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Tirreno-Adriatico stage 1 - Live coverage

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"Ready for seven hot days," wrote Vincenzo Nibali on the eve of Tirreno-Adriatico, and with good reason. The weeklong race has a field of remarkable depth, with the star names on show including (but by no means limited to) Tadej Pogacar, Egan Bernal, Julian Alaphilippe, Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel, Simon Yates, Filippo Ganna, Mikel Landa, Michal Kwiatkowski, Peter Sagan, Thibaut Pinot, Nario Quintana, Geraint Thomas and João Almeida. The seven stages, meanwhile, offer something for everyone as the race makes its way through the Apennines on its way across central Italy. The most demanding fare, as ever, comes at the weekend, while this afternoon's opener, starting and finishing in Lido di Camaiore, should see the fast men to the fore.  

The gruppo is due to roll out at 12.30 CET and should hit kilometre zero around 12.35. For years, Tirreno-Adriatico used to start with a team time trial in and around Camaiore, but that convention was broken last season and RCS continues in that vein in 2021. The 156km stage is essentially one of two parts. The day begins with three laps of a 24km circuit that takes in the climb of Monte Pitoro. The latter part of the stage features three laps of a flat 29km circuit around Lido di Camaiore.

The sky is clear, the wind is light and the temperature is 14°C as the peloton lines up for the start in Lido di Camaiore.  

-156km

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) makes his belated seasonal debut after his COVID-19 diagnosis delayed his planned part start to the season at Opening Weekend. Indeed, Sagan had originally intended to begin his year at the Vuelta a San Juan in January, but that race was among many to fall by the wayside in the early weeks of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Slovakian - perhaps sensibly, given the explosive nature of the race - also opted out of Strade Bianche at the weekend, preferring a marginally less frenetic re-introduction this afternoon on the Adriatic coast. 

-150km

Caleb Ewan is the outstanding favourite for today's stage and his Lotto Soudal squad should be among the teams dictating the terms at the head of the peloton throughout the afternoon. Deceuninck-QuickStep have the on-form Davide Ballerini in their ranks, while Elia Viviani is here, still searching for his first win for Cofidis but buoyed by an encouraging return from recent heart surgery. Other fast men include Sagan, Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) - and, of course, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) will end up fighting out the latest instalment of their never-ending duel on Via Bernardini this afternoon.

-146km

Wout van Aert began his 2021 season with fourth place at Strade Bianche, which was – remarkably – his first time finishing off the podium in four participations in the race. The Belgian continues his Classics preparation at Tirreno-Adriatico, but the race also doubles as a testing site for future ambitions as a stage race rider. “He wants to explore his limits and see where his limits are. That always benefits you. We are curious,” Jumbo-Visma directeur sportif Merijn Zeeman told Sporza. “You don't become a classification rider overnight. We want to develop that. He is now trying it for the first time at WorldTour level and he must be given time to develop. The result is not important to us, but the experience is.”

It will be fascinating to see how Van Aert approaches this tilt at GC. Will he look to spare himself for set-piece stages like the summit finish at Prati di Tivo or will he follow the Sean Kelly template from Paris-Nice in the 1980s and contest every stage, sprints included? We should have some indication this afternoon.

-142km

Our man in Tuscany Stephen Farrand has previewed the whole week's action. You can read his view here on a race filled with storylines. Egan Bernal and Tadej Pogacar meet for the first time since last year's Tour de France. Giro contenders like Bernal, Thibaut Pinot, Simon Yates, Mikel Landa, Vincenzo Nibali and Joao Almeida run through their paces less than two months from the Grande Partenza. And, of course, men like Van der Poel, Van Aert, Sagan and Alaphilippe move up and down the scales ahead of the day of days at Milan-San Remo.

-138km

The speed rises in the peloton as Lotto Soudal and Deceuninck-QuickStep take up the reins and the break's lead begins to drop accordingly.

-129km

Guy Niv is in the six-man break for Israel Start-Up Nation, who line up for Tirreno-Adriatico with a changed selection after Dan Martin and Michael Woods were both ruled out through illness. Today also marks Cherie Pridham's debut as directeur sportif. “I want to be judged as a DS. Not a female one,” Pridham said in a statement from the team. “It will be a hard race. Let’s concentrate on that, shall we?”

-120km

-118km

-113km

At the start in Camaiore, Peter Sagan acknowledged that his Tirreno-Adriatico would be primarily an exercise in trying to get up to speed ahead of the Classics. "Every year is different. This year I was a little but unlucky but now I am here after a month and a half in Gran Canaria. We’ll see how it’s going. For sure I’m here to take some race rhythm and then we’ll see how my condition is." Sagan is also on the cover of this month's edition of Procycling magazine, where he discussed the fine margins that separate victory from defeat in an exclusive interview. 2021 is a big year for Sagan, whose contract with Bora-Hansgrohe expires at the end of the season. His displays this Spring will have a major bearing on his future and - for once - he will go in almost under the radar, given the expectations heaped upon Van der Poel, Alaphilippe and Van Aert.  

