Alberto Contador, Cadel Evan, Vincenzo Nibali, Joaquim Rodriguez and Bradley Wiggins have all included Tirreno-Adriatico in their race programmes, confirming that this year's race will be one of the most spectacular editions for many years. And these big-name overall contenders are just a few of the stars who have opted to ride this year's race; there are also the sprinters and classics riders from the 18 WorldTour teams and the aggressive wild card teams we've invited too.
We'll officially unveil the full route on January 28 in San Vincenzo, on the Tuscany coast, where the race will start, but I'm going to reveal a few key details in this blog.
Evans and Nibali will be chasing a second victory after winning in 2011 and 2012. Rodriguez is the king of the steep Montelupone climb and is now targeting overall success, while Contador and Wiggins are looking to add the 'Race of the Two Seas' to their prestigious palmares.
Who is going to win? That's a fascinating question. I always believe there are two key ingredients to overall success at Tirreno-Adriatico and to most stage races: good form and a rider's ability on the race route. Of course a bit of luck also helps, as does special talent, a myriad of tactic decision and instinctive racing skills.
Most riders will be at their very best in mid-March and I'm happy to reveal that this year's Tirreno-Adriatico race route is finely balanced, with stages for every kind of rider, which will crown the very best rider in the race. There is an opening team time trial in San Vincenzo on the Tyrrhenian coast just like last year and the traditional final individual time trial in San Bendetto del Tronto on the Adriatic coast.
In between there are two stages for the sprinters, with sprint finishes almost certain as long as their teams are ready to work hard to control the breakaways. Tirreno-Adriatico crosses the Apennines and so there are climbs on every stage and two stage are perfect for the Classics stars. The stages roll through the hills with constant short but steep climbs and testing descents. The hilly stages are perfect preparation for Milan-Sanremo and the Tour of Flanders and always inspire some spectacular and aggressive racing.
There is a mountain stage in this year's race and it's a real mountain stage. The time of year and the risk of snow means we can't take the race up to 2000m but we can string together a series of tough, steep climbs that are also up to 12km long. I can't say where the stage will be just yet but I can confirm that the mountain stage will definitely shape the overall classification of this year's race and likely decide who will lift the stunning trident winner's trophy as winner of the 2013 Tirreno-Adriatico.
With such a spectacular race route and star-studded start list, this year's Tirreno-Adriatico promises to be one of the best ever editions of 'La corsa dei due mari'.
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From Strade Bianche to Lombardia, via the Giro d'Italia, Michele Acquarone and the RCS Sport team will navigate the season with us, bringing Cyclingnews readers behind the scenes, as they discuss the challenges that face race organisers and share their fresh and innovative approaches to cycling.