With the dust barely settled on a glorious Strade Bianche, the racing returns to Italy for the second WorldTour race of the week. Yes! Tirreno-Adriatico is upon us, the Race of the Two Seas, and the one with the best trophy outside of the of Tro-Bro-Leon piglet.
- The 50th edition of this race promises some grand racing as it wends its way from Camaiore on the Tyrrhenian coast to San Benedetto del Tronto on the Adriatic. It is run over the familiar seven stages from Wednesday 11th March to Tuesday 17th.
- The race is bookended by time trial stages. Unfortunately windy conditions have robbed us of one my favourite disciplines – the 22.7km team time trial scheduled for stage 1 has been replaced with a 5.7km individual effort. Many of the GC contenders might well breathe a sigh of relief at the loss of the team element where big chunks of time can be lost.
- Stage two will be a fast finish for the fast finishers of the peloton, while stages three and six will keep the punchier riders on their mettle.
- Stages four and five will see the best of the GC action, with the 16km ascent to the summit finish on Terminillo likely to settle the positions on the final podium.
- There will be bonus seconds available on every stage except the time trials. with ten, six, and four seconds available for the first three riders. These always add a little spice to the proceedings, particularly if it’s close at the top.
Three to watch
Four Three: OK, I’m going to cheat here a little and squeeze the best GC riders into one pick. Tirreno was billed as a pre-tour showdown between reigning champion Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Chris Froome (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Unfortunately illness has robbed us of Froome, but even so it’s a mouth-watering prospect. Of these three I’d plump for Contador – he needs to fine tune his prepararion for the Giro and was in excellent form at the Ruta del Sol. Nibali is a notoriously slow starter and looked off his best at the Tour of Oman. Quintana can never be ruled out, especially after his third place at the Tour de San Luis. However, he is returning to racing from injury sustained at his national championships, so we’ll have to see how rides here.
Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon): With the withdrawal of Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) due to illness and Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step) under the weather, this could be a chance for some of the other fast men to claim a victory. There are many to choose from, but I’m picking young Irish sprinter Sam Bennett as one to watch. He was quick at the Challenge Mallorca sprints, and even quicker at the Tour of Qatar where he took his biggest win yet.
Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka): I could have picked one of a number of exciting young climbers at this race. Both Adam Yates and Davide Formolo made the shortlist. But a recent sixth place at the Tour of Oman and the jersey for best young rider makes this 23-year-old South African climber my last tip to watch out for. He put in a great performance on stage 14 of the Vuelta last year on the summit finish to La Camperona and is eager to flash that stripey jersey on the climbs.
Race to the Seas… oh yes … bring it on.
Link: Official race website
Featured Image: 2014 victor Alberto Contador with THAT trophy. Race website