The Carrick-on-Suir sprinter was on the podium 12 months ago after taking third on stage two but with more confidence and a stronger team, he’s optimistic of challenging again.
“Tirreno is a crazy race with hard climbs, a world-class field and often bad weather, but I think stages three and six will be sprints so I should have chances,” he said.
“It’s a race I’ve been targeting and really looking forward to for a while but as it comes closer I get less and less confident.
“I see the other guys I’ll be racing and they are just super strong at the moment so I know if I’m to win it’s going to take something really special.
“My legs have been good since the start of the season and though my results haven’t shown it, I can still push for that stage win,” he added The only other Irishman in the race is Dan Martin who will spearhead a strong challenge from Etixx QuickStep.
Martin is a big fan of the climbs which usually decide the race and he’ll most likely keep his powder dry until Sunday’s stage five which finishes atop a hors categorie summit. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Esteban Chaves (Orica GreenEDGE ) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) are just some of the other overall contenders.
The race gets underway with a 22-kilometre team time-trial tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEDGE) retained the race leader’s yellow jersey on the second stage of Paris Nice yesterday.
The Australian was part of a group of 54 riders who contested the stage into Vendome after travelling 195 kilometres from just outside the French capital.
Local man Arnaud Demare (FDJ) took stage honours from Ben Swift (Team Sky) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis, Credits Solutions) on a savage day that saw the peloton buffeted by strong winds and snow.
Ireland’s Nicolas Roche (Team Sky) rode in service of his team leader Geraint Thomas who finished in that front group, though Roche himself lost over three minutes.
Four-time national road race champion Matt Brammeier was also on domestique duty for Dimension Data and he conceded over nine minutes while keeping their main man Serge Pauwels right in contention.
Today’s stage takes the riders 214 kilometres on a flat course from Contres to Commentry.