- Stephen Farrand
Race between the two seas is perfect test site for La Classicissima
With Milan-San Remo just ten days away, Tirreno-Adriatico marks the start of the final countdown to the first monumental classic of the season.
Riding the seven-day stage race across central Italy from the western Tyrrhenian coast to the Adriatic is now the proven to be the best way to peak for Milan-San Remo, with the last ten winners of the La Classicissima opting to ride in Italy rather than Paris-Nice.
Tyler Farrar and world champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo), Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Andrei Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Filippo Pozzato (Katusha), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky), Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) and 2010 Milan-San Remo winner Oscar Freire (Rabobank) will all use the seven days of racing to polish their form. This year even Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has opted to ride Tirreno-Adriatico in the hope it will give him that extra bit of form for when he goes on the attack on the Cipressa or Poggio climbs near San Remo.
This year’s Tirreno-Adriatico offers just two chances for the sprinters to win stages but they will not be too bothered about that, preferring to keep their true form under wraps and use the hilly and long stages to clock up some quality racing.
Time trial sandwich
This year’s race starts in Marina di Carrara with a 16.8km team time trial and ends with a 9.3km individual time trial. Race organisers RCS Sport hope to inspire another close battle for overall victory after Stefano Garzelli snatched victory from Michele Scarponi last year thanks to time bonuses and stage placings.
The time trials have attracted other stage racers, including Cadel Evans (BMC), Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). Scarponi – now with Lampre-ISD - and Garzelli will again be contenders, while Italian national champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) is a dangerous outsider after impressing with third place overall at the Tour of Oman.
The five road stages are sandwiched between the two time trials and will see the riders cover 1049km in just five days.
Stage two is to the central town of Arezzo and Daniele Bennati will be looking to finally win a sprint for Leopard Trek in his home town. Stage three finishes in Perugia and should also end in a sprint. However, a six kilometre climb positioned 30km from the finish will indicate which sprinters will be able to handle the Cipressa and Poggio at Milan-San Remo.
Stages four from Narni to Chieti and stage five from Chieti to Castelraimondo are both 240km long and have jagged profiles that will make for two very tough days in the saddle. Stage five includes the Sasso Tetto climb at an altitude of 1455 metres. Snow has made the racing especially hard some years but weather forecasts indicate the riders will be able to enjoy sun and warm temperatures for most of the race.
Stage six from Ussita to Macerata is also hilly and includes three climbs up to the finish, offering attackers like Gilbert, Rodriguez, Cunego, Andy Schleck, Ballan and Pozzato a chance to test their legs one last time.
The final overall winner will be decided in Tuesday’s final time trial around San Benedetto del Tronto. It will be a battle between the few riders who have managed to stay in contention all week and the time trial specialists. Everyone else will already be focused on Milan-San Remo which will be just four days away.