By Monika Prell
Oscar Freire and Iván Gutiérrez are two of the favourites of the second ProTour race, Tirreno-Adriatico, according to Spanish daily AS. For Freire, three-time World Champion, it's both a preparation race for Milano-Sanremo, March 24, and one in which he hopes to add more stage wins to his palmarès. The Rabobank rider has eight stage wins in six starts, winning the overall in 2005 and finishing two times on the podium.
The Cantabrian has a good form, after the Clásica de Almería he stayed in Denia (Alicante) where he was able to train hard thanks to the good weather. The only bad thing are his backaches that have not totally disappeared.
Freire will have strong rivals for the sprints, there are Alessandro Petacchi, Robbie McEwen, Erik Zabel, Thor Hushovd, Stuart O'Grady, Danilo Napolitano, Gerald Ciolek and Bernhard Eisel. Then, for stages three and four, where the day finishes on an uphill stretch, he will face riders like Paolo Bettini.
But this year neither Freire nor the other sprinters are poised to win the general classification because of the time trial and following day's mountain top finish. The race will likely suit riders like fellow Cantabrian, Iván Gutiérrez of Caisse d'Epargne, winner of the Tour Méditerranéen.