2015 Tirreno-Adriatico Preview
Held for the first time half a century ago, Tirreno-Adriatico was overshadowed for a couple of decades by Paris-Nice, the other important stage race scheduled at the beginning of March. Still, this did not prevent the “Race of the Two Seas” to create its own legends and stories, thanks to the triumphs of such riders like Franco Bitossi, Italo Zilioli, Roger De Vlaeminck, Giuseppe Saronni, Francesco Moser, and more recently, Fabian Cancellara, Cadel Evans, and Alberto Contador.
For a couple of years now, since the organizers have decided to change the profile of the event and make it more appealing to the climbers, Tirreno-Adriatico became one of the most important stage races of the calendar and now enjoys a more impressive startlist than the one of Paris-Nice. This season’s line-up is a real stellar one as well, which makes the race a mini Tour de France. Three of the four main contenders for the yellow jersey will be in Italy, as well as the best sprinters and Classics riders of the world, all ready to put on a great show in the next days, that will take them from Lido di Camaiore to San Benedetto del Trento.
Due to bad weather in Tuscany, the team time trial in Lido di Camaiore – which hasn’t hosted a stage before – has been replaced with a 5,4 km prologue, with just a couple of corners, that should suit not only the specialists, but also the sprinters. Stage two will be almost flat and will provide an important opportunity for the sprinters, who can’t miss this chance, while one day later, the course will bring an interesting mix of small climbs (with a 5% average gradient), urban cobbles and technical finale that will favor the puncheurs or late attackers, cyclists willing to give it all on the last lap of the circuit.
A lumpy stage comes to the horizon on Saturday, when the peloton will head towards Castelraimondo, a town in which the Tirreno-Adriatico bunch will come back after four years since its previous visit. The last 23 kilometers will bring Crispiero – 3,2 km and 9,3% average gradient – which will be climbed twice. This means the GC guys will come at the front, as the terrain can give them some ideas for an attack. From the top of the last climb there are only six kilometers left until the finish, which is in a slight uphill (4% average gradient).
Stage five will be a very demanding one, covering 197 kilometers and three important climbs, with the cherry on the top coming at the end, when the bunch will tackle Monte Terminillo. The demanding ascent – 16,1 km, 7,3% average gradient – has been climbed in the past in the Girobio (2012 – Joe Dombrowski) and the Giro d’Italia (2003 – Stefano Garzelli, 2010 – Chris Anker Sørensen), but never before in the Tirreno-Adriatico. Terminillo is a steady climb, but comes early in the season, so if one of the overall contenders has the legs there, he can do some significant damage and seal the GC win.
The penultimate day of the race will be a rolling one in the first half, but things will be much calmer later, so the sprinters are expected to fight one more time for the win, this time in Porto Sant’Elpidio, near the sea’s shoreline. Then, on Tuesday, for the fifth year in a row, Tirreno-Adriatico will come to an end with the San Benedetto del Trento individual time trial, a 10-km-long exercise for the powerful specialists of the discipline, that will create small gaps. The roads are long and flat, and only the wind can trouble the riders who will go for a strong result.
For the second year in a row, Chris Froome is out of the race because of an illness, which means Alberto Contador will start as the huge contender for the overall win. Last year, the Spaniard emerged as overall victor after back-to-back wins on stages four and five, and coming now here from the Ruta del Sol, where he was in a good shape, he should take a second consecutive victory. With a strong team alongside, which includes Ivan Basso and Roman Kreuziger, Contador hopes to forget about the Vuelta a Andalucia defeat he suffered at the hands of Froome and continue improving his preparation towards the Giro d’Italia. Although he doesn’t know Monte Terminillo, Alberto Contador shouldn’t have any problem in dispatching his opponents on the climb and get the win.
Nairo Quintana hasn’t raced since last months, after an injury sustained at the Colombian National Championships, and this casts some doubts on his form. In 2014, he didn’t stand a chance against Contador and the same scenario is very plausible also this year, a podium placing being more at hand for Movistar’s cyclist. A top three looks to be what Vincenzo Nibali can take out of this race, despite the Italian underlining his wish to finish first in his home race for the third time. With the Astana rider targeting the Tour de France again, Tirreno-Adriatico comes too early in the season, especially as he didn’t impress in the Tour of Oman, where he finished 20th.
Despite the fact Contador, Quintana and Nibali aren’t at the same level, with the Tinkoff-Saxo leader way ahead, it will be very interesting to see this first clash of the titans between three of the riders that will fight for the yellow jersey in July. Of course, the result in the Italian race isn’t relevant long-term, but a win remains a win, and also brings an important psychological advantage to the rider in cause.
