Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 2
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13/02 - Stage 2 - San Vincenzo to Cascina - 166 km

After the opening team time trial, it’s now time for the sprinters to shine. All the best sprinters in the world are riding Tirreno-Adriatico this year and we should be in for quite a show today!

The route
The first 100 km of the stage are hilly with no less than three categorized climbs. Smaller teams will be eager to get a rider in the morning breakaway and hope to take the first KOM jersey of the race. It might also be an idea for some of the sprinters’ teams to put a rider up front. That way, you can both go for the KOM jersey and let the other teams do the work in the peloton.

The riders reach Casina after 114 km. From here on, they start on a 20.6 km long city circuit which they will do twice after reaching the finishing line for the first time. You can see a detailed map of the circuit by holding the mouse over the final part of the stage on the profile at the top of the page. There are a couple of tricky corners on the final five kilometers. The final difficult turn comes in a roundabout with 1750 meters to go. With so many top sprinters at the start, all the big teams will try to hit the front at the right time. Today, the right time is when they get out of that last right-hand corner. The final part is pretty much straight out.

The favorites
It’s close to impossible to pick one favorite in this field. Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel, Peter Sagan, Sacha Modolo and Arnaud Démare all have a solid chance of winning this stage. On paper, both Cavendish and Greipel are bringing their top leadout teams to the race. In Tour Down Under Greipel won the two pure sprint stages thanks to a perfect leadout. He has the same four guys (Sieberg, Hansen, Debusschere and Roelandts) with him in Tirreno-Adriatico. I think Lotto-Belisol will be the team hitting the front with 2 km to go.

Giant-Shimano probably have the best lead out team in the world right now. However, it’s not their prime leadout riders the teams has sent to this race. In last year’s Tour de France, Marcel Kittel had John Degenkolb and Koen de Kort to set him up in the final. They are both missing, as they are currently riding Paris-Nice. Kittel, however, has Tom Veelers and Nikias Arndt in the final, but even though they are both strong, they are no John Degenkolb or Koen de Kort. In my book, De Kort is the the best lead out rider in the peloton. Still, if Kittel manages to get on Andre Greipel’s wheel, he might not even need a leadout train. He did so in People’s Choice Classic and had no problems outsprinting Greipel on the final meters.

In the past, there were no doubts about Mark Renshaw being the best leadout rider in the peloton. With Renshaw in front of him, Mark Cavendish basically couldn’t lose. Renshaw then decided to try his own luck on Rabobank/Blanco but it never really worked out. Now the fast Australian has been reunited with Cavendish on Omega Pharma Quickstep, hoping to bring back the magic. Together with Alessandro Petacchi, OPQS probably have the best leadout riders on paper, but they still haven’t made it work so far this season. Compared to Greipel (6) and Kittel (4), Cavendish has only won one race this year. It will be interesting to see who will come out on top after the first big battle on stage 2. At least Cavendish shouldn’t have any problems keeping the leader’s jersey.

The outsiders More favorites          
With six this strong sprinters in the race, I simply can’t see an outsider winning any of the two sprint stages. Personally, I have high hopes for Sacha Modolo. He has always been a huge talent and after joining Lampre-Merida, his career has taken off. Modolo has won four races this season. He hasn’t been up against Kittel and Greipel yet but he has already beaten Cavendish, Sagan and Démare. The fast Italian may not be a household name yet, but I’m sure this will change after this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won a stage in Tirreno-Adriatico this year.

Despite six podium places this season, Peter Sagan has only won one race so far. He couldn’t keep up with Michal Kwiatkowski in Strade Bianche and he’s now eager to take a win here in Tirreno. However, I doubt it will be today. Friday’s stage 3 seems tailor-made for Peter Sagan and if he is to win a race before Milano-San Remo, this is his best chance. To be honest, I don’t even think Sagan will make top3 on stage 2. In my book, Greipel, Kittel, Cavendish and Modolo are all faster than Sagan in a regular bunch sprint.

The last one of the six mentioned favorites is Arnaud Démare. He won the final stage of Tour of Qatar and probably would have won the final stage of Volta ao Algarve (which Cavendish won) had he been in a better position. Démare was by far the fastest rider on the final meters that day. If FDJ can set up the Frenchman perfectly, he might even win the stage. It won’t be easy, but it wouldn’t be a surprise either if Démare bagged a stage win in Tirreno-Adriatico this year.

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