C-Cycling.com Tirreno-Adriatico 2015 Preview and Favorites
Click to select other stages

14/03 - Stage 4 - Indicatore (Arezzo) to Castelraimondo - 218 km

After two days for the fast riders, it’s now time for the first big fight between the candidates for the general classification. You won’t win the race today, but you can easily lose it.

The route
From the start in Indicatore, the riders start climbing after just a few kilometers on the bike. The 8.1 km towards the top of Foce dello Scopetone have an average gradient of 3.3 %. Most likely, this is where the morning breakaway will be established. The following 125 km aren’t very demanding and we can expect the break to gain a big gap on the peloton.

After the second intermediate sprint in Fabriano, it doesn’t take long before the riders start on the first big climb of this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico. Poggio San Romualdo is 10.8 km long and has an average gradient of 6.4 %. The steepest part comes after 3 km where the gradients hit 11 %. From the top of the climb, the majority of the remaining 77.5 km are constantly up and down.

With about 23 km to go, the riders take on the first of two laps on the demanding circuit in Castelraimondo. You can see a detailed profile by mousing over the area on the stage profile. As the peloton turns left to start on the circuit, the road narrows in significantly. It’s extremely important to arrive in the front of the peloton in order to not lose ground when the road starts to kick up. The Crispiero climb is 3.1 km long and has an average gradient of 9.3 %. There are numerous parts of double digits gradients with the maximum of 15 % just before reaching the top. The scenery is spectacular but only the spectators will be able to enjoy it. The descent takes place on a bit wider roads. It twists and bends but in general, it’s a fast descent down towards the finishing line. On the last lap, instead of turning right as they did on the first one, the riders continue straight-out with 400 meters to go. From here, the road starts to kick up again. After a left-hand turn with about 250 meters to go, the final stretch towards the line is straight-out and slightly uphill.

Below, you can watch a YouTube video of the Crispiero climb, made by Guillaume Prébois:

The favorites
This is a very difficult stage to call.  It reminds me a bit about the brutal stage to Porto Sant'Elpidio in 2013. Luckily, the weather forecast is bright for Castelraimondo this Saturday. Some of the GC riders have already lost important seconds to their rivals and they will be eager to take back some time before Sunday’s big mountain stage. Remember, there are 10-6-4 bonus seconds up for grabs on the finishing line.

On his best days, Peter Sagan wouldn’t have any problems following the top riders on these kinds of climbs. He did so on the mentioned stage in 2013, being the only rider able to follow Purito and Nibali. However, Sagan hasn’t proven to be very strong on the climbs so far this year. His team leader, Alberto Contador, needs to take back time on his rivals and I would imagine him to try an attack on the Crispiero climb. If Sagan isn’t far behind on the top on the last lap, he might be able to bridge on the descent but it won’t be easy.

Vincenzo Nibali has changed his training program ahead of this season. So far, he hasn’t shown any great shape but according to his trainer, Paolo Slongo, we won’t have to wait until June, like last year, before Nibali takes his first win of the season. The Italian is always among the best riders on the descents and he’s not scared of attacking. If he can manage to hold on to the front group on the climb, I’m certain we will see Vincenzo Nibali try to solo away on the descent.

Katusha has a very dangerous trio in Giampaolo Caruso, Dani Moreno & Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez. Both are amongst the best riders in the world on these kinds of climbs. However, Purito is not as strong as he hoped to be at this moment. He needs some hard racing to reach this top level before Volta a Catalunya later this month. I would imagine him to try something on climbs, testing his legs. Dani Moreno came to the race with GC ambitions but had to change this after he got caught up in a late crash on stage 2. Now, it’s all about stage success for the Spaniard. Today’s finish is perfect for him. If he’s ready again after his crash, Moreno will be very difficult to beat in Castelraimondo today.

The outsiders
Given that this stage is so hard to predict, naturally, the list of outsiders is very long. You need to be strong on the climbs and fast on the line in order to win today. However, not many GC riders fit this description. Guys like Zdenek Stybar and the leading rider Greg van Avermaet have proven to be in excellent shape recently. The Crispiero climb might be too difficult for them but if they are in the front group on the top, I wouldn’t bet against them. Filippo Pozzato also has his eyes on this stage. The climb might too hard for him as well though.

On paper, this finish is perfect for a rider like Carlos Betancur. However, it’s always a bit of a mystery in what kind of shape he arrives in at the races. It won’t be a surprise if he’s not ready yet. His teammate Domenico Pozzovivo shouldn’t have problems staying with the best riders on the climb but I doubt he’ll be able to win in a sprint. The same goes for GC riders like Nairo Quintana, Davide Formolo and Thibaut Pinot. Trek have two strong cards to play in Julian Arredondo and especially Bauke Mollema who is in great shape and very fast on the line, compared to the rest of the GC contenders. Mollema is probably the best winner pick in a sprint amongst the GC riders, if Dani Moreno isn’t there. Rigoberto Uran is also semi-fast in a small group. I don’t think he can outsprint Mollema though. Without Chris Froome, Team Sky will have to put their faith in Mikel Nieve, Leo König and Wout Poels. The Dutchman might be the fastest one of the three but none of them can afford to wait for a sprint.

As you can see, a lot of riders have to attack in order to win this stage. The circuit is very demanding and we should be in for quite a show this Saturday afternoon!

In case a morning breakaway makes it all the way, look out for riders like Simon Geschke, Nathan Haas, José Serpa, Rinaldo Nocentini, Miguel Angel Rubiano and the always aggressive Bardiani team with the likes of Edoardo Zardini, Enrico Battaglin and Stefano Pirazzi.

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