Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) attended the Tirreno-Adriatico pre-race press conference on Tuesday alongside Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
While the latter trio are set to fight for overall success, Sagan and Cancellara are chasing stage victories and looking to clock up a week of quality racing miles as their final preparation for Milan-San Remo and other spring Classics.
Cancellara was expecting to play a support role in the opening team time trial, doing huge turns on the front to help team leaders Bauke Mollema and Julian Arredondo gain some time on their overall rivals. However, last week a windstorm left hundreds of pine trees in the roads of Lido di Camaiore, forcing race organisers to scrap the 22.7km team time trial. The opening stage is now a 5.7km individual time trial and Cancellara will be riding to win.
The only other time trial specialist at Tirreno-Adriatico are Italy's Adriano Malori (Movistar) and Australian duo Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEdge) but Cancellara knows that the sprinters could also excel on the short, flat course on the seafront.
Cancellara won a stage at the Tour of Oman but has revealed he was sick after returning home. He is a four-time former world time trial champion but has not won a time trial since the 2013 Vuelta a Espana.
"Now I'm racing on my own and so I've got a chance, rather than helping the team in the team time trial," Cancellara said.
"It's very short. I've clearly got a chance (of success) but there are other riders who can do well. With it being so short, they've probably got a higher chance. I've got to change my mentality from a team time trial role but I'm used to doing that."
Cancellara made a special effort to thank race organisers RCS Sport for thinking of rider safety and changing the race route. His thought also turned to Classics rival Tom Boonen, who crashed out of Paris-Nice on Monday and will miss the Classics due to a shoulder injury.
"I didn’t see the crash but I heard he crashed hard. He's a rival but also a person and that comes first for me, so it's a real pity it happened to him," Cancellara said.
“He doesn't deserve it. He's had bad crashes in the past and didn't deserve this. I feel bad for him. It's not nice. I'd prefer that he's on his bike and riding the races, especially the Classics, for tactics and other reasons. I naturally wish him well during his recovery."
Sagan looking for first win with Tinkoff-Saxo
Peter Sagan is still to get off the mark in 2015 and has still to win while riding for Tinkoff-Saxo. But he shrugged off any suggestion he is under pressure and insisted his form is good.
Sagan went on the attack during Saturday's Strade Bianche race but was dropped from the group that went on to fight for victory. He finished 31st, 5:13 behind winner Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep).
"It was such a hard race, the first hard race of the season," Sagan argued. “When I attacked, perhaps I was thinking I was stronger than I really was. Now we'll see what happens at Tirreno-Adriatico. My form's good but we've got to see how I feel."
Sagan won in Arezzo at last year's Tirreno-Adriatico, after winning a stage at the Tour of Oman. However, a repeat win in Arezzo will not be easy. The stage again ends with five laps of an 11km circuit around the city, including five climbs up to the finish in the ancient city centre.
Sagan could also have a chance in the sprint stages, including stage two to Cascina, but he will have to beat the likes of Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep), Matteo Pelucchi (IAM Cycling), Sam Bennett (Bora Argon 18), Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) and Luka Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin). But he said he is ready to give it a go on every stage, including Wednesday’s opening time trial.
"I'm here to try from tomorrow and so we'll see how it goes," he said.