Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome ride together in Oman
Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins, Tour de France 2012
Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome start the Tour of Oman today for team Sky. It's the first time this season that the two Grand Tour contenders have ridden together in competition - and the only time the duo are currently scheduled to race together before the Tour de France in July.
Sky has already widely publicised that Wiggins will be aiming for the 2013 Giro d'Italia in May, leaving Froome to be Sky's leader at the 2013 Tour de France. Although Wiggins goes into the Tour as defending champion, the parcours has less time trial mileage and more climbing than last year's edition - and is more suited to Froome.
Although Sky is saying that neither Wiggins or Froome are the outright team leader in the Tour of Oman (February 11-16), it's Froome that wears the '011' plate accoring to the official start list. Usually, but not always, it's the team leader that wears the lowest number allocated to a squad.
"They're the obvious two general classification candidates," Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford coyly told the Independent newspaper, "but we'll play that one out".
The Sky duo will come up against fellow Grand Tour contenders Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank), Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and last year's Oman winner Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
Velits edged out Nibali in last year's race by just one second overall.
Don't expect the Grand Tour contenders to go full bore this week - it's still very early in the season and therefore early in many riders training programmes, so they are far from peak condition. However, we may see the climbers testing their legs - and those of their rivals - on stage four of the race to Green Mountain.
Tour of Oman 2013: Preview and coverage