By Gregor Brown
RCS Sport revealed the 2009 Tirreno-Adriatico route yesterday in Florence. For the first time in its 44-year history the Italian seven-stage race will start in Tuscany.
The Corsa dei Due Mari ('race of the two seas') departs on Wednesday, 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 starts in Tuscany along the Mar Tirreno and visits two other regions in its eastward journey to the Mar Adriatico. The first three stages (all in Tuscany) should suit the sprinters.
Stage four starts in the Umbria region and ends in Le Marche region with the climb of Montelupone. Its sections with gradients of up to 20 percent will help sort out the classification battle.
The final three stages are all in Le Marche: a 30-kilometre time trial similar to last year's, a demanding 235-kilometre mountain day that ends with the run up Camerino and the final day's San Benedetto del Tronto circuit.
RCS Sport also announced the 24 eight-man teams that will participate: Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo, AG2R La Mondiale, Astana, Barloworld, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, Caisse d'Epargne, Ceramica Flaminia-Bossini Docce, Cervélo TestTeam, Cofidis, Columbia-Highroad, Diquigiovanni-Androni, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Française des Jeux, Garmin-Slipstream, Katusha, Lampre-NGC, Liquigas, LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini, Milram, Quick Step, Rabobank, Silence-Lotto, Saxo Bank and Vacansoleil.
Last year's winner Swiss Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) will be a favourite for the overall win again in 2009. He will face strong opposition from Ivan Basso (Liquigas), Andreas Klöden (Astana) and Filippo Pozzato (Katusha). The sprints will be warm-up events for Milano-Sanremo, March 21. Expect strong performances from Alessandro Petacchi (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini), Daniele Bennati (Liquigas), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) and Francesco Ginanni (Diquigiovanni-Androni).
RCS Sport is the organiser of Milano-Sanremo and the Giro d'Italia. Its inclusion of Barloworld in the startlist of Tirreno-Adriatico bodes well for the team's chances of joining the original list of 20 Giro d'Italia teams announced in January.