FLORENCE, Italy - On-form Swiss star Fabian Cancellara is being tipped for rainbow jersey glory but could face a tactical minefield during the men's road race at the world cycling championships on Sunday.
Cancellara, the former Olympic and four-time world time trial champion, had to settle for bronze in the men's race against the clock last week when he finished behind Bradley Wiggins and winner Tony Martin.
His third place finish, however, revealed what many of his road race rivals fear: the Swiss looks skinny, a sign that his months of hard training and sacrifice have left him in optimal condition for Sunday's epic challenge.
"He looked in great shape in the time trial, he's lost weight, he's fast, powerful and will be determined," said Alessandro Ballan, who triumphed in 2008 after Italy team leader Paolo Bettini was marked out of the race.
Considered one of cycling's biggest accolades, winning the road race's rainbow jersey would add another prestigious line to Cancellara's long list of honours.
The Swiss is a proven champion in some of the world's toughest one-day races and Sunday's epic from Lucca to Florence looks well within his grap.
At 272.2 km long, it is not for the faint-hearted - any contenders who haven't been racing, or at least training hard, over that kind of distance can kiss their hopes goodbye.
Following a 103km ride from Lucca into Florence, the riders tackle 10 laps of a 16.9km circuit, featuring a number of small climbs and false flats, and a flat 2.8 kilometres of road which comes after the final, 600-metre climb of Via Trento and leads directly to the finish line.
Cancellara's biggest challenge will be withstanding attempts by rivals from Belgium, Britain, Spain and Italy on the climbing sections to shake him off.