Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 3
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14/03 - Stage 3 - Cascina to Arezzo - 210 km

The pure sprinters had their chance to shine on stage 2 but many of them missed out. Now they will have to wait a couple of days before the next opportunity presents itself. Stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico is one for the puncheurs with a short uphill finish.

The route
This is the second longest stage of this year’s race. On paper, the 210 km from Cascina to Arezzo don’t look like much. However, the GC riders will have to be careful not to lose any time on the lumpy roads in the final.

After 150 km, the peloton enters Arezzo. Here, the riders start on a 24.8 km circuit around the city. After reaching the finishing line, a second circuit starts. This one is only 11 km and will be covered three times. It starts off with a fast descent before entering the city center where the riders have to pay close attention to traffic islands and roundabouts. After crossing under the flame rouge, the peloton turns right twice in the following two roundabouts. From here on the road starts to kick up. The final 900 meters have an average gradient of 5 % with parts over 11 % in the beginning. The last part of the stage takes place on big cobblestones. Explosive riders will most likely try to get an early gap on the steep gradients in the beginning. In case a small group arrives together, it’s very important to be the first rider into the last left hand corner with less than 200 meters to go.

The favorites
Looking at the start list, especially one name stands out for this stage; Peter Sagan. The Slovakian has pretty much had monopoly on these kinds of stages the last couple of years and he’s eager to take his first win on the big scene this season. Few - if any - can match Peter Sagan’s kick in an uphill finish. Personally, I would be surprised not to see Sagan win this stage. It’s true that he wasn’t on top of his game in Strade Bianche last week but he still managed to drop the other favorites when he put in his first attack. Unfortunately for Sagan, he couldn’t drop Michal Kwiatkowski.

The Pole is one of the few riders able to challenge Peter Sagan in his stage. There are 10 bonus seconds on the line and that alone should be a big motivation for the GC riders to fight for the top positions today. Michal Kwiatkowski already has a good gap on the rest of the favorites after the team time trial. However, he also knows that he might not be able to follow the best climbers on stage 4 and 5. He needs all the time he can get and today is a good chance to steal a few more seconds.

Another very interesting name for this stage is Diego Ulissi. He won in Stirling, in Tour Down Under, in a somehow similar finish, and now hehopes to repeat that performance on home soil. Lampre-Merida also has Damiano Cunego for these types of finishes. Cunego did very well in Strade Bianche where he showed to be in great shape. If he sacrifices his own chances to leadout Ulissi, I think Ulissi will make top3 - at least - today. Team mates Sacha Modolo and Filippo Pozzato are also doing very well right now. They too will be able to support Diego Ulissi in the final.

The outsiders
Usually, I wouldn’t consider Dani Moreno an outsider for this kind of stage. He would be a top favorite. However, Moreno still seems to be a little behind schedule after his crash in Argentina at the end of December. He did show signs of improvement in Tour of Oman but I still have my doubts about him. When he’s in shape, Dani Moreno is very difficult to beat on a finish like today. The steep part in the beginning will thin out the peloton significantly and in an uphill sprint, not many have what it takes to beat the Spanish Katusha rider.

Personally, I have high expectations for Bardiani-CSF in this race stage. In Enrico Battaglin and Sonny Colbrelli the Italian team has two very strong outsiders for today. Battaglin may not be in top condition yet, but Colbrelli definitely is. He hasn’t won anything yet, but the young Italian has no less than 10 top5 places so far this season. Last Sunday he finished 3rd in Roma Maxima. Sonny Colbrelli probably won’t win this stage but don’t be surprised if he takes another top place today, and again later in the race.

For other outsiders look to Gerald Ciolek, Rinaldo Nocentini, former U-23 World Champion Aleksey Lutsenko, Bauke Mollema, Julian Arredondo and the young Irishman Sam Bennett who finished 4th on stage 2. Also, never count out Philippe Gilbert. On his best days, the Belgian is definitely able to challenge Peter Sagan.

Favorite: Peter Sagan
Outsider: Sonny Colbrelli

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