Montepasche Eroica victor Thomas Lövkvist will be looking to extend his winning streak in Tirreno-Adriatico, Italy's second biggest stage race, which starts this Wednesday in Volterra.
"Thomas got third overall in Tirreno 2008, less than a minute behind the winner. He's a year stronger and more mature as a rider now, so there's no reason why he can't do better this time around," said Team Columbia-Highroad sports director Valerio Piva. "In 2008 Thomas was working for [former Highroad rider] Linus Gerdemann who was leading overall but then was badly injured in the time trial. Even though he'd been working as a domestique, Thomas held on and got a great result.
"Whoever wants to win the race this year will have to work very hard for it," added Piva. "We're very optimistic about Lövkvist's chances, particularly after his recent victory at Eroica."
Tirreno-Adriatico is also Mark Cavendish's first European stage race of the season, but Piva said they will be looking more at the overall classification than for stage wins. "We don't want to put Mark under any pressure here whatsoever. He's more at Tirreno to get in the kilometres as part of his build-up for Milano-Sanremo."
Cavendish, Lövkvist, Bernhard Eisel, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Michael Albasini have used the time between Eroica and Tirreno to check out the last kilometres of Milano-Sanremo. "We rode over it twice, the last 110 kilometres on Sunday and the last 70 Monday," Piva said. For Mark, this will be his first Sanremo, and he'll be doing it to gain experience for the years to come. Doing a route reconnaissance is all part of the process."
The Columbia-Highroad team for Tirreno-Adriatico: Michael Albasini, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Mark Cavendish, Bernhard Eisel, Bert Grabsch, George Hincapie, Thomas Lövkvist and Konstantin Siutsou.