Formolo. Dombrowski. Rolland. Villella. Woods. Slagter. Koren. Howes. Carthy. Cannondale-Drapac is rolling into the 100th Giro with a squad poised to attack the race and look for opportunity along Italy’s fabled roads. The team is not beholden to a single leader at the Giro, and head director Charly Wegelius hopes the riders make the most of such freedom.

“My hope is that they can enjoy that and try things, and experiment with things, and just push their limits without fear of losing anything or having to do any sort of defensive decision making,” Wegelius said. “They can just see how it works out on the road and grow from it. I think that’s pretty precious in the development of a rider.”

The lineup, however youthful and opportunistic, isn’t a stranger to the Giro. Formolo won a stage in 2015. Rolland finished fourth overall in 2014. Dombrowski lit up the final week of the race last season. Howes is a steady hand wherever he goes. Slagter has performed well on varied terrain his entire career. Woods showed in the Ardennes he’s got bite. Koren knows Italian roads and Italian racing, same as Villella. Carthy just rode a gritty Tour of the Alps.

The season’s first grand tour has been affectionately dubbed the “connoisseur’s grand tour.” It lacks the absolute control of the Tour de France and its fans — tifosi — are among the sport’s most vibrant. The roads are spectacular. The weather is unpredictable. The Giro can feel like a three-week one-day race.

“It’s a big event, but it’s still real enough to have a genuine character. The Tour de France is a massive global event, but the Giro has still got its quirks, and it basically represents everything that’s great about Italy and the Italian culture. It’s effervescent and it’s bubbly, and it’s unpredictable, colorful,” Wegelius said.

The Giro begins on Friday in Sardinia. It ends on the 28th of May in Milano.

Thoughts from some our 2017 Giro riders

Davide Formolo

The Giro for me as an Italian is something you cannot explain with words. It’s just a dream. It’s the race an Italian kid dreams of growing up; it’s the race we learn from. This parcours is something special, too. We start from one of the nicer places in the word, and then we head toward some of the most famous climbs in the sport. My ambition for the race is to let the Italian fans enjoy this amazing race and this amazing sport.

Mike Woods

From a state-of-mind perspective, I am pumped to be doing this race.  Last year I managed, through some bad decisions on my part and bad luck, to not start any grand tour on the calendar.  This has made the significance of this one, to me, that much greater.  Aside from the excitement, there is definitely some respect that I am storing up for that final week of racing and the process of getting there.  I know crashes, illness and just a few off-days can derail even the best riders in the peloton, so I am making sure not to get too far ahead of myself.

Kristijan Koren

This is my first Giro d’Italia, so I am really looking forward to it. I expect three hard weeks in a beautiful landscape surrounded with very friendly fans.

Alex Howes

This is my first Giro. I’ve done a couple of Vueltas and a couple of Tours but I have this funny giddy feeling like this is my first “real” grand tour. Growing up, the Giro always had this special — almost romantic — charm and appeal that no other race had. It was always the “real” race. A race of not just legs but a competition of heart and spirit.

Hugh Carthy

I’ve never ridden the Giro before but in the past few years as a professional it is the one grand tour that I have wanted to ride more than others. People who have ridden it describe it as the most beautiful, brutal yet enjoyable race. Having spent a lot of the season so far in the company of my Italian teammates, the significance and specialness of the centenary edition is clear to see.

Joe Dombrowski

I like the feel of the Giro. I like Italian food and I like Italian culture. The start villages are cool. The country is beautiful. The traditional format with big mountain stages, some transitional stages, and some truly flat pure sprint stages, are a good thing, in my opinion. The racing is less scripted. It’s more interesting to watch. It would be nice to win a stage. I was awfully close a number of times last year. The Giro is the race I enjoyed the most last year, so I’d like to have fun again too.

Tom-Jelte Slagter

Racing in Italy is special, and the Giro is the absolute top. Everything is pink and all the people who come to start and finish makes a great atmosphere. The parcours is always special, with famous climbs and typically Italian roads, nothing else is like that… I want to try to win a stage and help the guys for the GC. I like to race with those two goals because then you don’t focus for three weeks on just one thing.

Pierre Rolland

When I think of the Giro, I think of course that this racing is mythic, that the history of cycling is written on its roads on these climb like the Mortitolo, the Stelvio and others. There will be a lot of difficult days, and the last week will be by far the most difficult. My goal will be above all to win a stage. Maybe be a side classification can be interesting depending on the circumstances of racing. The sprinter jersey suits me this season (laughs).