As is to be expected after his heroics of last year, Mikel Nieve is being touted as a top ten candidate and possible dark horse for the podium in the Giro d'Italia that gets underway in less than 48 hours. His lead-up to the race has been troubled, though, and the climber admits he's not quite in top shape just yet.
"The early part of the season was all about getting in top shape for the Giro, but after my crash in the Volta a Catalunya I had to spend 15 days off the bike. Naturally, my preparations got hampered", he told the team's own website.
"I'm arriving fresh, as I haven't raced all that much this year (11 days, ed.), but I feel I lack that little something that comes with competition and that would make me able to challenge with the favourites. We handled the setback as well as we could though, and prepared for the race to the best of our ability. I've been feeling good in the last workouts, and hopefully I'll get used to the racing as we go and arrive in the third week in good shape."
Nieve will of course be the team's go-to guy, but doesn't harbour hope of fighting for the top, top placings on GC in light of a far from perfect 2012 thus far.
"We've set ourselves realistic goals. We'll go for a stage win and a high overall result. That's what I ask of myself. We'll go patiently, step by step, try to do things right, and then we'll see how far we go. I'm not a leader of a team that needs to take control of the race, I'm not here to win. I haven't shown I'm capable of that. But I'll be ably supported by my team-mates and that, of course, will be a big help".
And what does he think of the route?
"It's got something for everyone. The sprinters will have their chances, and so too will the time trialists and escape artists. We've brought a really competitive team, and I'm sure they'll be in the mix when breaks go all the way. They're all very motivated, and I'm sure they'll have their possibilities. The last week will decide the outcome. On paper, it's a course suited to me. I'll take it day by day, and if a chance for a win comes up and I'm feeling strong, I'll go for it. The nature of this course means you'll be up there on GC if you perform well in the mountains. Therefore we'll take it as it comes and see what happens."