Michael Rogers’ performance at Strade Bianche and his Ruta del Sol win mark him as the favourite for this week’s Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in Italy.
The race, starting on Wednesday (March 10) in Livorno, is also the last Milan-San Remo warm-up for Rogers’ HTC-Columbia team-mate, Mark Cavendish.
Australian Rogers attacked, attacked, and attacked at Strade Bianche to make each of the final escape groups, pulling away the winning move at seven kilometres to race. Though beaten in the aggressive finish by Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) and Thomas Löfkvist (Sky), Tirreno-Adriatico’s multiple stages suit Rogers. In addition to Iglinsky and Löfkvist, Rogers will have a fight from the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo), Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions).
Unlike previous years, organiser RCS Sport left out the individual time trial, which will be to Rogers’ disadvantage. He should find solace in the stages to Chieti on Saturday and Colmurano on Sunday, both long hauls through the mountains. The stage to Chieti will be even more taxing considering the long, 200-kilometre transfer the night before from Tuscany to Umbria. The next day to Colmurano features the Cima Tirreno-Adriatico, the Forca di Presta at 1,535 metres.
Monday’s circuit finish in Macerata will be the last chance for Rogers to win or lose the general classification, as the final day on Tuesday is the tradition sprinters’ delight in San Benedetto del Tronto. Cavendish won the stage last year, preparing him to win Milan-San Remo four days later.
Cavendish is behind the ball this year in his preparations because of dental problems over the winter. He still lacks a win, which might come in stages one, two, three or seven. Attention, though, Cavendish faces Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions), Chris Sutton (Sky), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini), Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team), Daniele Bennati (Liquigas-Doimo) and Tom Boonen (Quick Step).
The weather is shaping up to be the riders’ biggest rival. On Tuesday, planes were delayed into local Pisa airport due to high winds, made worse by snow and a temperature of 5°C. There is no break in sight, either; the weather forecast predicts cold weather through the weekend.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2010: Who’s going to win?
Michael Rogers (Aus) HTC-Columbia
Winner of last week’s Ruta del Sol, Rogers starts Tirreno as the outright favourite. The Australian also took third at the Montepaschi Strade Bianche at the weekend, suggesting he’s hitting form at just the right time. HTC may be chasing the odd stage win as Mark Cavendish continues his build-up to Milan-San Remo, but Rogers is unlikely to have to fulfil any domestique duties if he has one eye on the overall.
Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
BMC’s attacking style won them many fans at the Tour Down Under, and it was Evans’ attack on the penultimate stage that won the most plaudits. The world champion is focusing on the Giro this year, and so should have the edge over any rivals here who are timing their peak for July. Seemingly galvanised by a new team and his rainbow stripes, expect to see him near the front.
Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram
A win in Majorca and a good position in the Ruta del Sol, Gerdemann could be a surprise package. Milram won’t make anyone struggle, but the up-and-down German could be a factor.
Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli
2009 winner Scarponi could struggle to defend his title with a lack of results so far this year, but don’t rule him out. His Androni team (formerly Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni) thrive in the smaller Italian races when the big teams aren’t at full strength. And with Giro organisers RCS set to announce the Giro teams any day, there’s still time to impress them.
Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank
Winner in 2008, Cancellara has to show some form if he’s going to compete in the classics this year. His real target will be next week’s Milan-San Remo and the northern classics thereafter, but after a disappointing time in Qatar, he’ll need to show his cards here.
Kim Kirchen (Lux) Katusha
Katusha’s Grand Tour leader is an outside favourite despite his lack of performances so far this year. The Luxembourger has had a quiet 2010 build-up in Majorca and Portugal and hits Tirreno without much racing in his legs. His talents are suited to the shorter sharper climbs in southern Italy and he regularly features in week-long stage races. He just needs to step up and win one.
Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank
Although he’s yet to turn a pedal in anger this year, the second best stage racer in the world can’t be ignored when looking down the start list. Saxo Bank are yet to hit their stride this year, but when they do, the rest of the peloton will know about it. Without any major mountains to traverse it’s hard to see where Schleck can take time.
The Weather (Ita) Act of God
It might just beat everybody
Tirreno-Adriatico 2010: The stages
||Wednesday 10 March||Livorno||Rosignano Solvay||148km|
||Thursday 11 March||Montecatini Terme||Montecatini Terme||165km|
||Friday 12 March||San Miniato||Monsummano Terme||159km|
||Saturday 13 March||San Gemini||Chieti||243km|
||Sunday 14 March||Chieti||Colmurano||234km|
||Monday 15 March||Montecosaro||Macerata||134km|
||Tuesday 16 March||Civitanova Marche||San Benedetto del Tronto||164km|
Tirreno-Adriatico 2010: Teams
Acqua & Sapone
Ag2r La Mondiale
BMC Racing Team
Cervelo Test Team
Francaise des Jeux
Tirreno-Adriatico 2010: TV schedule
British Eurosport (available via satellite and cable systems)
Weds 10 March, 16.15-17.45, stage 1, British Eurosport
Thurs 11 March, 16.15-17.00, stage 2, British Eurosport
Fri 12 March, 14.00-15.30, Live stage 3, British Eurosport 2
Sat 13 March, 14.00-15.30, Live stage 4, British Eurosport 2
Sun 14 March, 14.30-15.30, Live stage 5, British Eurosport 2
Mon 15 March, 14.00-15.30, Live stage 6, British Eurosport
Tues 16 March, 14.00-15.30, Live stage 7, British Eurosport
Tirreno-Adriatico: Last year’s top ten
1. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli
2. Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone at 25secs
3. Andreas Kloden (Ger) Astana at 1mins 7secs
4. Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Columbia-Highroad at 1-10
5. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 1-13
6. Davide Rebellin (Ita) Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli at 2-06
7. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram at 2-32
8. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Slipstream at 2-33
9. Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Columbia-Highroad at 2-41
10. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 2-54
Scarponi wins in 2009
Tirreno-Adriatico: Previous winners
2009 Michele Scarponi
2008 Fabian Cancellara
2007 Andreas Kloden
2006 Thomas Dekker
2005 Oscar Freire
2004 Paolo Bettini
2003 Filipo Pozzato
2002 Erik Dekker
2001 Davide Rebellin
2000 Abraham Olano
Stage six: Scarponi saves Tirreno GC lead behind Ignatiev stage win
Stage five: Evans foiled in Tirreno stage but mounts classification fight
Stage four: Scarponi’s mountain stage win timed to perfection
Stage three: Bennati crowns a great day for Liquigas
Stage two: Boonen wins sprint and becomes San Remo favourite
Stage one: Gerdemann is back, and with good timing
Farrar watching Cavendish ahead of Milan-San Remo
Cavendish getting better but still not that confident
Tirreno-Adriatico 2009: Cavendish wins final sprint; Scarponi wins overall