18/03 - Stage 7 (ITT) San Benedetto del Tronto - 9.1 km
After stage 4, this final time trial of Tirreno-Adriatico looked to be a very decisive stage of the race. However, due to Alberto Contador’s outstanding performance on stage 5, we now already know the name of the overall winner.
For those of you who watched the final stage of Tirreno-Adriatico last year, just jump to the favorites-section below. The course is exactly the same. The first kilometer includes two sharp corners, and it’s important not to lose any seconds or rhythm here. However, a lot of time can’t be gained on the following 3.8 km, straight out alongside the sea. There is a time check in Piazza Salvo d'Acquisto after 4.7 km, followed by two right hand corners before the riders head back towards San Benedetto del Tronto. The last 4.3 km are pretty much straight out all the way.
The wind won’t be strong but the direction will change a bit during the day. From east-northeast for the first riders to east for the last riders. This means that late starting riders won’t enjoy the slight tail wind in the beginning, but also won’t struggle in the light headwind on the final part.
This year’s Tirreno-Adriatico features some of the best climbers in the world, the top sprinters and of course, we also have the best time trialists in the race. Triple World Champion, Tony Martin is here. So is the Olympic Champion, Bradley Wiggins, former four-times World Champion, Fabian Cancellara and home soil specialist Adriano Malori. Add to that list in-shape Michal Kwiatkowski - winner of the time trial in Volta ao Algarve (in front of Malori and Martin) - Alex Dowsett and the two Australians Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn, and you have one of the strongest time trial fields seen in a long time.
My personal favorite is Tony Martin. He hasn’t won an individual time trial this season so far, but he is very eager to change this fact. In Dubai Tour, the wind ruined his chances, and in Algarve the tricky part on the cobblestones slowed him down. This time trial only has a few corners to overcome, and Tony Martin will be able to unleash his big engine on the two long straight out parts. The German panzerwagon has been progressing race by race so far this season, and he was one of the main reasons why Omega Pharma Quickstep crushed the peloton in the opening team time trial. I think Tony Martin will prove why he has won the world championship the last three years in a row and repeat his win in San Benedetto del Tronto from last year.
Bradley Wiggins came to Tirreno-Adriatico with sole focus on the two time trials. It didn’t work out for Team Sky in the TTT (finishing 6th) and now Wiggins hopes to shine on the last day of the race. The former Tour de France winner has put on weight in his attempt to do well in Paris-Roubaix this year, which will give him extra raw power in the time trials as well. We saw this in the time trial in Florence last year, when he finished 2nd after Tony Martin and in the short time trial in Tour of Britain where he destroyed the rest of the peloton. It will be interesting to see where Bradley Wiggins stands against the elite at this point of the season.
Personally, I think Adriano Malori will do very well today. He won the time trial in Tour de San Luis and finished 2nd in Volta ao Algarve, beating Tony Martin. Like the German, Malori was an important factor in Movistar’s great team time trial (finishing 3rd). The strong Italian has taken a step up the ladder after joining the Spanish team and I think there is a big time trial win just around the corner for him. This course suits him very well, which he also proved last year by finishing in second place, just 6 seconds behind Tony Martin.
As mentioned, there are a lot of strong time trialists in this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico. My personal outsider is Michael Hepburn. He was my joker for the time trial in Tour of Qatar earlier this year, which he won, and I think he will be able to fight for the win in Tirreno-Adriatico as well. Hepburn won the Australian national time trial championship earlier this year and he, too, was a big contributor to GreenEdge’s impressive TTT (finishing 2nd). It’s difficult to say how the youngster has come through the last hard days in the mountains, but if he’s ready, I think he will put in a very strong performance today. He starts as number 14 and I think his time will stand for quite a while.
However, if he wants to make a great result today, Michael Hepburn - and the rest of the contenders - have to beat Alex Dowsett. The Brit is the sixth rider on the starting ramp and, the way I see it, only Hepburn has a chance of beating Dowsett before the big favorites start. Alex Dowsett finished 5th in the time trial in Volta ao Algarve and came close to taking the peloton by surprise on stage 2 of this race after going solo in the final. The Movistar rider is obviously in great shape right now. Dowsett’s time will also be an important reference for teammate Adriano Malori.
Michal Kwiatkowski has been very strong so far this year. He has a big engine and he will have Tony Martin as a reference, starting late in the race. Had this been an opening time trial, I wouldn’t have hesitated with picking Kwiatkowski for a top result. However, he did have a couple of very tough days in the mountains and it must be hard to re-find the motivation after losing out in the general classification. Last year, Kwiatkowski was gunning for the overall podium but missed out by a second as he only finished 8th in this time trial. Without the GC to motivate him, I think it will be hard for the Polish youngster to do better this time.
For live coverage of the stage, go to steephill.tv