Tirreno-Adriatico 2016: preview

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Tirreno-Adriatico 2016 preview: route, contenders and riders to watch

The Race of the Two Seas returns for its 51st edition

A star-studded line-up is set to take on the “Race of the Two Seas”, Tirreno-Adriatico, the 51st edition of which rolls out on Wednesday (March 9).

Winner in 2012 and 2013, Vincenzo Nibali leads the contenders for the trident trophy, but the Astana man is not going to be short of big rivals.

Nairo Quintana won last year’s Tirreno-Adriatico (pic: Sirotti)

Last year’s world number one Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is set to be one of those, bidding to replicate team-mate Nairo Quintana’s triumph in 2015.

Other GC men looking to make an early mark on the 2016 UCI WorldTour season include Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), while Team Sky travel with many options including Michal Kwiatkowski, Leopold Konig and British champion Peter Kennaugh.

Tirreno-Adriatico 2016: TV schedule

Away from the battle for the blue jersey and trident trophy there will be plenty of action too, with Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data), Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep) and Elia Viviani (Team Sky) back on the road after their Track Worlds exploits.

So who should we be keeping an eye on, and where will the race be won? Read on for our comprehensive look at the route and riders.

The route

The 51st edition of the race continues the theme of moving from a chance to test the legs ahead of the Classics to a meaningful stage race in its own right.

Rolling out in Lido di Camaiore, the race opens with a 22.7km team time trial – as it was scheduled to do in 2015 before storms forced a re-think.

Monte San Vicino provides the mountain-top finale to stage five (pic: RCS Sport)

An uphill finish to the first road stage in Pomarance will interest the Classics riders, meanwhile, with fast finishers like Valverde likely to hold the advantage.

Sprint finishes are then expected in Manciano on stage three and Foligno on stage four, with the aforementioned Cavendish, Gaviria and Viviani and world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) likely to be among the protagonists; a short, steep climb with 15km to go of the latter could provide a base for a late breakaway though.

The GC men will then get their next big opportunity to drive home an advantage on stage five, the race’s Queen Stage, with Monte San Vicino providing the 13km, 6.6 per cent average gradient climb for the finale.

Stage six better resembles the traditional ‘Milan-San Remo prep’ sort of stages Tirreno-Adriatico became known for, at 210km in length and boasting two laps of a hilly finishing circuit.

And the race will then conclude, as ever, with a short 10km time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto where Team Sky’s Vasil Kiryienka will don the rainbow-striped skinsuit of world champion and Fabian Cancellara and British champion Alex Dowsett will be among those in opposition.

The contenders – Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)

Winner of this race in both 2012 and 2013, Vincenzo Nibali starts among the favourites this time out and has already made a strong start to the season.

Having looked to peak for the Tour de France in the last two years, Nibali’s form pre-summer has been nothing to shout about since 2013 but he already has a stage win and overall victory at the Tour of Oman to his name in 2016.

Vincenzo Nibali’s has made a strong start to 2016 (pic: Sirotti)

Nibali was triumphant on Green Mountain in Oman and the 31-year-old will be looking for a similar result on Monte San Vicino.

Jakob Fuglsang and Michele Scarponi are among his provisional supporting cast for the race, and if the Italian champion continues in his current vein of form he will be difficult to stop.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

The first road stage of this year’s race looks tailor-made for Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), last year’s world number one rider.

A fast, uphill finish is the perfect opportunity for the Spanish champion to strike home an early advantage – particularly if Movistar, the world team time trial bronze medal winners, win stage one too.

Alejandro Valverde is well-suited to stage two’s fast, uphill finish (pic: Sirotti)

Britain’s Alex Dowsett is in Valverde’s supporting cast, a man the Spaniard is turning to increasingly regularly to keep him safe on the long, flat days, while last year’s Giro d’Italia fourth-place finisher Andrey Amador will support him in the mountains.

