When you consider last year’s Tour de France winner also won Tirreno-Adriatico, the Italian stage race, March 7 to 13, takes on a new meaning. It was the first time a rider, Cadel Evans in this case, went on to win the big race in July.

Evans is back this year and so are the time trial stages. Organiser RCS Sport leaned heavily on them, starting and ending the race with timed stages: the first a 16.9-kilometre team event and the last, 9.3 kilometres, an individual one.

“I am starting to win, with big aspirations,” Evans said. “I don’t think I’ll have the same level as last year, but to repeat what I did in 2011 would be great.”

Mark Cavendish won his one and only Tirreno-Adriatico stage in 2009 before going on to win Milan-San Remo four days later. However, since 2010 when Edvald Boasson Hagen won, the organisers have removed the final sprint stage in San Benedetto in favour of a time trial.

Cavendish and his rivals will have two stages to sprint for the win, stages two and three. As the race snakes towards the Adriatic Sea, they will be improving their fitness for San Remo on March 17. The summit finish to Prati di Tivo and the two mid-mountain stages – Chieti and Offida – will offer plenty of training for San Remo’s Cipressa and Poggio climbs.

“This year,” added Evans, “with the climbs, the race is even more difficult.”

Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: Key stages

Stages four, five and six cross the Apennine mountain range and could render the time trials worthless for the overall win. The 252-kilometre fourth leg to Chieti rolls up and down, up to 1310 metres for Passo Lanciano. It could be of more use to rider preparing for Liège-Bastogne-Liège than for San Remo.

Stage five is the season’s first serious mountaintop finish, covering 196 kilometres and three categorised climbs. The last, up to Prati di Tivo at 1450 metres, is higher than the highest point in Paris-Nice, the Col des Lèques at 1149 metres.

The sixth leg, a mid-mountain circuit around Offida, will do more to sort the final classification than the final time trial. Look for Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) to win the stage.

Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: Stage list

Stage 1, Wednesday March 7, San Vincenzo to Donoratico, 16.9km TTT

Stage 2, Thursday March 8, San Vincenzo to Indicatore, 230km

Stage 3, Friday March 9, Indicatore to Terni, 178km

Stage 4, Saturday March 10, Amelia to Chieti, 252km

Stage 5, Sunday March 11, Martinsicuro to Prati di Tivo, 196km

Stage 6, Monday March 12, Offida to Offida, 181km

Stage 7, Tuesday March 13, S. Benedetto del Tronto, 9.3km ITT

Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: Teams

Acqua & Sapone

Ag2r-La Mondiale

Astana

BMC Racing Team

Colnago-CSF Inox

Colombia Coldeportes

Euskaltel-Euskadi

Farnese Vini

FDJ-BigMat

Garmin-Barracuda

GreenEdge

Katusha

Lampre-ISD

Liquigas-Cannondale

Lotto-Belisol

Movistar

Omega Pharma-QuickStep

Rabobank

RadioShack-Nissan

Saxo Bank

Sky

Vacansoleil-DCM

Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: British TV schedule

British Eurosport will be broadcasting live coverage and highlights from Tirreno-Adriatico. Times may be subject to change.

Wednesday March 7, 15.30-17.00, Stage one highlights, British Eurosport 2

Wednesday March 7, 22.00-23.00, Stage one highlights, British Eurosport 2

Thursday March 8, 14.00-15.30, Stage two LIVE, British Eurosport 2

Thursday March 8, 15.15-16.00, Stage two highlights, British Eurosport

Thursday March 8, 19.00-20.00, Stage two highlights, British Eurosport 2

Friday March 9, 15.30-16.45, Stage three highlights, British Eurosport 2

Friday March 9, 19.00-20.00, Stage three highlights, British Eurosport 2

Friday March 9, 23.00-00.00, Stage three highlights, British Eurosport

Saturday March 10, 14.15-15.30, Stage four LIVE, British Eurosport 2

Saturday March 10, 19.15-20.00, Stage four highlights, British Eurosport 2

Saturday March 10, 23.30-00.30, Stage four highlights, British Eurosport

Sunday March 11, 14.00-15.00, Stage five LIVE, British Eurosport 2

Sunday March 11, 20.15-21.15, Stage five highlights, British Eurosport 2

Monday March 12, 14.00-15.30, Stage six LIVE, British Eurosport

Monday March 12, 20.45-21.30, Stage six highlights, British Eurosport

Monday March 12, 22.15-23.15, Stage six highlights, British Eurosport 2

Tuesday March 13, 14.00-15.30, Stage seven LIVE, British Eurosport

Tuesday March 13, 19.00-20.00, Stage seven highlights, British Eurosport 2

Tuesday March 13, 21.15-22.30, Stage seven highlights, British Eurosport 2

Tuesday March 13, 23.45-00.45, Stage seven highlights, British Eurosport

Tirreno-Adriatico: Last year’s top five (2011)

1. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing

2. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 11 secs

3. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 15 secs

4. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 24 secs

5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 30 secs

Tirreno-Adriatico: Recent winners

2011 Cadel Evans

2010 Stefano Garzelli

2009 Michele Scarponi

2008 Fabian Cancellara

2007 Andreas Kloden

2006 Thomas Dekker

2005 Oscar Freire

2004 Paolo Bettini

2003 Filipo Pozzato

2002 Erik Dekker 

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Cancellara wins Italian hard-man’s race, Strade Bianche

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