This year’s Tirreno-Adriatico (March 9-15) presents a very different challenge for the riders than previous editions, thanks to the two time trials bookending seven days of racing.
The Italian Worldtour-level stage race opens with a team time trial and finishes with a short 9.3km individual test against the clock. In between there are several tough stages, not least two back-to-back days clocking up 240km each and three mountains stages.
All in all, the route favours all-round classification riders looking for an early big win and a warm-up for the classics and Grand Tours that lie ahead.
Here we rate the chances of the favourites. Our full preview of 2011 Tirreno-Adriatico features a guide to the route, stage list, teams, previous winners and much more.
Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale)
Last year’s Giro d’Italia winner is on form, winning the GP Lugano over a week ago. He’s putting his all into the spring races before taking a break and focusing on the Tour de France.
Robert Gesink (Rabobank)
Perfect for Tirreno-Adriatico having just returned from Oman. At the Tour of Oman he bagged the mountain and time trial stages to clinch the overall.
Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek)
No doubt he’s a classification rider, second in the last two editions of the Tour de France, but it may be a little too early for him.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale)
The Vuelta a España winner will test himself in the time trials and mountains. This race is important for his build up to the Giro d’Italia.
Thomas Löfkvist (Sky)
Fourth in 2009 and third in 2008, Löfkvist likes Tirreno-Adriatico. He too is building for the Giro d’Italia, so this week may be too early for a win.
Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD)
Scarponi lost the race to Stefano Garzelli last year in a nail-biter finish, but won it in 2009. However, will he keep his power dry now that he’s in a first division team with sights on the Giro d’Italia?
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing)
Evans finished third last year behind Garzelli and Scarponi. “I want to be with the favourites playing for the win,” said Evans last week.
David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo)
It’s still probably too early in the year, but with the time trials, Millar will be with the favourites.
Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone)
Last year’s winner has not shown the same early season spark and will suffer in the time trials.
Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r La Mondiale)
Usually does well in the early season, but since his broken leg last year he’s been suffering.
Also look out for
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) and Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli)