This Saturday the 95th edition of Giro d'Italia will kick off in the Danish city of Herning.
The first Grand Tour of the year looks set to be hotly contested, as riders look to get their hands on the leader's jersey, the maglia rosa.
For the first three days, the riders will be in Denmark, where sprint finishes will be hard to avoid on the pan-flat first two road stages.
After an early rest day, the race will be back in the familiar terrain of Italy, as riders make their way through three weeks of intense racing to the finish line in Milan.
The penultimate stage will break records as it climbs to the highest point ever in a Grand Tour, ascending 2,832 metres up the Passo Stelvio.
Here we take a look at all 22 teams that will compete in this year's Giro, as well as what we should expect from each of them.
The French squad has podium potential in John Gadret. The Frenchman finished third (after Alberto Contador's suspension) and won stage 11 in the race last year, and he will be looking for a repeat performance.
However, there will be limited help from the AG2R squad, with it unlikely that he will get much help from his teammates in the mountains.
Mathieu Perget (FRA)
Manuel Belletti (ITA)
Ben Gastauer (LUX)
Matteo Montaguti (ITA)
Gregor Gazvoda (SLO)
Julien Bérard (FRA)
Hubert Dupont (FRA)
John Gadret (FRA)
Guillaume Bonnafond (FRA)
Predictions: Top-10 finish for Gadret. Activity in the breakaways, but no stage wins.
Following the announcement of the Tour de France route, Astana rider Roman Kreuziger decided to focus his 2012 on the Giro d'Italia.
The Czech rider likes the look of the 2012 route, telling Cycling News, "The next Giro will be more reasonable than the 2011 race. I'll have a real chance of making the podium."
After finishing sixth overall at the 2011 Giro and winning the young rider classification, Kreuziger will be a real threat to the favourites this year.
He should get help in the mountains from Russian Evgueni Petrov, while elsewhere Astana could get a stage win from this year's Amstel Gold Race winner Enrico Gasparotto.
Giro Squad: (9 from the following)
Roman Kreuziger (CZE)
Evgueni Petrov (RUS)
Enrico Gasparotto (ITA)
Aleksandr Dyachenko (KAZ)
Jacopo Guarnieri (ITA)
Fredrik Kessiakoff (SWE)
Francesco Gavazzi (ITA)
Simone Ponzi (ITA)
Paolo Tiralongo (ITA)
Tanel Kangert (EST)
Kevin Seeldraeyers (BEL)
Predictions: Kreuziger to finish in the top 10, with the team winning a stage.
BMC come into the Giro with one of the strongest looking squads. Former Giro d'Italia leader and five-time Italian national time trial champion Marco Pinotti will lead the team's general classification challenge.
Former World Champion Thor Hushovd will also be looking for stage victories.
"I would like to be ready for the prologue to be close in the fight for the pink jersey," the Norweigan commented.
Mathias Frank (SUI)
Taylor Phinney (USA)
Ivan Santaromita (ITA)
Danilo Wyss (SUI)
Thor Hushovd (NOR)
Marco Pinotti (ITA)
Alessandro Ballan (ITA)
Johann Tschopp (SUI)
Mauro Santambrogio (ITA)
Predictions: Victory in the team time trial coupled with another stage win coming from either Pinotti or Hushovd. Pinotti to finish in the top 10.
Mikel Nieve will lead the Euskatel squad in this year's Giro. The Basque outfit had not won a single stage of the race until Nieve and teammate Igor Anton brought two home in last year's race.
Nieve continued his good form, finishing 10th in both the Giro and the Vuelta a Espana last year. Whether the 27-year-old can re-create this when the Giro starts on May 5 remains to be seen.
Pierre Cazaux (FRA)
Amets Txurruka (ESP)
Jon Izagirre (ESP)
Adrián Saez (ESP)
Miguel Minguez (ESP)
Juan José Oroz (ESP)
Víctor Cabedo (ESP)
Mikel Nieve (ESP)
Iván Velasco (ESP)
Predictions: Nieve to feature in the late stages of some of the hillier stages, but to ultimately come away empty-handed.
Plucky Frenchman Sandy Casar will be hoping for good things at this year's Giro, the race which saw his best-ever Grand Tour finish of sixth in 2006.
Casar will, as ever, be looking to the breaks in the hillier stages of the Giro. At 33, his best years are behind him, and a high placing overall is unlikely, but he has a knack of sniffing out the successful breaks.
