Julian Alaphilippe will pull on his world champion's jersey for the first time this year on Thursday at Tour de La Provence, but he will face stiff opposition from former Tour de France winner Egan Bernal.
Crowned word champ at Imola in September, Alaphilippe has had little opportunity to show off his new rainbow outfit.
The Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider came fifth in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and won the Fleche Brabanconne in October but was then forced to retire from the Tour of Flanders after a crash that resulted in a fractured right wrist.
Four months later, he will be starting a new season for the first time in his professional career in his native France.
"I've never started a season in France, it's going to be a first, it's great," he said recently.
"I really want to make this rainbow jersey shine and make myself happy."
Alaphilippe will be able to take advantage of his puncher qualities at the start of Six-Fours-les-Plages on Thursday and Manosque on Friday, but the queen stage will take place on the slopes of Mont Ventoux on Saturday, with a finish at chalet Reynard -- 14.6km at 7.6 percent -- where Nairo Quintana carved out his success last year.
The Colombian is not back to defend his title but his compatriot Egan Bernal is a late addition to the field and the Ineos rider will start as favourite.
The 2019 winner of the Tour de France goes into the race after a paradoxical Etoile de Besseges last week when he was a member of the victorious breakaway on Friday and then freewheeled the following stages to come in 64th overall, over six hours behind the winner.