Over four months since the last race, WorldTour racing resumes on Saturday following the global shutdown at Strade Bianche in Tuscany.
Never before in the post-war era has there been such a break between races. It will have been 138 days since Maximilian Schachmann won the truncated Paris-Nice. It will have been 138 days in which riders existed away from the public gaze, visible only as avatars on virtual platforms.
During the enforced hiatus as a result of the coronavirus pandemic some will have lost form, others discovered the benefits smart trainers. Those recovering from injuries may have welcomed lockdown, taking the opportunity to recuperate and close the gap on their rivals. Others, of course, may have lost friends or family members to the virus. One thing is certain however, each rider will have had a different experience and none of us know for sure how they will look and perform once the flag drops.
The early signs would suggest most have been putting the hours in during training, though other than rides shared on social media the peloton's on-road form remains unknown, which can make predictions a little tricky. However, based purely on historical results and a little bit of instinct Telegraph Sport has made its selections for the race that many now call the 'sixth monument'.
Mathieu van der Poel (Hol)
Age: 25 | Team: Alpecin-Fenix
Best result at Strade Bianche: Van der Poel will make his debut in 2020
It will surprise few to discover that Mathieu van der Poel is the overriding favourite to win on his Strade Bianche debut on Saturday. The three-time world cyclo-cross champion has the power, bike handling skills and the ability to quickly recover between efforts required to prevail on the white roads of Tuscany. Little wonder the bookmakers's extremely short odds.
Best odds to win: 43/10
Julian Alaphilippe (Fra)
Age: 28 | Team: Deceuninck-Quick Step
Best result at Strade Bianche: First — 2019
The defending champion had originally planned on skipping the race, but here is. Coming just a week before Milan-Sanremo — another race he won in 2019 — the race may yet again provide the launchpad for what was an unforgettable season for the Frenchman. Team-mate Zdenek Stybar (14/1) is another possible winner, as is youngster Kasper Asgreen (66/1).
Best odds to win: 4/1
Wout Van Aert (Bel)
Age: 25 | Team: Jumbo-Visma
Best result at Strade Bianche: Third — 2018, 2019
The talented all-rounder, and another three-time world cyclo-cross champion, has finished third in his two previous appearances and will be desperate to improve on that. Endured a terrible crash at last year's Tour de France, but appeared to be recovering well during the cyclo-cross campaign. Odds of 14/1 are too generous for a rider of Van Aert's ability.
Best odds to win: 14/1
Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol)
Age: 30 | Team: Ineos
Best result at Strade Bianche: First — 2014, 2017
By his standards, endured a disappointing season in 2019. Will be hoping the race he has won twice can provide the perfect platform on which to build a foundation for the coming season. Is out of contract at the end of the year which could give the Pole added motivation going into the restart. The race may also suit Italian team-mate Gianni Moscon (80/1).
Best odds to win: 18/1
Jakob Fuglsang (Den)
Age: 35 | Team: Astana
Best result at Strade Bianche: Second — 2019
Lost out to Alaphilippe in Tuscany last year, but the Dane went on to enjoy his best season yet with victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and a maiden grand tour stage win at the Vuelta a España. May be too much to expect the 35-year-old to repeat last year's efforts, but in Alexey Lutsenko (20/1) has a team-mate who may slip beneath the radar and challenge.
Best odds to win: 9/1
Tiesj Benoot (Bel)
Age: 26 | Team: Sunweb
Best result at Strade Bianche: First — 2018
Another former winner will line up at the start in Siena, though it is extremely unlikely the 26-year-old from Ghent will win in the same conditions he did so in back in 2018. On that occasion the youngster proved himself in tough conditions, but can he cope in the heat? Backed by team that is fine balance of experience and young (cyclo-cross) talent.
Best odds to win: 16/1
Peter Sagan (Svk)
Age: 30 | Team: Bora-Hansgrohe
Best result at Strade Bianche: Second — 2013, 2014
As the talisman for the in-form team — Gregor Mühlberger, Pascal Ackermann and Felix Grosschartner have all won races since the return of racing — surely the former world champion and one of the best bike handlers around can win at Strade Bianche? The bookmakers think not and, in fact, fancy another team-mate Maximilian Schachmann (12/1).
Best odds to win: 16/1
Dylan Teuns (Bel)
Age: 28 | Team: Bahrain-McLaren
Best result at Strade Bianche: Teuns will make his debut in 2020
May lack the pedigree on the rough roads of Tuscany, but the gravel-voiced Belgian who has made five appearances at Liège-Bastogne-Liège — and won a Tour de France stage atop La Planche des Belles Filles last year — may be perfectly suited to the steeper sections where many lose their way and a chance of victory. Definitely a dark horse selection.
Best odds to win: 33/1
Philippe Gilbert (Bel)
Age: 38 | Team: Lotto-Soudal
Best result at Strade Bianche: First — 2011
A week out from what will surely be the focus of his season — Gilbert would join a select club if he completes the set of all five monuments at Milan-Sanremo — it is doubtful he will be targeting a second Strade Bianche title. However, proved throughout his career he has the ability to hold form throughout entire campaigns. But will he show an early hand?
Best odds to win: 50/1
Michael Woods (Can)
Age: 33 | Team: EF Pro Cycling
Best result at Strade Bianche: Woods will make his debut in 2020
Another dark horse that likes the steep stuff, and one that despite his age continues to learn and impress in the big one-day races. The puncheur's last day of racing ended with him being carried away from Paris-Nice with a broken leg, but having performed well in the virtual world during lockdown will hope to be in the running when the real business returns.
Best odds to win: 80/1