Valverde comes into the race, like Nibali, with a stage win and overall victory already in the bag too after the Ruta del Sol.

The veteran Spaniard is breaking new ground with his bid for a debut Giro d’Italia this year, and Tirreno-Adriatico will be an important step for his bid to arrive at the Corsa Rosa in top form.

Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing)

The man Valverde beat to the top step of the Ruta del Sol podium, Tejay van Garderen, could have had a maiden Grand Tour podium in 2015 but for his late Tour de France illness.

In 2016, the American is out to right that wrong and – with added competition for the team leadership from Richie Porte – has a big point to prove.

Tejay van Garderen will start riding with new team-mate and co-leader Richie Porte after Tirreno-Adriatico (pic: Sirotti)

Porte is currently in action at Paris-Nice, so Tirreno-Adriatico is TVG’s chance to improve on his Ruta del Sol stage win and second place overall before he and Porte find their racing programmes intertwine in the lead-up to the Tour.

World champions BMC Racing should be able to put Van Garderen in a good place after the team time trial, and his climbing ability is undoubted.

An overall stage race win outside of America continues to elude the 27-year-old, but as he looks stronger every year, 2016 could be the time to end that.

Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale)

Rigoberto Uran finished third in last year’s Tirreno-Adriatico and will be bidding to step up his Giro d’Italia preparations in his first WorldTour race in Cannondale colours.

The Colombian has made a quiet start to life at the team in green argyle, with fourth at the GP Industria & Artigianato his only notable result so far.

Rigoberto Uran has made a quiet start to life at Cannondale (pic: Sirotti)

Sunday’s race showed he is coming into form though, and Tirreno-Adriatico offers Uran the chance to remind everyone why he should be considered a GC contender.

Leaving Etixx-QuickStep offers a great chance to do just that, and with Cannondale desperate for success after their lean 2015 season, Uran’s winter switch could prove a reinvigorating move for both parties.

A strong showing in Tirreno-Adriatico will go a long way to suggesting that will be the case.

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)

Another rider to show well at Tirreno-Adriatico, Thibaut Pinot, returns in 2016 after some strong rides already this season.

Second at the GP la Marseillaise, third at the Etoile de Besseges and fourth at the Volta ao Algarve is a very positive start to the year.

Thibaut Pinot’s Alpe d’Huez triumph showed what might have been in 2016 after starting the season so well (pic: Sirotti)

The 25-year-old suffered a frustrating Tour de France last season, his victory on Alpe d’Huez showing what might have been but for a nightmare first week.

It overshadowed his form earlier in the season, but if Pinot can put in the same sort of consistently strong performances he did this time 12 months ago he will definitely be in the hunt for at least a podium place.

Others to watch

Two world champions, two British champions and a host of leading sprinters and Classics contenders mean there will be far more than just the GC to keep a close eye on at Tirreno-Adriatico.

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Elia Viviani (Team Sky), and Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep) are all back from the Track Worlds to fight it out in the sprints, while world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) is still targeting a first win in the rainbow jersey.

Mark Cavendish and Fernando Gaviria will be back on the road at Tirreno-Adriatico (pic: Charlie Forgham-Bailey/SWPix.com)

Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) will also be among the sprinting competition, with two Tour Down Under stage wins to his name already this season.

With both a team time trial and individual time trial on the cards too, it’s a chance for Taylor Phinney’s BMC Racing and Tony Martin’s Etixx-QuickStep to get one over world champions Movistar.

Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo), world champion Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky) and British duo Alex Dowsett (Movistar) and Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) will also be among the stage seven contenders.

British road race champion Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) is another rider to keep a close eye on through the week – the Manxman has already won the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race before finishing second behind team-mate Chris Froome at the Herald Sun Tour.

Sky’s multiple options for the race mean Wout Poels, a stage winner 12 months ago, Leopold Konig and Michal Kwiatkowski – the latter bidding for form ahead of the Classics – could also have a big part to play in the race.

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