landa (Movistar Team) at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Robert Gesink will be an important lieutenant for Bennett, while Jos van Emden will aim to repeat his glory at last year's race, when he won the final time trial in Milan. For the sprint stages they have Danny van Poppel, signed from Team Sky for 2018, who has shown good form in the early season.
Jos an Emden
Gijs Van Hoecke
Danny van Poppel
After a richly successful Spring Classics campaign, Quick-Step Floors will approach the season's first Grand Tour with plenty of confidence.
Sprinter Elia Viviani won the Dubai Tour (including two stages), the points classification at the Abu Dhabi Tour, plus Three Days of De Panne and Stage 3 at the Tour Down Under. The Italian will be motivated to continue his excellent form on home roads.
As always Zdeněk Štybar was active in the Classics and is capable of challenging for stage wins.
EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
Michael Woods aims to mount a sustained GC challenge and also achieve his goal of winning a Grand Tour stage while Italian Sacha Modolo will contest the sprints.
The likes of Hugh Carthy, an accomplished climber, will also go for stage wins in the mountains. "I’d like to play an important role for him in the high mountains and show what I’m capable on over the steepest terrain. If I get the opportunity to have my own success on individual stages, I will take it and race aggressively," Carthy said.
EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale:
Tom Van Asbroeck
Colombian Jarlinson Pantano returns to the Giro d'Italia for the first time since 2014, having focused on the Tour de France since. Expect the 29-year-old Colombian to shine on the mountain stages - he will arrive with good form after a superb stage win at the Volta a Catalunya last month.
Irishman Ryan Mullen will target the individual time trials while the Dane Mads Pedersen was on form during the Spring Classics, powering to second place at the Tour of Flanders. Pedersen's 23-year-old compatriot Niklas Eg makes his Grand Tour debut.
Boy van Poppel
UAE Team Emirates
Italian Fabio Aru will lead the charge for UAE Team Emirates and in the absence of Vincenzo Nibali, Aru represents Italy's best chance of GC success. Fellow Italian Diego Ulissi meanwhile is capable of causing fireworks on the shorter, punchier climb stages.
The 25-year-old Slovenian Jan Polanc already has two Giro d'Italia stage wins to his name, in 2015 and 2017, and may again choose to go all-in on one or two big mountain stages.
UAE Team Emirates
Vegard Stake Laengen
Richard Carapaz, Antonio Pedrero and Eduardo Sepúlveda are all Giro debutants in a young team, with six of eight riders under 28.
Carlos Betancur and Rafael Valls will be among their climbing options in the mountains and it will be interesting to see who emerges as their main GC hope.
Víctor de la Parte
Team Dimension Data
Louis Meintjes is a pure climber who will hope to flourish on a typically mountainous Giro parcours. The 22-year-old Ben O'Connor recently took a hugely impressive win at the Tour of the Alps, proving he can mix it with the best climbing talent in the world.
Jacques Janse Van Rensburg
Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team
Domenico Pozzovivo will lead the GC charge for Bahrain Merida. Impressively, the 35-year-old has five top 10 Giro finishes in his career, and may even hope to improve on his best fifth-place finish, achieve in 2014
Team Katusha Alpecin
Team Katusha Alpecin are likely to target the time trials above anything else at the Giro, given that both Tony Martin and Alex Dowsett are in their line-up. Dowsett won a time trial the Giro back in 2013, while four-time world time trial champion Martin is riding the Giro for the first time since 2008.
Mads Würtz Schmidt
AG2R La Mondiale
BORA-hansgrohe will target the mountain stages and the general classification with Davide Formolo, who won a stage in 2015 and finished 10th overall last year. In the sprints they will look to Ireland's Sam Bennett, who is increasingly capable of competing in the top echelon of sprinters.
Wilier Triestina-Selle Italia
The Italian team is one of the four wildcard invitees and will be aiming for stage wins, predominantly in sprints through Jakub Mareczko but also on medium mountain stages through the likes of Edoardo Zardini.
Another wildcard team who will try to get in breaks and who would dearly love to win a stage. The 23-year-old Davide Ballerini took the mountains classification at Tirreno-Adriatico in March.
Manuel Belletti has seven Giro starts to his name, finishing once, while Francesco Gavazzi has started and finished six Grand Tours in his career, starting with the Giro back in 2008.
You will be sure to see Italian team Bardiani-CSF, one of four wildcard picks for the Giro, in breakaways and battling for stage wins over the coming weeks.
Look out for Manuel Senni, signed from BMC Racing Teamfor the 2018 season, who has raced the previous two Giros, and Mirco Maestri, who in March joined the likes of Fabian Cancellara as a winner of the three-stage Tour of Rhodes.
DS Roberto Reverberi said: "The path to the Giro has been really brilliant, especially in the last races at Tour of the Alps, Giro dell’Appennino and Tour of Croatia. We’re really satisfied for the results achieved by the guys so far and a lot of them deserved a call for the Giro."
Can Thibaut Pinot improve on his fourth place last year? All the signs are that he can - he won the recent Tour of the Alps against some of his main rivals for the Giro d'Italia. Pinot clearly enjoys racing in Italy, away from the expectation heaped on him by French fans during the Tour de France, and approaches this race believing he can challenge for the top step of the podium.
Israel Cycling Academy
Krists Neilands turned in an eye-catching performance at Milano-Sanremo, attacking on the Poggio and providing what proved to be a launch pad for Vincenzo Nibali's win for Bahrain Merida. The experienced 30-year-old Zak Dempster makes his Grand Tour debut.