Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 1
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11/03 - Stage 1 (ITT) - Lido di Camaiore - 5.4 km

Due to extreme weather conditions last week, the planned team time trial has been replaced by a short individual time trial around Lido di Camaiore.

The route
Despite the short distance, there are a few technical parts to overcome. Three 90° corners and a left turn in a roundabout await the riders before the sharp U-turn on Viale Bernardini. This is where the intermediate check point is located. From here, the final 2.3 km are pretty much straight-out all the way towards the finishing line. Except for a right-left S-bend with 1.2 km to go, the riders won’t be troubled at all on this final part. The road surface is good which means we can expect very fast times.

Usually, when the only technical difficulties are located on the first part of the course, it’s not always the same rider leading at the intermediate check and at the finish. However, this is such a short distance and there are many straight-out sections. Most likely, it will be decided within a couple of seconds. This is really a course for the prologue specialists.

The favorites
Looking at the start list, the number one favorite should be Fabian Cancellara. The Swiss has always been amongst the best riders in the world in these kinds of short time trials. He has had a strong start to the season and knowing this might be one of his last years in the peloton, Cancellara is now extra focused on winning more races. However, after Tour of Oman - where he won stage 2 - a recent illness prevented him from staying with the best riders in Strade Bianche last Saturday. Cancellara still put in an impressive performance on the gravel roads and in case he’s now recovered, Spartacus will be very difficult to beat today.

Another strong candidate is Cancellara’s teammate Jesse Sergent. Originally, the Kiwi wasn’t set to ride Tirreno-Adriatico but after Jasper Stuyven’s crash in Strade Bianche, Trek quickly changed Sergent’s program. He finished 2nd in the prologue of Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen last week and now, he hopes to do one better here. The short distance is definitely in Sergent’s favor. If he’s able to prepare, mentally, after being thrown into the race last minute, I wouldn’t be surprised if he finished on top of podium Wednesday afternoon.

Adriano Malori is getting better and better against the clock every year. He’s the top favorite for the final time trial of Tirreno-Adriatico but this distance may be just a bit too short for him. An extra 4 or 5 km and he would have been the prime pick. Still, Malori has proven to be in great shape this season. He won the time trial in Tour San Luis and finished 2nd (by less than a second) behind Tony Martin in the time trial in Volta ao Algarve. He’s going very strong right now and, on home soil in Italy, he will be extremely motivated to wear the first leader’s jersey of the race.

The outsiders
Given his impressive win against the clock in Tour of Qatar, Niki Terpstra is obviously an interesting rider for this opening stage. He’s clearly in great shape for the Classics season but I think the distance is a little too short for him as well. Like Malori, a few extra kilometers, to really open up the legs, would have helped Terpstra a lot. However, as said, this will be decided within a few seconds. Anything can happen.

Personally, I think Michael Hepburn will be able to clock a very good time on this course. Coming from the track, this kind of distance suits him just fine. He’s a good bike handler, very fast and always strong against the clock. Last year, Hepburn won the short time trial in Tour of Qatar in front of Cancellara, Terpstra, Sergent etc. This year, he arrives to Tirreno-Adriatico with a strong confidence boost after winning the Oceania Continental time trial championships last month. Orica-GreenEdge would have been one of the top candidates for the planned team time trial. If they are to get any success after the change of course, Michael Hepburn is definitely their best chance.

For other strong candidates look to riders like Stephen Cummings, Ramunas Navardauska and Matthias Brändle. Both Tinkoff-Saxo and Astana have a strong trio of riders who can do well very on this type of course. Astana brings Lieuwe Westra, Andriy Grivko and Alexey Lutsenko while Tinkoff-Saxo has Peter Sagan, Maciej Bodnar and Daniele Bennati.

For a super joker, look to Team Sky’s Vasil Kiriyenka. The Belarusian finished 9th in the short ITT in Ruta del Sol last month. When in shape, he’s always a candidate for the time trials, no matter the distance. Originally, Kiryienka wasn’t planned to ride this race. However, after Peter Kennaugh got injured, Team Sky ordered Kiryienka back from his altitude training on Teide, in order to help Chris Froome win Tirreno-Adriatico. Froome later had to forfeit but Kiryienka stays in the race. Recently, Contador and Kelderman have shown the great effect of their altitude training on Teide. On a good day, Vasil Kiryienka may take everybody by surprise and win this stage.

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