By Gregor Brown
When RCS Sport announced the parcours of its springtime tour, Tirreno-Adriatico, at the beginning of February, it became evident that this would be the course chosen for the big sprint guns in their lead-up to the Milano-Sanremo which takes place four days after the race's conclusion in San Benedetto del Tronto. The 43rd edition of the Corsa dei Due Mari ('race of two seas') will see the likes of Tom Boonen, Alessandro Petacchi, Oscar Freire and Paolo Bettini battle in the sprints as the race covers seven stages, March 12 to 18.
The 2008 edition of the race will follow the traditional parcours in the west to east direction, from Mar Tirreno to Mare Adriatico, clocking 1122 kilometres along the way. Won in 2007 by Andreas Klöden, this year's parcours will offer an alternative to those not riding in the controversial and mountainous Paris-Nice, and a 'warm-up' for Milano-Sanremo on March 22. Overall, it is a race that respects the riders' early season form, with stages for sprinters and all-arounders.
The first day kicks off in Civitavecchia should be one for the sprinters who can survive over the dual ascents of the Bivio di Sassicari climb at 43 and 23 kilometres to go. With three flat, fast finishing circuits in the seaside town of Civitavecchia, the race should allow ample opportunity for the fast men to put their trains together to launch the bunch gallop.
Stage two is the main west to east traveller and will likely put the cat amongst the pigeons, splitting the classification battle for the yellow and red leader's jersey. The longest stage of the race – 203 kilometres, ending in Umbria's Gubbio – will see only the tough survive the six kilometre long Belvedere climb with just 17 kilometres to go and go on to battle the slow-rising final 4.75-kilometres.
Stage three starts from Gubbio and travels 195 kilometres to bring the riders to the 1.78-kilometre wall of a finish in Montelupone. The organisers have thrown in a one-two punch by sending the riders twice up the torturous 20% maximum gradient on the climb that averages 12.1%: first with 25.9 kilometres to go, before the race heads out for a loop around the town, and a second time at the finish of a stage which will test the legs of the GC contenders.
The final four stages of the race are held along the Adriatico seaside. Stage four will be the one for escapees who can fare well on a parcours that rolls; no climb goes over 350 metres but the profile looks like a saw blade. After a GPM (Gran Premio Della Montagna) at 8.7 kilometres to go to Civitanova Marche, there are 4.75 kilometres of flat run-in to let the tactics of the winning move play out.
Read the entire preview of the race, which starts tomorrow.