In 2006 he gained almost 10 minutes in a break on stage 14 to Domodossola, so look for Casar to be active in the second week.
Gabriel Rasch (NOR)
Jussi Veikkanen (FIN)
Geoffrey Soupe (FRA)
Arnaud Démare (FRA)
Mickaël Delage (FRA)
Francis Mourey (FRA)
Sandy Casar (FRA)
Dominique Rollin (CAN)
William Bonnet (FRA)
Predictions: Lots of trying, but no luck for the French squad.
Canada's Ryder Hesjedal will lead Garmin's charge at this years's Giro.
Hesjedal, who finished seventh in the 2010 Tour de France, will also be riding this year's tour but is focusing his attention on Italy.
Hesjedal told Cyclingnews, “The team has given me the opportunity and the challenge of riding the GC in the Giro."
He will be aided by Christian Vande Velde, who will be looking to use the Giro to ride himself into form ahead of the Tour.
Giro Squad: (9 from the following)
Murilo Fischer (BRA)
Tyler Farrar (USA)
Thomas Dekker (NED)
Robert Hunter (RSA)
Peter Stetina (USA)
Sébastien Rosseler (BEL)
Alex Rasmussen (DEN)
Christian Vande Velde (USA)
Ryder Hesjedal (CAN)
Thomas Peterson (USA)
Predictions: A top-15 finish for Hesjedal, with Vande Velde possibly sneaking inside the top 20.
Australian squad GreeEdge will be looking for success in the early part of this year's Giro. GreenEdge sports director Matt White told Roadcycling.com, "We're solely focused on stage wins."
So expect to see a lot of activity in the first week breakaways from the squad.
While in the sprints, Matt Goss can expect good lead-outs from Tomas Vaitkus. The Lithuanian has won a stage of the Giro before and could find himself in some of the breaks.
White has also admitted that the team is geared towards the team time trial on stage four:
We have a strong team for the stage four team time trial in Verona. A dream scenario would be to put Goss in the pink leader's jersey during the first week, either right before or right after the team time trial.
Tomas Vaitkus (LTU)
Fumiyuki Beppu (JPN)
Jens Keukeleire (BEL)
Daryl Impey (RSA)
Svein Tuft (CAN)
Christian Meier (CAN)
Jack Bobridge (AUS)
Matthew Goss (AUS)
Brett Lancaster (AUS)
Predictions: GreenEdge will be looking to insert themselves into as many breaks as possible in Week 1 of their first-ever Grand Tour.
Expect a good performance from the team in the team time trial, but to just miss out on the victory.
Matt Goss will be a danger in the bunch sprints, but expect him to be edged out more often than not.
One stage win at best.
Joaquim Rodríguez will be looking for overall victory when the race finishes on May 27 in Milan.
The Spaniard finished fifth last year and has had some excellent form this season, winning La Flèche Wallonne.
A victory on stage five and sixth place overall at Tirreno–Adriatico was followed by two stage wins and second place overall at the Tour of the Basque Country.
Rodríguez has some of the best form coming into the race and could be a good bet for a podium spot in Milan.
Joaquim Rodríguez (ESP)
Pavel Brutt (RUS)
Aliaksandr Kuchynski (BLR)
Joan Horrach (ESP)
Alexander Kristoff (NOR)
Alberto Losada (ESP)
Ángel Vicioso (ESP)
Daniel Moreno (ESP)
Gatis Smukulis (LAT)
Predictions: Second-place finish overall and a stage win for Rodriguez.
Lampre provides the biggest threat to the podium this year. With both Michele Scarponi and Damiano Cunego capable of victory.
Scarponi will be looking to win the race on the road this year after being granted the 2011 victory after Contador's suspension.
The Italian will be presented with the pink jersey of the 2011 champion in a ceremony in Denmark two days before the start of this year's race.
Meanwhile, Cunego, the 2004 winner, will be tasked with helping Scarponi and looking for stage wins himself.
General manager Giuseppe Saronni has stated that “The race for pink is a top target for Michele Scarponi," while Cunego will "be free to act in some appropriate situations."
Daniele Pietropolli (ITA)
Michele Scarponi (ITA)
Diego Ulissi (ITA)
Matteo Bono (ITA)
Damiano Cunego (ITA)
Alessandro Spezialetti (ITA)
Przemyslaw Niemiec (POL)
Daniele Righi (ITA)
Adriano Malori (ITA)
Predictions: Overall victory for Scarponi, with a top-five finish and a stage win for Cunego.
