Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) will resume hostilities with Vicenzo Nibali (Astana) when he returns to action in the Tour of Poland, which rolls out in Italy on Saturday, July 27.
Wiggins, Nibali and Lampre-Merida’s former Giro d’Italia winner, Michele Scarponi, will all be riding competitively for the first time since this year’s Giro, which the former was forced to abandon due to a knee injury.
They will return to Italian shores as the 70th edition of the Tour de Pologne visits the country for the first time, with mountain stages between Rovereto and Madonna di Campiglio and Val di Sole and Val di Fassa.
And with 2012 Tour de France winner Wiggins eager to bounce back to form after a disappointing 2013 to date, Sky have backed him with an very strong support team.
Colombian climbing aces Rigoberto Uran, second at the Giro, and Sergio Henao – who finished third in Poland last year – are joined by British youngster Ben Swift, who won the points classification and two stages last time out.
Luke Rowe takes the total number of Brits in the team to three and American Danny Pate rounds off the six-man squad.
Giro champion Nibali meanwhile will be looking to continue his impressive 2013, which has also seen him win the Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro del Trentino.
Having stood two steps down from Wiggins on last year’s Tour de France podium, Nibali’s bid to spoil the Brit’s return will be backed by four of the squad who helped him to Giro victory in May.
Also joining them on the start line will be Ivan Basso, as Cannondale bid to record their third consecutive victory after Moreno Moser and Peter Sagan won in the last two years.
Two-time Giro winner Basso withdrew from this year’s event due to a reported cyst in his seat area but will lead Cannondale’s charge in the Italian and Polish mountains.
Competition to Wiggins and Nibali will also come from BMC Racing, who have included Norwegian champion Thor Hushovd in a strong squad, while Nicki Sorensen and namesake Chris Anker ride for Saxo-Tinkoff.
After a strong showing at the Giro, Colombia could also be a force to be reckoned over a mountainous parcours, as they seek to emulate Nairo Quintana’s Tour de France success.
Christophe Riblon, fresh from his victory on Alpe d’Huez at the Tour, will ride for Ag2r-La Mondiale, while ‘King of the Classics’ Fabian Cancellara is included by Radioshack-Leopard.
Former champion Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Sharp) will also be on the start line, but the Belgian’s 2007 victory came on a much flatter route than this year’s mountainous stages.
After it’s Italian departure, this year’s Tour includes two long medium-mountain stages from Krakow to Rzeszow and Tarnow to Katowice, before hitting the mountains.
It concludes on Saturday August 3 with an individual time trial from Wieliczka to Krakow.