-104km

Pascal Ackermann won last year's sprint in Camaiore but the German is in action at Paris-Nice this week. His Bora-Hansgrohe teammate Sagan, however, is a past winner in Camaiore, as he claimed the much missed GP Camaiore in 2013. His victory came in February but the race was most associated with its traditional early August date, which marked the start of Italian cycling's long, late summer builld-up to the Worlds. A notable edition came in 1992, when amateur riders in Italy were blocked from turning professional at the beginning of the year in order to ensure their eligibility for the Barcelona Olympics, the final edition reserved exclusively for amateur riders. It meant that Marco Pantani and Davide Rebellin were among the riders whose first pro race came in August at the GP Camaiore, in an edition won by current Italian national coach Davide Cassani.

Marco Pantani lines up for his professional debut in Camaiore in 1992.

Marco Pantani lines up for his professional debut in Camaiore in 1992.  (Image credit: Sirotti)

-98km

The pace is steady in the peloton on this climb, where the escapees are stretching out their advantage once again. 

-96km

Bakelants and Albanese now take up the fight on the front. The Belgian leads out the sprint but Albanese takes maximum points at the top, and he will visit the podium this afternoon to pick up the king of the mountains jersey. 

-94km

After negotiating the Pitoro at a relatively gentle tempo, the pace has picked up in the peloton and the gap has dropped to 1:45. Jan Bakelants, meanwhile, appears to have sat up from the break after contesting the mountains points in the opening part of this stage.  

-88km

Bakelants is swept up by the Alpecin-Fenix-led bunch. Alpecin have two fast finishers enjoying remarkable spells of form in Strade Bianche winner Van der Poel and Tim Merlier, who won Le Samyn and the GP Monsere last week. One imagines that Merlier will be their option for this afternoon's finale but just about anything is possible with Van der Poel. 

Filippo Ganna (Ineos) suffered a puncture a short time ago but the Italian is making his way calmly back on through the convoy of cars. 

-83km

Vincenzo Nibali makes his way back up to the rear of the peloton after a mechanical issue. The Italian was aggressive at the GP Industria & Artigianato on Sunday, though his offensive probably came a lap too soon. He has vowed to race alla giornata in 2021 - day by day - rather than building steadily towards the Giro d'Italia. He will ride the Giro alongside Giulio Ciccone and Bauke Mollema, but one senses his overriding ambition for the season might be the Tokyo Olympics, given how close he was to gold in Rio five years ago.

-77km

-68km

-66km

The race is on the long, long seafront that links Forte dei Marmi, Marina di Pietrasanta and the finish line in Lido di Camaiore. This is the peloton's first look at the stage's closing kilometres, which they'll cover two more times before the finish.

A delegation from Bahrain Victorious is placed near the head of the bunch, eager to keep their trio of GC men Mikel Landa, Pello Bilbao and Damiano Caruso out of harm's way. Cofidis and Alpecin-Fenix swap turns at the front, and the break's lead is 1:12.

-58km

Those closing kilometres are on wide and exposed roads, but there is precious little by way of wind this afternoon. 

Elia Viviani had a trying debut season at Cofidis and his 2021 looked set to be even more complicated when a cardiac arrhythmia was detected in January. He underwent surgery in Ancona shortly afterwards, however, and he made an encouraging return to racing at the UAE Tour, where he placed second on the penultimate stage and in the top five on two others. Today is another test for the Italian, who said he was treating the opening stage "like a one-day race."

Julian Alaphilippe sits comfortably in the peloton and shares a joke with his former teammate Max Richeze, who will be in the service of Fernando Gaviria this afternoon. Gaviria, who was twice diagnosed with COVID-19 last year, made little impact at the UAE Tour but he will hope for better here.

-49km

Out in front, Simone Velasco out-kicks Mattia Bais to win the intermediate sprint in Pietrasanta. 

-44km

-43km

The four riders remaining in front are Guy Niv (Israel Start-Up Nation), Mattia Bais (Androni-Sidermec) and the Eolo-Kometa duo of Vincenzo Albanese and Samuele Rivi. 

Tirreno-Adriatico has changed in tenor over the years and has become something closer in feel to a miniature Grand Tour, but its original raison d'être was as a preparation race for Milan-San Remo, and that founding ideal remains. Today's finish is a test for men with designs on delivering a winning sprint on the Via Roma on March 20. This year's route, incidentally, returns to tradition with all five capi on the agenda after the mayors of coastal towns around Savona blocked the event's passage last August. The Turchino is absent, however, but replaced by the Colle di Giovo, from which the race will descend towards the Riviera, re-joining the traditional coastal route along the Via Aurelia at Albisola with 112km still to race.

-38km

-35km

-34km

Xandro Meurisse (Alpecin-Fenix) and Tom Bohli (Cofidis) are the men holding the reins in the peloton, 57 seconds down on the remaining four escapees.