Ivan Basso will be looking to rebound from a terrible start to the season with a high finish in this year's Giro
The Italian fell at both Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya this year, and after abandoning the Trofeo Laigueglia, GP Lugano, Paris-Nice and Volta a Catalunya, he was reportedly close to withdrawing from the Giro.
However, after finishing 33rd in the Tour de Romandie, he is more optimistic over his chances. “If I can make the same jump in condition between Romandie and the Giro as I did between Trentino and Romandie, then I’ll be alright.” said Basso.
Meanwhile, fellow GC contender Vincenzo Nibali probably won't ride in this year's Giro, as he looks to the longer, steadier climbs of this year's Tour de France.
Giro Squad: (9 from the following)
Alessandro Vanotti (ITA)
Ivan Basso (ITA)
Eros Capecchi (ITA)
Cristiano Salerno (ITA)
Fabio Sabatini (ITA)
Damiano Caruso (ITA)
Cayetano Sarmiento (COL)
Vincenzo Nibali (ITA)
Sylwester Szmyd (POL)
Paolo Longo Borghini (ITA)
Valerio Agnoli (ITA)
Maciej Bodnar (POL)
Predictions: Ivan Basso to finish in the top five and Sylwester Szmyd in the top 15, with the team winning a stage along the way.
The Lotto squad will be looking to soldier through this year's race after many members have been banged up in recent weeks.
Team leader Gianni Meersman will have to get past the knee trouble that has prevented him riding in either Fleche Wallonne or Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Denmark's Lars Bak has also been in the wars, the Giro will be his first race back after breaking his hand at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
Gianni Meersman (BEL)
Francis De Greef (BEL)
Dennis Vanendert (BEL)
Olivier Kaisen (BEL)
Gaetan Bille (BEL)
Lars Bak (DEN)
Brian Bulgaç (NED)
Adam Hansen (AUS)
Bart De Clercq (BEL)
Predictions: Lars Bak to be active in the breaks while the race is in his homeland, but otherwise not much to write home about for Lotto.
Team Movistar's biggest riders have decided against riding in this year's Giro. Both Alejandro Valverde and David Arroyo will focus on the Tour de France instead.
This leaves the team with no real focus for the race other than opportunistic stage wins.
Veteran Marzio Bruseghin will be looking for a fairly high finish overall, while wily riders like Costa Lastras and Visconti will always be dangerous in the breaks.
Giro Squad: (9 from the following)
Branislav Samoilav (BLR)
Andrey Amador (CRC)
Javier Moreno (ESP)
Beñat Intxausti (ESP)
Giovanni Visconti (ITA)
Francisco Ventoso (ESP)
Sergio Pardilla (ESP)
Marzio Bruseghin (ITA)
José Herrada (ESP)
Nairo Quintana (COL)
Pablo Lastras (ESP)
Rui Costa (POR)
Predictions: Lots of activity in the breaks from Movistar, but no luck with stage wins.
With its biggest stars staying at home, Omega Pharma-Quick Step will be looking to its younger riders for stage wins at this year's Giro.
The team will be looking for wins on practically any stage, with Francesco Chicchi a threat in the sprints.
Chicchi has four victories to his name already this season and could be a dark horse for a stage win in Week 1.
Elsewhere, the team will look to Dario Cataldo and Serge Pauwels to get into the breaks in the mountains, while Martin Velits will be a danger in the time trials.
Sporting director Davide Bramati concluded, “Overall the team has all its cards in order to go for a stage victory and a good placing in the general classification."
Martin Velits (SVK)
Julien Vermote (BEL)
Marco Bandiera (ITA)
Nikolas Maes (BEL)
Francesco Chicchi (ITA)
Dario Cataldo (ITA)
Serge Pauwels (BEL)
Michal Kwiatkowski (POL)
Michal Golas (POL)
Predictions: A sprint win for Chicchi and another win coming from a break.
Without a real contender for the GC, the Dutch squad will be on the hunt for stage wins when the race gets underway in Denmark this Saturday.
The team's two top sprinters, Mark Renshaw and Theo Bos will be the team's chief hopes for glory.
Directeur sportif Jan Boven has said that both men will have the chance to go for stage wins: “With this line-up, we have to go for stages. We’ve seen it in Turkey, Renshaw is the best man in the leadout for Theo Bos, but he can win sprints himself as well.”
