The 48th edition of the Corsa dei Due Mar starts on Wednesday in San Vincenzo with Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Chris Froome, world number one Joaquin Rodriguez and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali all lining up.
Mark Cavendish will be going for stage wins for Omega Pharma-Quickstep but will face stiff competition in the form of Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol), Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Tyler Farrar (Garmin), Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) and John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano).
A 16.9 kilometre team time trial opens the seven-day race and 2011 Tour de France champion Evans said he looks forward to testing himself against a talented field.
"Some of the biggest stage racing riders in the world will be there," Evans, who finished third in his first stage race of the season at the Tour of Oman and won Tirreno-Adriatico in 2011, said.
"Strade Bianche was a good indication for me, though I didn't make the final in the front group. We'll see how the team time trial goes and then we'll take it from there."
The focus for the GC riders will be Saturday's stage which concludes with the steep climb of Prati di Tivo and the final stage, a 9.2km individual time trial.
Saxo-Tinkoff's Contador, one of only five riders to have won all three Grand Tours of road cycling, Astana's Nibali, Rodriguez of re-instated World Tour team Katusha and Team Sky's Froome will look to be in the shake-up.
Contador said: “I’m very happy with the quality of the field. I think it will be the most competitive stage race of the year, outside the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España”
Thor Hushovd, Tony Martin, Damiano Cunego, Samuel Sanchez and Fabian Cancellara are amongst the other elite names in the field while MTN-Qhubeka make history by becoming the first African team to start a WorldTour race.
Stage 1: Wednesday 06/03: San Vincenzo – Donoratico (16.9km)
Stage 2: Thursday 07/03: San Vincenzo – Indicatore (232km)
Stage 3: Friday 08/03: Indicatore – Narni Scalo (190km)
Stage 4: Saturday 09/03: Narni – Prati di Tivo (173km)
Stage 5: Sunday 10/03: Ortona – Chieti (230km)
Stage 6: Monday 11/03: Porto Sant’Elpidio – Porto Sant’Elpidio (209km)
Stage 7: Tuesday 12/03: San Benedetto del Tronto – San Benedetto del Tronto (9.2km)
Most wins - Riders
6 Roger De Vlaeminck (BEL) 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977
2 Francesco Moser (ITA) 1980, 1981
2 Giuseppe Saronni (ITA) 1978, 1982
2 Toni Rominger (SUI) 1989, 1990
2 Rolf Sørensen (DEN) 1987, 1992
Most wins - Countries
Last 10 podiums
2012: Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Chris Horner (USA) Roman Kreuziger (CZE)
2011: Cadel Evans (AUS) Robert Gesink (NED) Michele Scarponi (ITA)
2010: Stefano Garzelli (ITA) Michele Scarponi (ITA) Cadel Evans (AUS)
2009: Michele Scarponi (ITA) Stefano Garzelli (ITA) Andreas Klöden (GER)
2008: Fabian Cancellara (SUI) Enrico Gasparotto (ITA) Thomas Löfkvist (SWE)
2007: Andreas Klöden (GER) Kim Kirchen (LUX) Alexandr Vinokurov (KAZ)
2006: Thomas Dekker (NED) Jörg Jaksche (GER) Alessandro Ballan (ITA)
2005: Óscar Freire (ESP) Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) Fabrizio Guidi (ITA)
2004: Paolo Bettini (ITA) Óscar Freire (ESP) Erik Zabel (GER)
2003: Filippo Pozzato (ITA) Danilo Di Luca (ITA) Ruggero Marzoli (ITA)
- Sports & Recreation
- Vincenzo Nibali
- Cadel Evans
- Alberto Contador