At last year's world championships, Joaquim Rodriguez was left crying on the podium after his team mate Alejandro Valverde had failed to cover eventual champion Rui Costa's late attack.

7 Apr 2015 - 5:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:34 PM

Rodriguez took second place and hit out at Valverde for his lack of cooperation, saying the Spaniards should have walked away with gold and silver.

Spain will be trying to do better this year on home soil as the UCI Road World Championships start in Ponferrada with Sunday's team time trial, ending a week later with the men's elite race.

The course features two climbs, the first long and steady and the other short and steep, whose top is situated some four kilometres from the finish, at the end of the 14th lap of the 18.2km circuit.

It has been dubbed too easy for the climbers, Alberto Contador is staying home, and possibly too hard for the pure sprinters, Mark Cavendish has opted out, but both might regret their choice.

This time Valverde seems to have a better chance than Rodriguez to prevail, but coach Javier Minguez warned that it would be tougher than last year.

"If we could have two Spaniards in the mix for the win it would be great, but it will not happen this year," he said.

It is Australia who have the strongest team led by the in-form Simon Gerrans, who won the Quebec and Montreal Grands Prix earlier this month, but they also have sprint specialist Michael Matthews.

"We've got to remember that it is a one-day race and it's not unusual for guys with a sprint capacity to survive on circuit races like that and really be a nuisance at the end," Australia performance director Kevin Tabotta told local media.

"We've seen that year in year out with guys, particularly like Oscar Freire."

In that case, Matthews could face stern competition from France's Nacer Bouhanni and John Degenkolb, if the German has recovered from an infection, and even Peter Sagan should the Slovak finally find his form.

Sagan is one of those who can unsettle the top teams along with Ireland's Dan Martin, who could make the difference in the final climb, and defending champion Rui Costa.

Other contenders include Norway's Alexander Kristoff, Belgian Greg van Avermaet, Poland's Michal Kwiatkowski and Frenchman Tony Gallopin.

Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali is Italy's leader even if the course does not exactly suit him and the Azzurri will bank on Filippo Pozzatto should the race be decided in a sprint.

In the men's time trial, Tony Martin, winner of the last three editions, has no serious rival with Bradley Wiggins likely to claim silver again, just like in 2011 and 2013.

The German would become the second rider to win the event four times after Swiss Fabian Cancellara, who is opting out as he pins his hopes on the men's race.

Martin is also expected to guide the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team to their third consecutive title in the team time trial on Sunday.

Dutch great Marianne Vos is the natural favourite for the women's race, having won the last two editions following a frustrating run of five consecutive runner-up spots.

She will be helped by a strong Netherlands team with her main rivals being Italian Giorgia Bronzini and Swede Emma Johansson, as well as her Rabobank team mate Pauline Ferrand-Prevot of France.

Should Vos falter, her compatriot Anna van der Breggen is a strong candidate for the title.

The first five days of competition will be live-streamed on the Cycling Central website, while the final two days will be broadcast on SBS ONE and streamed online.