By Jeff Jones
The 40th edition of Tirreno-Adriatico gets under way in the Italian west coast town of Civitavecchia on Wednesday, March 9. Like Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico is a ProTour race and will therefore see the 20 top teams in cycling present, along with Ceramiche Panaria-Navigare, Naturino-Sapore Di Mare and Acqua & Sapone-Adria Mobil. The "race of the two seas" will be run over seven stages for a total of 1214 km, with no time trial stages this year.
As usual, the quality of the field is high, featuring most of the top riders who are targeting Milan-San Remo (Saturday, March 19). Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step) will be chief among these. The Olympic champion and winner of Tirreno-Adriatico last year will ride with the number one dossard. He will be up against Rabobank's World Champion sprinter Oscar Freire, who won Milan-San Remo last year. Michael Boogerd is Rabobank's alternative card in case Freire has problems.
The peloton is stacked with more good sprinters, including the in-form Mario Cipollini (Liquigas) and Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo), Australian champion Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto), Discovery's Max van Heeswijk, Cofidis' Stuart O'Grady, Francaise Des Jeux's Bernhard Eisel, Domina Vacanze's Ivan Quaranta, Gerolsteiner's Danilo Hondo, and last but not least, Erik Zabel (T-Mobile), a four-time winner of Milan-San Remo and still capable of performing at the top level.
Other riders to watch include Ivan Basso (CSC), George Hincapie (Discovery), Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole), Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile), Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas), Joseba Beloki (Liberty), Brad McGee (Francaise des Jeux) and Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto).
At least three of the stages should suit the sprinters, but depending on how well the teams can control things, we could easily see more bunch finishes.
The teams & main riders
Acqua & Sapone-Adria Mobil (Ita): Marzoli, Ferrigato
Bouygues Telecom (Fra): Brochard, Chavanel
Ceramiche Panaria-Navigare (Ita): Sella, Tiralongo
Cofidis (Fra): O'Grady, Vasseur
Credit Agricole (Fra): Caucchioli, Halgand
Davitamon-Lotto (Bel): Van Petegem, McEwen
Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team (USA): Hincapie, Van Heeswijk
Domina Vacanze (Ita): Gonchar, Quaranta
Euskatel-Euskadi (Spa): Aitor Gonzalez, Laiseka
Fassa Bortolo (Ita): Petacchi, Petito
Francaise Des Jeux (Fra): McGee, Eisel
Gerolsteiner (Ger): Hondo, Wegmann
Illes Balears (Spa): Arrieta, Carrasco
Lampre-Caffita (Ita): Bortolami, Bennati
Liberty Seguros Wurth Team (Spa): Beloki, Scarponi
Liquigas-Bianchi (Ita): Cipollini, Di Luca
Naturino-Sapore Di Mare (Swi): Colombo, Simeoni
Phonak Hearing Systems (Swi): Guidi, Zampieri
Quick Step (Bel): Bettini, Pozzato
Rabobank (Ned): Freire, Boogerd
Saunier Duval-Prodir (Spa): Bertogliati, Tafi
Team CSC (Den): Basso, Peron
T-Mobile Team (Ger): Zabel, Kloden
Stage 1 - Wednesday, March 9: Civitavecchia - Civitavecchia, 160 km
Stage 2 - Thursday, March 10: Civitavecchia - Tivoli, 181 km
Stage 3 - Friday, March 11: Tivoli - Torricella, 215 km
Stage 4 - Saturday, March 12: Teramo - Servigliano, 160 km
Stage 5 - Sunday, March 13: Saltara - Saltara, 170.4 km
Stage 6 - Monday, March 14: Civitanova Marche - Civitanova Marche, 164 km
Stage 7 - Tuesday, March 15: San Benedetto Del Tronto, 164 km