-29km

-25km

Vincenzo Albanese sits up from the break. His Eolo-Kometa teammate Rivi accelerates in a bid to breathe some life into the move, but they are on broowerd time at this point. 

Niv is distanced by that dig and there are two riders left in front: Bais and Rivi. They have 44 seconds on the peloton. Niv is giving chase alone in between the two leaders and the bunch.

-23km

Cofidis and Alpecin-Fenix continue to lead the peloton but there's no great urgency as yet as they pin back the dropped Albanese and Niv. The two leaders Bais and Rivi still have 55 seconds in hand.

Raúl Alarcón has been handed a four-year doping ban by the UCI for 'Use of Prohibited Methods and/or Prohibited Substances.' He had already been provisionally suspended since October 2019 but today's announcement means the W52/FC Porto rider formally loses his two Volta a Portugal titles and his 2017 Vuelta a Asturias victory. Read more here.

-18km

-16km

Deceuninck-QuickStep have left the pace-making in the bunch to Cofidis, Alpecin0-Fenix and Lotto Soudal, but they have two possible options in today's finale, with Alvaro Hodeg and the on-form Davide Ballerini, winner of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Situation

The pace and the sense of urgency are steadily rising in the peloton. Delegations from Jumbo-Visma, Bora-Hansgrohe and Deceuninck-QuickStep move up in the bunch, though it's still Cofidis and Alpecin-Fenix who perform the pace-making duties. 

-13km

-12km

-10.5km

-10km

-8.5km

-7km

-5km

What little wind there is will be coming off the sea to the riders' right. Ewan and Lotto Soudal are carefully sheltered on the left-hand side of the road, as are Van Aert and Jumbo-Visma.

-3km

-2.5km

-2km

-1km

Max Richeze leads out the sprint for Fernando Gaviria, but Van Aert is on the Colombian's wheel...

Wout van Aert opens his sprint from distance. Caleb Ewan is trying to get on terms...

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) wins stage 1 of Tirreno-Adriatico.

UAE Team Emirates led that sprint out from distance for Gaviria. Van Aert was tucked on the Colombian's wheel and he kicked even before Richeze had finished his lead-out. A remarkable effort. Ewan came from a long way back but he ran out of road against Van Aert. Gaviria held on for third.

Result

Wout van Aert wins stage 1 of Tirreno-Adriatico in Lido di Camaiore.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

We wondered earlier if Van Aert would might sit out the bunch sprint with an eye to sparing himself for the more rugged terrain later in the week. Not a chance. He takes the race lead on day 1 and 10 bonus seconds to boot. He won't lose that jersey easily. 

Third place after a well-judged lead-out from Richeze is an encouraging sign for Gaviria after a difficult start at the UAE Tour, but he simply couldn't compete with the power of Van Aert and the speed of the fast-finishing Ewan this afternoon. 

Another man still finding his way is Peter Sagan. He came home in 11th place with his hands already on the hoods. He probably couldn't have expected any better in his first race of 2021 and his first race since his bout of COVID-19. The burning question is whether he can improve enough over the next week to be a factor at Milan-San Remo.  

For Deceuninck-QuickStep, meanwhile, the results sheet reads like an accusation. Hodeg and Ballerini were 7th and 8th, and it's not entirely clear what the team's sprint hierarchy was today. 

No doubt about the overall hierarchy, with Wout van Aert assuming the lead thanks to his stage win, which came just moments after his Jumbo-Visma teammate Primoz Roglic soloed to victory at Chiroubles to move into the overall lead at Paris-Nice.

General classification

Wout van Aert on his victory: "The final straight was really long, so today it was all about the right timing. I had high speed and so when I saw the 200m sign and maybe a bit before, I thought not to wait and I launched my sprint. I had the speed to maintain it to the finish. I’m really happy."

Wout van Aert warms down after stage 1 of Tirreno-Adriatico.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Wout van Aert wins stage 1 of the 2021 Tirreno-Adriatico.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos) was forced to abandon Paris-Nice this afternoon after crashing on the descent of Mount Brouilly. "On the descent there his front wheel slipped in a corner, he was fourth position, so really bad luck really. I don't know if there was some gravel or why exactly he slipped," said Ineos directeur sportif Gabriel Rasch. "Then he landed on his face and his head, and his knee pretty bad, so he felt a bit dizzy and we thought it was the right decision to stop him and not take any risks." Read more here.

Peter Sagan returned to racing at Tirreno-Adriatico

(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Result

General classification

A full report, results and photos from today's stage are available here.

Peter Sagan had this to say after his first race day of 2021: “First stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico and, as expected, it came down to a fast bunch sprint. For me, it was also the first race of the 2021 season, so it was important to get back to race rhythm after a long break. The team, once again, did a very good job and I was kept safe in the long, final straight line to the finish. The last kilometre was quite hectic and, unfortunately, I wasn't in an ideal position to contest the sprint."

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