By Gregor Brown
Tirreno-Adriatico will kick off the run to the Milano-Sanremo and the Giro d'Italia when it starts Wednesday from Italy's Tuscan seaside town of Cecina. The 44th edition of the prestigious stage race, March 11 to 17, offers demanding mountains and sprint finishes in its eastward journey that will prepare the participants for some of cycling's grand events.
RCS Sport disclosed the 2009 route February 23 in Florence. For the first time in Tirreno-Adriatico's history it will start in Tuscany.
The Corsa dei Due Mari ('race of the two seas') departs on March 11 in Cecina and ends on Tuesday, March 17, with the traditional San Benedetto del Tronto circuit. It will consist of one time trial and two serious mountain stages.
The race, starting in the west along the Mar Tirreno, visits two other regions in its eastward journey to the Mar Adriatico. The first three stages all in Tuscany – Capannori, Marina di Carrara and Santa Croce sull'Arno – should suit the sprinters.
Foreign sprinters will have a hard time beating the Italians on their home roads. The fastest ones are in fact from the region of Tuscany: Daniele Bennati (Liquigas), Francesco Ginanni (Diquigiovanni-Androni) and nearby Ligurian Alessandro Petacchi (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini). They will cross swords with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam), Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne winner Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Julian Dean (Garmin-Slipstream), Robbie McEwen (Katusha), Stuart O'Grady (Saxo Bank) and Baden Cooke (Vacansoleil).
The sprint outcomes will be important indicators for RCS Sport's Milano-Sanremo one-day race. The Classic comes only four days after the final sprint in San Benedetto del Tronto. Whoever dominates the sprints in Tirreno will be the number one sprint favourite for Sanremo.
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