Tirreno-Adriatico: Contador, Froome, Evans, Rodriguez, Nibali, Cavendish, Sagan and Cancellara list goals for race
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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Tirreno-Adriatico: Contador, Froome, Evans, Rodriguez, Nibali, Cavendish, Sagan and Cancellara list goals for race

by VeloNation Press at 8:20 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tirreno-Adriatico
 
Glittering lineup for Race of the Two Seas

Tirreno AdriaticoForget the fact that it’s only March: some of the very top riders in cycling will today line out with ambitions in a star-studded edition of the Tirreno-Adriatico race, with those big guns vying to challenge for the overall title. Former Tour de France winners Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans, recent Tour of Oman winner Chris Froome, 2012 WorldTour champion Joaquim Rodriguez and 2010 Vuelta a España champion Vincenzo Nibali are set to cross swords, and each made their ambitions clear at a press conference held yesterday.

“I’m very happy with the quality of the field,” said Team Saxo Tinkoff leader Contador, who declared that Tirreno-Adriatico would be “the most competitive stage race of the year, outside the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España.

“It's good that the season does not focus on a single month and begin as early as March. Italy is a very special country to me, is like my second home. I never been at the Tirreno and wanted to come. As always, my idea is to fight it, but I know it will be really hard to win.”

He has showed fine form already this year, winning a stage and taking fourth overall in the Tour de San Luis, then riding very aggressively and ending up second overall in the Tour of Oman.

The rider who won the latter event, Chris Froome, picked up the first big stage race of his career there and would like to notch up the second this week. He knows that if he can do that, that it would be a big blow to the morale of his opponents, and also a substantial boost to his own.

“Every race I do now is important. I’ll try to get the most out of it,” the Team Sky rider said. “It’s a really good field and a demanding route, and it’s going to be a really hard week of racing.”

Evans finished behind Froome and Contador in Oman, the Australian performing better than even he expected in his first race of the season. He’s continued to work on his form since then and returns with ambition to the race he won in 2011, the year he also took the Tour de France.

The BMC Racing Team rider sounds upbeat about his chances, and knows a win would boost his morale after a tough last season. “I’m back after an year of underachievement in 2012,” he said. “I hope to get back to my real level in 2013. I don’t know how many Grand Tour champions are here…it may be the best field ever.”

Fourth in Oman was Rodriguez, who has the punch to take stages and the overall in Italy. He won the prestigious Green Mountain stage in Oman and will be a feared rider in the Tirreno race.

“Victory? Why not,” he said, talking about his prospects and goals. “I’ve been training hard. I want to do well because all the rivals I’ll be riding against in the three-week races are here. I have good form and I hope to be there at the decisive moments.”

Astana’s Nibali wasn’t quite at the same level as his fellow team leaders in Oman, netting seventh, but has continued to race since then and was very aggressive in Sunday’s Roma Maxima race. He was one of several riders who went on the attack inside the final kilometres, seeking to reel in the ultimate race winner Blel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale) and while they were hauled back just before the line, it’s clear that he’s coming into shape.

Nibali won Tirreno-Adriatico last year and plans on battling all the way this time round. “I had better form last year because my season was more based around the first part. But I have a good team and we’ll try to ride a good race,” he promised. “As you can see there are riders here like Froome, Alberto and Cadel. We’ll ride with lots of enthusiasm and there’ll be war out there!”

Three others also spoke yesterday and while they may not be a factor in the general classification, they made clear that they will also be ambitious.

Mark Cavendish laid out his intentions in the clearest way possible.

“My job as a sprinter is to win bike races,” he stated, speaking about stages. “Doesn't matter if it's at a Grand Tour, a very small race, or a big week long race like Tirreno-Adriatico. I'm here for Omega Pharma – Quick-Step to win. I want to win. We have a strong team here to win and we are going to try to do that.”

He pinpointed Cannondale’s Peter Sagan as a rider he believed could challenge him. While Sagan is more versatile than Cavendish on tougher terrain, he appears to be leaning towards stage victories too rather than the general classification. “Can I win the race overall? I think not. I think it’s too hard for me now to win. But we’ll see day by day.”

As for RadioShack Leopard’s Fabian Cancellara, it is also hard to see him challenge riders such as Contador, Froome, Evans, Rodriguez and Nibali on the uphill finish on day three. However he too wants to be part of the action in the event, particularly as his form is on the up.

“It’s an important race for me. I’ve won it once, and it gives me what I need for the Classics,” he said. “When you see how strong the field is, you know it’s going to be hard. The weather will make it even harder. It’s the race I need.”

The race mixes flat stages and hillier days, with the stage three mountain-top finish at the 1450 metre Parti di Tivo likely to be very decisive. Today’s team time trial from San Vincenzo to Donoratico will be important too, and ditto for the concluding 9.2 kilometre time trial around the town of San Benedetto del Tronto.

The GC riders will push hard for success there, but so too Cancellara and young American talent Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing Team).

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