If it looks like I am flying under the radar for this year's Tour de France, that is fine with me.
I can understand why that's the thought, especially looking at the calibre of favourites such as Britain's defending and two-time champion Chris Froome, my old teammate on the Sky team and still a good friend; Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Spaniard Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and even the Italian duo of Fabio Aru and Vincenzo Nibali (both Astana) are also strong contenders for the yellow jersey.
They've all won grand tours, whether it's the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France or Vuelta a Espana, to illustrate their class.
Well, seventh overall on my grand tour debut, in the 2010 Giro, when I was not a team leader, is my best result; the only time I led a team for a three-week race, for Sky in last year's Giro, I had to pull out due to crash injuries in a race that all in all was marred by problems.
I have otherwise helped leaders win, such as Contador in the 2011 Giro [a win later stripped off Contador for doping in the 2010 Tour - ed], Briton Bradley Wiggins (Sky) in the 2012 Tour, and Froome in the 2013 and 2015 Tours de France. This year's Tour will be my first with BMC, after leaving Sky, and my first as a leader ... or co-leader with American Tejay van Garderen.
My goal? It is to be in contention for the podium. Why not? I believe I have the ability and form that includes four top-four finishes in World Tour stage races. Most important though is that I do the best I can possibly can without something outside of my control impacting it.
I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a bit of nervousness, but I have controlled everything I can to be ready. I'm as in good condition as I've ever been. I've done the training and reconnaissance; I've checked out nine of the 21 stages. I have had onlytwo hiccups. The first of those was the gastro that forced me out of the Tour de Romandie in May. Then I lost my podium place at the Criterium du Dauphiné on the last stage when Frenchman Romain Bardet (Ag2r) attacked on the left in the last 400 metres and Irishman Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) went with him when I was on the right and caught in behind Froome and the Sky guys. Bardet and Martin moved up to second and third overall respectively, pushing me from second to fourth. But I still finished feeling very good about where I am for the Tour.
Froome: A Mate But A Hard Read
I hear all the talk about how my Tour may be impacted by my friendship with Froomey.
There was plenty of it during the Criterium du Dauphiné when people said I raced with him too much rather than against him. But the fact is, during the Tour the same may happen.
We may face a situation where there is mutual gain to be shared by racing the same tactics.
But that could happen with anybody. You still have to be one of the strongest to be up there in the overall race as I hope or plan to be so long as I can avoid incident or health issues.
Even then, that does not mean I won't attack him. If I need to and can, I will. But being his mate doesn't mean I will be able to read his mind just like that. Even as a teammate, it was hard. He would say he is feeling good but you didn't know. It is difficult to read his body language. If others are having a bad day, you can tell; but Froomey is a hard book to read.
Sure, at the Tour I will have to be a little guarded about what I chat to him about during quieter moments. But truth be known, the Tour is not the time to catch up with mates.
Co-leading BMC With Tejay van Garderen
Again, a lot of people will be wondering how myself and van Garderen are going to go as co-leaders on BMC. But we have a good relationship. We have spoken and trained a lot together. We will just have to wait and see where we are placed by the third week.
If we are both in the mix and strong, having two of us there should be a good thing.
With Sky (Froome) and Movistar (Quintana) being so strong, it should not be BMC's responsibility to take the race on; but if we are both there after they do, it could help us.
We like our team that's been selected, especially for the first week when it gets hectic in those early bunch finishes. We have riders like Switzerland's Micky Schär and German Marcus Burghardt to protect us from the washing-machine madness of it all. Another is American Brent Bookwalter, one of the most underrated riders who will also be good for the mountains -- where Frenchman Amaël Moinard should shine. Think how Brent, 'Burgy', Micky and Amaël all rode on the BMC team that helped Cadel Evans win the 2011 Tour, and you realise how much man and brain power is there to help Tejay and I. Add Italian Damiano Caruso for the climbs, and Aussie Rohan Dennis and Belgian Greg Van Avermaet, who will also get chances for stage wins, and we have every reason to be excited with our line-up.
Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador, Fabio Aru, Vincenzo Nibali
So, the other major contenders?
I can understand why so much has been said of Quintana; I saw why first hand at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya [that Quintana won]. He was so good. I just don't know how much better he can be other than that because he was flying.
It's also been interesting to see Contador race so aggressively, but that's Alberto isn't it?
However, I don't think you can gamble with your efforts that much in the Tour. You don't want to be in the red every day. So I think Alberto might have to ride a little more defensive. It doesn't make sense to attack when there are still three Sky guys and Movistar guys riding.
I know there is a lot of talk about last year's Vuelta winner, Aru; but his teammate Nibali, who won this year's Giro, has also flown clean under the radar in Tour reckoning this year.
Okay, he says he will be at the Tour to help Aru. But people forget Nibali won the Tour in 2014. He has now just won the Giro. He is coming in with no pressure. He will be dangerous.