Another GC protagonist should be Joaquim Rodriguez, a rider who has earned one of his nicknames – “Murito” – thanks to his fantastic wins on the double-digit climbs of Tirreno-Adriatico. Katusha’s leader will also hope to put on a fine display on the Terminillo and emerge as the strongest cyclist there, thus taking his first win in almost a year, but it won’t be an easy task. Another interesting rider for the overall will be Bauke Mollema, who embarks on his second stage race of the season, after Ruta del Sol. The 28-year-old Dutch will be supported by Julian Arredondo and is going to tackle the Italian race with optimism being aware that he has an important shot at a podium placing.
In the absence of Chris Froome, Leopold König will lead Sky, which is sending a powerful and well balanced team in the “Race of the Two Seas”. For the Czech, this will be the first time he’ll ride Tirreno-Adriatico, an event in which he looks to find the consistency that will elevate him in the eyes of his team, after not such a great start ot the season, during which he shined in the Challenge Mallorca, but failed to make an impact on the Tour of Oman. If Leopold König will not rise to the expectations, watch out for Mikel Nieve, who continues to emerge from the shadow of more illustrious teammates, despite usually having to play a secondary role in bigger races
Which other riders can be among the protagonists in the overall classification? AG2R’s Domenico Pozzovivo should have a fair chance, as well as Rigoberto Uran, the Colombian ITT champion, who comes here after being 7th in Strade Bianche and can take some important seconds in the two time trials. Thibaut Pinot is an interesting dark horse, while Przemyslav Niemiec and Tsgabu Grmay will try to get a good result for Lampre-Merida. Also, watch out for the ever-improving British rider Adam Yates, from Orica-GreenEdge, who is poised for a top 10 finish.
There are many quality sprinters at the start, but without Marcel Kittel here – who was forced to take a break and recover after being hit by a virus– Mark Cavendish will be the hot favorite in the flat stages, despite being sick a couple of days before the start because of a stomach bug picked up after visiting South Africa last week. The Brit scored six wins this season and is determined to keep the streak going and get at least one victory in the “Race of the Two Seas”. With Mark Renshaw and Fabio Sabatini in the team, Cavendish will hope that the flat stages will pan out in his favor, while also using the Italian race to get his lead-out train shipshaped ahead of the season’s big battles: the Classics and the Grand Tours.
On paper, Cavendish’s main challengers will be Italy’s Sacha Modolo, Elia Viviani and Matteo Pelucchi (who surprised all the top sprinters last year in Cascina), Sam Bennett, the talented Irish rider of Bora-Argon 18, and Luka Mezgec, winner of a stage in last year’s Giro d’Italia. MTN-Qhubeka will be another team to watch, but it’s difficult to say if the South African will count on Edvald Boasson Hagen, Kristian Sbaragli or Gerald Ciolek in the flat stages. When it comes to the young sprinters, Nicola Ruffoni and Magnus Cort are two who are worth following.
Tirreno-Adriatico will not be only about the climbers and the sprinters, as the top Classics riders of the peloton will line-up for the 50th edition. Triumphant in the 2008 Tirreno-Adriatico, Fabian Cancellara will tune-up his form in Italy, where he’ll meet many of the riders against he’ll fight in Milan-Sanremo, Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix: Peter Sagan, Niki Terpstra, Zdenek Stybar (the Strade Bianche winner), Greg Van Avermaet, Ian Stannard and Sep Vanmarcke. Cancellara will also be one of the favorites in the two time trials, where he’ll cross swords with Adriano Malori, Matthias Brändle, Michael Hepburn and Luke Durbridge.
– Dino Zandegu won the first edition of the race, which was called “The Three Days of the South” (1966)
– Roger De Vlaeminck has the most overall victories, six, between 1972 and 1977
– The Belgian is also the rider who got the most stage wins, 15
– Italy leads in the nations classification, with 24 triumphs, the last one being scored by Vincenzo Nibali, in 2013
– Nibali is the only cyclist who has won Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro d’Italia in the same season
– Only one non-European rider took home Neptun’s Trident: Australia’s Cadel Evans
– 1997 saw the longest edition, 1437 kilometers; the shortest one came in 1973, just 582 kilometers
– With one exception (1966), all the editions have finished in the same town, San Benedetto del Tronto
– In 2003, Filippo Pozzato became the youngest ever winner (21 years and 193 days); the oldest winner is Stefano Garzelli, 36 years and 252 days in 2010
– Spain’s Oscar Freire is the only world champion who finished first in the overall classification (2005)
– In two occasions, the first and the second rider in the GC came home in the same time (1966: Dino Zandegu – Vito Taccone; 2010: Stefano Garzelli-Michele Scarponi)
– Biggest gap between the winner and the cyclist who came in second was recorded in 1990, when 2:31 separated Tony Rominger and Zenon Jaskula
– In 2015, Italy will be the nation with the most cyclists at the startline, 39
– Youngest rider in the race is Lampre-Merida’s Luke Pibernik (21 years); oldest one is Tinkoff-Saxo’s Matteo Tosatto (40 years)
– The line-up of the 50th edition includes three former winners: Fabian Cancellara, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali