C-Cycling.com Tirreno-Adriatico 2015 Preview and Favorites
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11-17 March 2015

Even though we won’t get another captivating duel between Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico is guaranteed to bring drama and good fights on all seven stages. It’s a great field and the list of star riders is long.

The route
Tirreno-Adriatico was planned to start out with a 22.7 km time trial around Lido di Camaiore. However, due to extreme weather conditions, the TTT has been changed to an individual time trial of just 5.4 km. There are a couple of technical corners to overcome but compared to the TTT, the time differences amongst the GC candidates won’t be very big. Stage 2 is for the sprinters, while the puncheurs will have their say on stage 3. The following two hilly days are where the GC will be settled. The uphill finish on Terminillo (16 km / 7.5 % avg.) on stage 5 will most likely produce the overall winner of the race. Unless the time differences are just a matter of a few seconds, not even the final time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto will have an impact on the general classification. Except for in the two time trials, there are 10-6-4 bonus seconds up for grabs for the first three riders crossing the finishing line on each stage.

The favorites
Originally, this was set up to be a two-man fight between Chris Froome and Alberto Contador. Unfortunately, Froome had to forfeit due to a chest infection. Therefore, the number one favorite for this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico has to be Alberto Contador.

The Spaniard showed great shape in Ruta del Sol where he was allegedly pushing around 6.5 W/kg on the climbs. Truly astonishing given we are only in February. Clearly, his three weeks training camp on Teide had the desired effect. It’s hard to see anyone getting close to Contador on the final climb on stage 5. Tinkoff-Saxo had a very strong team for the expected opening TTT. I’m sure they would have done very well and given Contador a great start to the race. Still, even without an early advantage, Contador is the favorite for the general classification. Judging from this season’s results, he’s definitely the best climber in the race and without the TTT, the best climber should also win Tirreno-Adriatico 2015. However, it’s also very important to remember that Contador is aiming at the Giro/Tour double this season. Therefore, he needs to save energy. He has to balance his performance and not do more than absolutely necessary in order to win. For example, on Terminillo, I don’t think we will see him repeat the impressive performance from Ruta del Sol where he went solo on the first mountain stage from the bottom of the climb.

Without Chris Froome, the remaining GC candidates all seem to be a level below Alberto Contador given their recent results. However, three names stand out.

Vincenzo Nibali: Last year’s Tour de France winner has changed his approach to the start of the season. According to his trainer, Paolo Slongo, Nibali has been training much better this winter and, this time, we shouldn’t have to wait until June to see him cross the finishing line for the first time. However, Nibali hasn’t been at any altitude camps and so far and his results haven’t been as good as expected. Usually, he does well in Tirreno-Adriatico and with the downhill finish on stage 4, he might be able to gain some time on his rivals. If Vincenzo Nibali really is better than last year, he should be able to fight for the overall podium in this race.

Rigoberto Uran: Personally, I think Uran will do very well. The Colombian showed great shape in Strade Bianche last Saturday by finishing 7th. Like Alberto Contador, Uran is also aiming at the Giro/Tour this season, which might mean he won’t push himself too much already. The TTT would have helped Rigoberto Uran to get a strong start to the race. However, he’s a very good climber and unless he has a bad day on Terminillo, I would expect him to be near the very front.

Nairo Quintana: After missing Ruta del Sol due to a crash in the national championships, Quintana is now back in Europe to race. On paper, Quintana would be a very strong candidate to the overall win. Almost at the same level as Alberto Contador. Still, it’s hard to say how his unexpected break has affected his preparation for Tirreno-Adriatico. He proved to be on a good level already in Tour San Luis in January and, usually, he comes out flying upon returning from Colombia. We will have to wait and see what he can do against Contador on stage 5.

The outsiders
On a level just below the above-mentioned riders, we’ll find a long list of strong climbers including Domenico Pozzovivo, Bauke Mollema, Thibaut Pinot, Mikel Nieve, Leo König, Stephen Cummings, Carlos Betancur, Laurens Ten Dam, Przemyslaw Niemiec, Jurgen van den Broeck, Ryder Hesjedal, Dan Martin, Pierre Rolland and the Katusha duo of Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez and Dani Moreno. Personally, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Dani Moreno can do, when being given a rare chance to lead the team. Without Chris Froome, Mikel Nieve is now the designated team leader on Team Sky. He proved to be great shape in Ruta del Sol, I would imagine him to fight for the stage win on Terminillo and a spot on the overall podium.

Young riders like Tsgabu Grmay, Louis Meintjes, Adam Yates and the Italian super talent Davide Formolo will be very interesting to follow on the climbs. Meintjes showed good shape in Oman and now hopes to shine on the big scene for MTN Qhubeka. Yates’ chances of overall success has diminished a little after the cancellation of the TTT. Individual time trials are definitely not his forte. Formolo is probably the best candidate for a good overall result. However, he has been sick recently. Therefore, he may lack a little on the climbs.

The sprinters
Unfortunately, sickness has also prevented us from getting a great duel in the sprints. Marcel Kittel hasn’t be able to recover well enough to take the start. Therefore, Mark Cavendish must be the big favorites for the two expected bunch sprints. However, Cavendish too has recently been under the weather, suffering from a virus he picked up in South Africa. In case he’s not at 100 % yet, we should look to riders like Elia Viviani, Sacha Modolo, Matteo Pelucchi and Peter Sagan. MTN Qhubeka brings no less than five sprinters to the race hoping to score a stage win with either Edvald Boasson Hagen, Tyler Farrar, Matt Goss, Gerald Ciolek or Kristian Sbaragli. In case the big sprinters miss out, fast youngsters like Jens Debusschere, Sam Bennett, Magnus Cort, Edwin Avila, Nikias Arndt and Nicola Ruffoni will be ready to step up and aim for glory.

Daily stage previews
Once again, I will be doing daily stage previews throughout the race. Each preview will be online the evening before the upcoming stage. You can already check out all the interactive stage profiles now by using “click to select other stages” at the top. For detailed information about the climbs and the finishes, simply mouse-over the area on the profile. For additional news and thoughts, make sure to follow me on Twitter at @mrconde.

Follow the race online
The official Twitter hashtag for Tirreno-Adriatico 2015 is #Tirreno. You can follow the action from inside the race at the official account @TirrenAdriatico. For live coverage of Tirreno-Adriatico go to steephill.tv.