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PEZ Preview: Tirreno-Adriatico ’17

Tirreno-Adriatico Race Preview: Paris-Nice is well under way and next up is the Italian version – Tirreno-Adriatico. Seven stages, one team time trial and one individual test, plus five tough road stages, with one summit finish. Sam Larner takes a look at the history, the course and the possible protagonists.

Whilst one half of the World Tour is heading north to south through France, the other half will be heading west to east over in Italy in the ‘Race of the Two Seas’. That name refers to the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic, two seas on either side of Italy which help make up the Mediterranean. Although it is now hilly enough to rule out an overall victory for a classic style rider, unless the queen stage is cancelled (see below), it hasn’t always been that way, the man with the most overall victories is Roger De Vlaeminck with 6 consecutive wins between 1972 and 1977.

De Vlaeminck – Not just Mr. Paris-Roubaix

The 2017 Tirreno-Adriatico will start, for the third consecutive year, in the Tuscan seaside resort of Lido di Camaiore and traverse across the spine of Italy to San Benedetto del Tronto for the traditional finale.

More stage wins for Gaviria?

Despite having a cancelled queen stage last year and a snow covered one the year before, the Tirreno-Adriatico organizers have once again put their hand into the flame and pulled out another stage with peaks over 1,000m – this time the stage 4 slog to Terminillo.

Greg Van Avermaet was a strong winner in 2016

The Opening Stage is a super fast out and back 22.7km team time trial course. A perfect warm up for the pro teams as they dust off their aero machines, unless the wind blows, expect to see average speeds in the very high 50s or maybe even brushing the 60s. If the wind does blow off the coast, there will be carnage as the solid discs fight against a hard crosswind.

BMC could repeat their TTT win in Valencia

There’s nothing easy about the Second Stage, it’s 228km between Camaiore and Pomarance with a flat first half and a shark’s tooth second half. Any sprinters thinking they can just cling on over the three categorized climbs between kilometer 127 and 206 would be advised to check the finish – the last 10km are entirely uphill with a nasty final kick. Expect to see the majority of sprinters unhitch on the final climb and make their own way in on this marathon stage.

The Third Stage, between Monterotondo Marittimo and Montalto di Castro is another 200km+ stage, 204km to be exact. However, it should finally favor a sprinter due to a much less lumpy parcours. It’s not all going to go the way of the fast men though, Montalto di Castro sits on a small prominence and so the sprinters will have to get over a slight drag before they contest the finish. Still, it shouldn’t be enough to chisel a sprinter from the top step of the podium.

Lets hope for better weather

The Fourth Stage is the Saturday special, a Grand Tour mountain stage stuck in the middle of March. The only positive for the riders is that the start will be in the same place as the finish the previous day so there will be no transfer. They then have 50km of relative flat before the ascent of the La Colonetta climb, which precedes a lull as the riders descent and then gradually climb up towards the Pie di Morra climb and the hellish final third. The Pie di Morra tops out at 842m and is virtually 13km of continuous gradient. After the descent and a brief period of riding on the flat, there’s the prospect of the sharp, and not that short, uncategorized kicker to Castelfranco before the piece de resistance to Terminillo.

The climb is 16.1km with an average of 7.8%, the hardest section is baked into the first 4km, this will be a hideous wake up call for anybody who hasn’t quite found their form, or burnt that off-season weight.

Stage 5 is a 209km route from Rieti to Fermo, near the Tyrrhenian coast, it’s easier than the previous stage but it’s all relative. Rieti sits at 473m and Fermo at a mere 290m, unfortunately that ignores all the rolling terrain that the riders will face on the day. The first 50km gentle rise but this shouldn’t really be anything to trouble the riders, the main difficulties come in the second 100km when the length of climbs decreases but the frequency increases. Unfortunately for the sprinters who are still in the race, Fermo sits on top of a big rise so the finish will be contested by climbers who can sprint or hard nosed Ardennes classics style riders.

More Sagan/Van Avermaet battles

The final two stages take place along the coast, with the sixth stage finishing in Civitanova Marche after a 168km ride, barely worth getting out of bed for in this race of monstrous stretches in the saddle, which will finally suit a sprinter. There’s a couple of ascents of the Civitanova Alta in the finishing circuit but neither should be enough to dislodge a sprinter who might only have this stage to go at.

The Final Stage 7 is a 10km time trial, much like the opening stage it’s a simple out and back course in San Benedetto del Tronto. The time gaps won’t be massive here, but if it’s tight at the top of the leaderboard going into the stage, expect this route to decide the overall winner.

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) might be on flying form going into this race, and be the winner from last year, but, barring a weather enforced cancellation of a couple of stages, his best hope will be a stage victory on one of the more sprinter friendly stages and a possible spell in the Blue jersey after the opening time trial.

Kuurne - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - VAN AVERMAET Greg (BEL) Rider of BMC RACING TEAM pictured during Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne 2017 - photo PN/Cor Vos © 2017

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) will have a similar plan of action to Van Avermaet, the Slovakian came second last year, and although nothing is impossible for the World Champion, I wouldn’t bet your house, or even a doll’s house on a repeat podium performance. Should be a good bet for a stage or two though.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won the race in 2015 by emerging from the snow on the Queen stage of the race. He will hope that he won’t have to ride on-piste this year but he certainly has the hardiness to deal with any weather thrown at the riders as they venture beyond 1,000m in the Apennines.

Mas de La Costa 180 km - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Nairo Alexander QUINTANA ROJAS (Columbia / Team Movistar) pictured during 68th Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana stage 4 - photo Luis Gomez/Cor Vos © 2017 ***Spain out***

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) is the last Italian winner of the race, back in 2013. The key stage to the Terminillo will suit him and he has good pedigree in short sharp finishes, expect him to be near the blue jersey, if not in it, by the end of the week. One of a number of podium contenders.

Bahrein - Merida 2017 - 16/12/2016 -  - photo Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto©2016

Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) is looking to continue his emergence as a Grand Tour rider after his remarkable performance at the 2015 Vuelta. There’s not much time trialling for him here so he will need to be at his best to stand a chance of climbing into the lead. It will be exciting to see how he goes on the hilly finishes.

Siena - Italy - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme -Tom DUMOULIN (Netherlands / Team Sunweb) - Zdenek STYBAR (Czech / Team Quick Step - Floors) pictured during Strade Bianche elite 2017 - photo LB/RB/Cor Vos © 2017

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) has been off the boil in Grand Tour GC standings since 2014, he really needs a good early season so the French public can pour on more talk of him being the next Fignon or Anquetil. The lack of descending will be a pleasant part of the route, as will the lack of time trialling. Expect to see the Frenchman near the front every time the road tilts upwards – which is a lot.

Mancha Real - Spain - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Thibaut PINOT (France / Team FDJ) pictured during the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol 2017 - stage - 2 from Torredonjimeno to Mancha Real, 179.90 km - photo Gomez/Cor Vos © 2017***SPAIN OUT)

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