The Manxman is aiming to ride in support of Geraint Thomas in the Giro d'Italia in May, and has looked good so far at the Volta a Catalunya
With Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa already designated as leaders, that leaves 10 riders challenging for seven places, among them Peter Kennaugh, who has made the 100th edition of the corsa rosa his principal target for the first half of this season.
Together with his coaches, his younger brother Tim Kennaugh and Rod Ellingworth, the Manxman has plotted out a slower start to the season with the Giro very much in mind.
“I’ve done that because I wanted be a bit more consistent,” he tells Cycling Weekly after the Volta a Catalunya summit finish at the La Molina ski station.
“I said that Catalunya was the first race where I wanted to show myself and have good form, and the team have been really good in letting me turn up to races in Mallorca and Valencia with a view to trying to find my form rather than already being in tip-top shape.
“So far it’s all going to plan, but a lot can change in two months.”
Kennaugh’s shredding of the peloton on the La Molina stage suggests his plans are working out.
“I felt good and the team rode well. We were just trying to make the most out of the stage and I was trying to make it as hard as possible for G because we all got a little bit of a taste in the team time trial yesterday of how well he’s going at the moment,” he jokes of teammate Geraint Thomas.
“We gave it a good crack today, which was very good for morale.”
Kennaugh is now on a similar programme to Thomas. Next up is the Tour of the Alps (Giro del Trentino), then Liège-Bastogne-Liège and, if all goes smoothly, the Giro.
“I certainly haven’t done myself any harm the way that I’m going here,” he says of his chances of selection, and Sky head coach Tim Kerrison agrees with Kennaugh’s assessment.
“Pete is one of those who is hoping to ride the Giro, and with that goal in mind he’s not been home for months now. He’s just done a big block at altitude at Isola 2000, which is pretty tough at this time of year because it’s still an operating ski resort, so it takes a bit of commitment to do that. He’s come down to sea level and feels great in this race,” Kerrison confirms.
“It was cold up there the first week, but it was nice after that,” says Kennaugh of his spell at altitude in the French Alps.
“There are one or two challenges when it comes to training up there [at this time of year], but I had my family with me and it’s quite handy having the Team Sky house just an hour-and-a-half’s drive away [in Monaco] as well. If there are any problems, you can just drive down to Nice and train with the boys.”
Watch: Giro d’Italia 2017 essential guide
Now 27, Kennaugh is entering his prime years as a racer. There were indications of that at the Vuelta a España towards the end of last year, when he took the leader’s red jersey on the opening day and was still in contention for a top-10 place on GC until a problematic haemorrhoid had to be treated on the team bus right before the decisive mountain stages.
“It was quite a random injury, if you can call it an injury,” he says.
“I still managed to finish the race off well, but the GC did go out of the window. But that’s what I’m aiming at, to be just like I was today, in the thick of the action when it comes to the hard part of the climb.
“I’m sure if I hadn’t had to do the turn on the front today I would have been in the top-10. It’s knowing and taking confidence from the fact that I can do that that is important. I then need to move forwards with it.”