While the bulk of the squad will be concentrating on the sprints, Boven is hoping that veteran Juan Manuel Gárate can help 22 year old Tom-Jelte Slagter learn the finer points of the breaks.
"With the help of Garate, Slagter needs to discover how far his reach is. Both of them will have to pick their days and strike when they can," Boven said.
Giro Squad: (9 from the following)
Tom-Jelte Slagter (NED)
Stef Clement (NED)
Mark Renshaw (AUS)
Graeme Brown (AUS)
Dennis van Winden (NED)
Juan Manuel Gárate (ESP)
Theo Bos (NED)
Grischa Niermann (GER)
Rick Flens (NED)
Jos van Emden (NED)
Tom Leezer (NED)
Predictions: It will be tough for Rabobank in the sprints, but a stage win will come from Bos, Garate or Slagter.
Following an unfortunate injury to Jakob Fuglsang, Fränk Schleck will lead Radioshack's assault on the Giro.
There are no expectations on Schleck, whose main goal remains the Tour de France, and team manager Johan Bruyneel hopes that the lack of pressure will help Schleck to a high finish overall:
I am confident he can surprise us in the coming weeks. It all reminds me of the 2008 Tour of Italy when, one week before the start, we got an invitation for the race. In the end we won the overall.
Schleck should be able to call on help in the mountains from Oliver Zaugg and Thomas Rohregger. Zaugg won the Tour of Lombardy last year, and Rohregger claimed victory in the Tour of Austria in 2008.
Daniele Bennati will be looking for victory in the sprints. Last season Benatti won stage 20 at the Vuelta a Espana and he has pedigree in the Giro. In 2008 he won three stage and the sprinter's jersey.
Daniele Bennati (ITA)
Jesse Sergent (NZL)
Ben Hermans (BEL)
Oliver Zaugg (SUI)
Thomas Rohregger (AUT)
Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA)
Jan Bakelants (BEL)
Nélson Oliveira (POR)
Fränk Schleck (LUX)
Predictions: Frank Schleck to finish in the top 15. Benatti to win a sprint finish and finish high in the points classification.
With Alberto Contador currently suspended, 2012 looks to be a quiet year for Saxo Bank.
The team was dealt more bad news with a knee injury ruling young Pole Rafal Majka out of the race.
With no clear GC candidate, Saxo Bank will be looking for nothing more than stage wins from this year's Giro.
The Argentinian Haedo brothers, Sebastián and Juan José, will be the team's best chance for victory in the sprints. Juan José provided the team with its only overall victory at the Grand Prix Denain.
Sebastián Haedo (ARG)
Mads Christensen (DEN)
Juan José Haedo (ARG)
Jonas Jørgensen (DEN)
Matteo Tosatto (ITA)
David Tanner (AUS)
Anders Lund (DEN)
Manuele Boaro (ITA)
Luke Roberts (AUS)
Predictions: For a team as established as Saxo Bank, its squad looks very thin. The Haedos might spring a surprise in the sprints, but it looks like it could be a long three weeks for the Danish team.
Team Sky's squad for the Giro leaves nothing to the imagination in terms of its aims for the race.
Mark Cavendish will lead a team that is almost solely put together to win sprint finishes.
Long-time leadout man Bernhard Eisel will be on hand to give Cav the final burst of speed, while Thomas, Flecha, Stannard, Swift and Kennaugh will make sure no breaks survive and provide what could be an unstoppable train for Cavendish to finish off.
The Colombian duo of Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Urán give the squad options in the mountains, and both will be hoping for high finishes in Milan.
Sergio Henao (COL)
Geraint Thomas (WAL)
Bernhard Eisel (AUT)
Juan Antonio Flecha (ESP)
Peter Kennaugh (IOM)
Mark Cavendish (IOM)
Ben Swift (ENG)
Rigoberto Urán (COL)
Ian Stannard (ENG)
Predictions: Stage wins galore and the overall points jersey for Cavendish, as long as he finishes the race. A top-10 finish from Urán and a top-20 finish for Henao.
In its second appearance at the Giro, Dutch squad Vacansoleil will be hoping for stage wins, but sport director Jean-Paul van Poppel thinks that the team has a rider for every occasion.
“The current selection seems well balanced and ready for the adventure. We have got a sprinter, time trial specialists, climbers and possible general classification riders," said the Dutchman.
Romain Feillu will be dangerous in the sprints and could nick a stage win for the team. Sweden's Gustav Larsson will be looking to repeat his victory in the final time trial of the 2010 edition.
