Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 1
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12/03 - Stage 1 (TTT) - Donoratico to San Vincenzo - 18.5 km

The last three years in a row, Tirreno-Adriatico started with a team time trial. Usually the teams start in San Vincenzo and finish in Donoratico but this year, it’s the other way around. This means, that the first part of the route is very technical now while the last part is more or less straight out towards the finishing line.

The route
There are no less than 12 corners to overcome before reaching the intermediate time after 11.3 km. Especially the first part, on narrow roads, will give us a clear indication on which teams mean business today. If you are not 100 % focused in the beginning, you won’t have a chance of winning this stage. There is a tiny climb on the way to Castagneto Carducci before a fast descent leads the riders towards the intermediate time. From here on, the final 7.2 km are flat and slightly downhill. This is where teams with big engines will be able to take back some time. Upon reaching the final kilometer, the route becomes technical again, for a few hundred meters. Two roundabouts and three 90° corners face the riders. The last kilometer is straight out alongside the sea.

The favorites
Looking at the start list, it’s difficult not to pick Omega Pharma Quickstep as the number one favorite for this stage. They won the opening team time trial last year and aredefending - double - world champions in this discipline. However, only three riders from last year’s winning team are in the race this time. The most notable rider missing is Niki Terpstra who was also a part of the winning team in Florence last year. Still, riders like Mark Renshaw, Alessandro Petacchi and Matteo Trentin all know how to keep high pace on flat roads and with Tony Martin as main engine, it will be very difficult to beat these guys.

The teams with the best chance of beating OPQS are GreenEdge, Movistar and Team Sky. The Australians are bringing what looks like their A-team for a TTT. Their main goals in Tirreno-Adriatico are the two time trials and they hope to give GC-captain, Ivan Santaromita, a perfect start. GreenEdge won the team time trial in the Tour de France last year and this team actually looks stronger with the likes of Luke Durbridge and in-shape Michael Hepburn. I wouldn’t be surprised if we got another close call between OPQS and GreenEdge, like we saw in the Tour.

With Bradley Wiggins, Richie Porte and Dario Cataldo on the team, naturally, Team Sky must be mentioned amongst the favorites. Add to that strong riders like Ian Stannard, Bernhard Eisel and Kanstantsin Siutsou and you really have a team ready to fight for the top positions. Light climbers like Mikel Nieve and Peter Kennaugh probably won't be able to contribute much and this might be why Team Sky won’t win this stage.

The outsiders
My personal outsider for the win is Movistar. They finished 2nd here last year and brings a very similar team this time. Actually, I will say it’s an even stronger team this year, thanks to the new signing, time trial specialist, Adriano Malori. Nairo Quintana is one of the top favorites for the overall win in Tirreno-Adriatico. It would increase his chances to succeed overall significantly, if he didn’t start out with a time loss to riders like Richie Porte and Michal Kwiatkowski. For some reason, people always tend to be surprised by Movistar’s strong performances in the team time trials. If you are one of these people, I think you will be surprised once again.

It wouldn’t be fair not to mention Trek amongst the outsiders for this team time trial. They bring a strong team of specialists like Fabian Cancellara, Hayden Roulston, Jesse Sergent and Markel Irizar. However, they haven’t been able to make it work in the team time trials lately. On paper, they should have a chance of making top3 but somehow I doubt it will happen. Top5 is probably the best they might be able to do right now.

Belkin and Astana usually do well in the team time trials. However, neither one of them are going to bring their strongest team this time. I doubt we will see them fight for the top positions Wednesday afternoon. Tinkoff-Saxo might be able to surprise. Bjarne Riis always aims high in the TTTs and looking at the team, they probably couldn’t have sent a stronger one. If some of the favorites miss out, I wouldn’t be surprised if Contador and co. makes top3 today.

Favorites: Omega Pharma Quickstep / GreenEdge
Outsiders: Movistar / Tinkoff-Saxo

For live coverage of the stage, go to steephill.tv