Ivan Basso (Liquigas) makes his first race appearance on home roads since his Operación Puerto ban as the Italian and Spanish calendars open this weekend.
Basso already debuted his 2009 season at the Tour de San Luís in Argentina last month, but will race on Italian roads for the first time since the 2007 Tirreno-Adriatico in Saturday’s GP Costa degli Etruschi.
Alessandro Petacchi (LPR) has won the past four editions and is the top favorite as most of Italy’s big stars will be on hand to kick-start the Italian racing calendar. Others expected to race are world champion Alessandro Ballan and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Italian national champion Filippo Simeoni.
Italian racing continues with the Giro della Provincia di Grosseto (Feb. 13-15) ahead of the Trofeo Laigueglia (Feb. 21).
Basso, meanwhile, is scheduled to race the Tour of California (Feb. 14-22), where he will square off against Lance Armstrong and the other top U.S. riders.
The Spanish calendar opens Sunday with the first day of the 18th Mallorca Challenge, a series of five one-day races on the Balearic island.
Olympic gold medalist Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) headlines the field that also includes the season debut of Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) as well as the first European race for Katusha.
Spanish racing continues with the Ruta del Sol (Feb. 15-19) while Portugal gets things rolling with the Volta ao Algarve (Feb. 18-22).
Countries further north in Europe start racing later, with Switzerland beginning racing with Gran Premio dell’Insubria (Feb. 28) and Belgium with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Feb. 28).
18th Mallorca Challenge• Sunday, Feb. 8: Palma-Palma, 116km
• Monday, Feb. 9: Cala Millor-Cala Millor, 176.5km
• Tuesday, Feb. 10: Inca-Inca, 182.7km
• Wednesday, Feb. 11: Bunyola-Bunyola, 143.5km
• Thursday, Feb. 12: Magaluf to Palmanova, 147.6km