Larsson comes into the race in good form, having won the stage one time trial of this year's Paris-Nice.
Tomasz Marczynski (POL)
Gustav Larsson (SWE)
Stefan Denifl (AUT)
Thomas De Gendt (BEL)
Sergey Lagutin (UZB)
Matteo Carrara (ITA)
Romain Feillu (FRA)
Mirko Selvaggi (ITA)
Martijn Keizer (NED)
Predictions: Stage win in the final time trial for Larsson and plenty of close calls for Feillu.
The first of the UCI Professional Continental wild card teams on the list, Androni Giocattoli have three potential GC contenders in their midst.
José Rujano is the best of the three. The Venezuelan won two stages in last year's Giro on his way to a sixth-place overall finish.
Rujano is an excellent climber and is in good form after finishing second overall at this year's Tour de Langkawi.
Rujano should have excellent support in the mountains. 31-year-old Italian Emanuele Sella and Colombian José Serpa will also be aiming for high overall finishes.
Roberto Ferrari (ITA)
Carlos Ochoa (VEN)
Alessandro De Marchi (ITA)
Jackson Rodríguez (VEN)
Miguel Ángel Rubiano (COL)
José Serpa (COL)
Emanuele Sella (ITA)
Fabio Felline (ITA)
José Rujano (VEN)
Predictions: A stage win as well as a top-10 finish for Rujano, with Sella and Serpa making it into the top 20.
The all-Italian squad of Colnago-CSF Inox has a real chance of taking the pink jersey in this year's race with Domenico Pozzovivo.
The 29-year-old has been in excellent form this year, taking a stage win and the overall victory at this year's Giro del Trentino.
He was ninth overall in 2008 but has the potential to make it into the top three by the the time the riders enter Milan.
Colnago will also feature in the sprints, where 24-year-old Sacha Modolo will be looking for a stage win.
Modolo took first place in stage six of the Tour of Turkey this year to add to an impressive 2011 and is confident, but he knows victories will be hard to come by at the Giro: “I know it will be difficult to win a stage at the Giro because there will be a lot of good sprinters there, above all, Cavendish, but I believe I can win.”
Giro Squad: (9 from the following)
Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA)
Omar Lombardi (ITA)
Filippo Savini (ITA)
Marco Coledan (ITA)
Gianluca Brambilla (ITA)
Stefano Locatelli (ITA)
Angelo Pagani (ITA)
Enrico Battaglin (ITA)
Stefano Pirazzi (ITA)
Sacha Modolo (ITA)
Sonny Colbrelli (ITA)
Paolo Locatelli (ITA)
Predictions: Pozzovivo to finish third overall, with a stage win and the mountains jersey.
Filippo Pozzato and Oscar Gatto will lead the Farnese Vini-Selle Italia team, as they look for stage wins and a possible pink jersey in the first week of the Giro.
Pozzato has had a mixed season so far. Runner-up in the Tour of Flanders and sixth at Milan-San Remo are not bad results, but Pozzato would have hoped for victories.
Gatto won stage eight in last year's Giro with a well-timed attack in the final kilometre, but after that victory the peloton will be keeping a close eye on him.
Kevin Hulsmans (BEL)
Andrea Guardini (ITA)
Francesco Failli (ITA)
Matteo Rabottini (ITA)
Elia Favilli (ITA)
Oscar Gatto (ITA)
Pierpaolo De Negri (ITA)
Luca Mazzanti (ITA)
Filippo Pozzato (ITA)
Predictions: Plenty of attacking and TV time, but no stage wins for Pozzato and company.
German outfit Team NetApp comes into its first ever Grand Tour led by Jan Barta.
The Czech rider has won both the Settimana Coppi e Bartali and Rund um Köln this year and is a very capable time trialist.
Without injured Czech climber Leo König competing for the GC, the only aim for Team NetApp is to get into as many breaks as they can and get on TV as much as they can.
Giro Squad: (9 from the following)
Timon Seubert (GER)
Jérôme Baugnies (BEL)
Daniel Schorn (AUT)
Markus Eichler (GER)
Andreas Schillinger (GER)
Andreas Dietziker (SUI)
Cesare Benedetti (ITA)
Matthias Brändle (AUT)
Reto Hollenstein (SUI)
Bartosz Huzarski (POL)
Jan Bárta (CZE)
Predictions: Not many. Team NetApp will try and get riders in to as many breaks as they can, but it will ba a surprise if any of these produce stage wins for the team.