The quality of the field for this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico became evident at the pre-race press conference on Tuesday afternoon as world champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo), Cadel Evans (BMC), Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad), Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD, Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) and 2010 winner Stefano Garzelli all posed for photographs at the port in Marina di Carrara.
Other big-name riders were absent from the event, including Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Tyler Farrar and Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervelo), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), Alessandro Ballan (BMC), Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli), Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad), Filippo Pozzato and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) David Arroyo (Movistar), Philippe Gilbert and Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Oscar Freire, Lars Boom and Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) and Robbie McEwen (RadioShack).
Wednesday’s opening team time trial will only be Cadel Evans’s third day of racing this season but the former world champion is hoping for a stage victory and possibly a good overall performance. He tipped Ivan Basso, Robert Gesink, Michele Scarponi and Stefano Garzelli as the riders to watch.
“My form is growing. I’ve only got two races in my legs and l’ll be racing against others who have 15 or 20 days racing but I came here in the same condition last year and it went well. I hope things go the same way this year,” he said.
“I’m tipping Basso and It’ll be interesting to see how Fabian [Cancellara] goes. I think also Gesink and probably Scarponi and Garzelli. I’ll be taking it day by day like last year and see how it goes. We’ll try and do a good team time trial to start off with and see from there. If I can’t do something overall, I’ll be just looking for a stage win.”
This year’s Tirreno-Adriatico includes a final 9.3km time trial and five testing road stages. Ivan Basso is almost certain to miss the Giro d’Italia but is targeting overall victory.
“I’m tackling my first goal of the season with the right frame of mind and the right form,” Basso said.
“I’ve done some long training rides recently as well as specific time trial work. There are no real uphill finishes but it’s a tough route. Victory will be built day by day, second by second. We can’t leave anything to chance.”
Teammate Vincenzo Nibali will line-up alongside Basso for Liquigas-Cannondale. Nibali has not raced much but could be a threat in the final time trial and will play a key role in the opening team time trial.
“I’m confident my form can improve even further,” Nibali said. “Sardegna marked the start of my season but was also very useful as training. My legs aren’t great yet but I think I can have a say. I’ll try and take my chances during the race. It’s time to start testing victory.”
Wednesday's opening team time trial is over 16.8km on a flat and fast out-and-back course.
Rabobank is the first team off at 14:55 CET, with the other teams following at three minute intervals.
Team time trial start list:
15.01: Quick Step
15.04: Saxo Bank-SunGard
15.16: AG2R La Mondiale
15.19: BMC Racing Team
15.34: Omega Pharma-Lotto
15.37: Sky ProCycling
15.40: Katusha Team
15.43: Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli
15.49: Leopard Trek
15.52: Acqua & Sapone.