The 42nd Tirreno-Adriatico will be a course to test the legs of the Giro d'Italia contenders as the organisers are returning to the format that produced an exciting 2006 edition with a time trial and a mountain top finish in the closing stages of the race between two seas, or Corsa dei Due Mari.
The diversity of the course should attract more Grand Tour contenders and less of the sprinters, who will need to build for Milano-Sanremo on March 24. Many Giro contenders will go head-to-head on the Civitanova time trial stage and, one day later, the mountain top finish to San Giacomo. Last year, weather conditions forced a shortened climb, but still produced a thrilling result, with young Thomas Dekker (Rabobank) showing his emerging talent.
The race starts on Italy's west coast, along the Mar Tirreno, with a sprinters' stage. However, the fast-men will need to be careful; the run-in is tricky, with a sharp climb only 30 kilometres from the finish. Day one could see a sprinter take the overall lead or an attack by a rider of the calibre of Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic).
Stage two will leave the sea, travelling east from Civitavecchia and finishing in Marsciano after a gruelling 202 kilometres. The distance will serve as training for some but will also wear into the spirits of others who are hoping for the overall win.
An overall winner could materialise on the 213 kilometre stage three from Marsciano to Macerata. The riders will cross the Passo del Cornello (813m in height) mid-way through the stage before arriving at the closing circuits, which include four climbs up to Macerata. The final ascent to the finish, should see an explosion in the lead pack that will help shape the overall and give us our start, reverse, order for stage five's time trail.
Read the full 42nd Tirreno-Adriatico preview.