Tirreno-Adriatico attracts the top sprinters despite offering few opportunities
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Monday, March 07, 2011

Tirreno-Adriatico attracts the top sprinters despite offering few opportunities

by Ben Atkins at 4:45 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
First two road stages suited to the fastmen before the race hits the hills

mark cavendishThe sprinters have been to the fore in the first two stages of Paris-Nice, but the fastest riders in the peloton are heading south of the Alps to the Tirreno-Adriatico. The first two road stages, between Carrara and Indicatore (Arezzo) and Terranuova Bracciolini and Perugia, should give opportunities for the sprinters, but the remainder of the race offers little.

Despite this, the “Corsa dei Due Mari” (Race of the Two Seas) is the race of choice for most of the top sprinters; many or all of whom are building their form towards the Milano-Sanremo, which comes just four days after the San Benedetto del Tronto finish.

Mark “fastest man on two wheels” Cavendish leads the roll call at the head of an HTC-Highroad team, which is targeting the stage one team time trial, as well as the two sprint stages for the Manx Missile.

"We've got a great line-up here for a team time trial with some of the squad's top TT specialists," comments sports director Valerio Piva. "HTC-Highroad has always done well in time trials in Italy, too. We won the opening team time trial of the Giro in 2009, so that first stage is a real target.

"Then we'll see what we can do in the first two flat stages with Mark,” he explained, “he was going very well in the Eroica [Montepaschi Strade Bianche – Ed], only losing contact with the front group right at the end, and his morale is good."

Once the race heads into the hills the team will work for the overall ambitions of Marco Pinotti, Michael Albasini and Peter Velits.

tom boonenUp against Cavendish will be all three of Quick Step’s top sprinters: Tom Boonen, Francesco Chicchi and Gerard Ciolek. The Belgian team has just Boonen’s victory in stage 1 of the Tour of Qatar to show for the 2011 season but all three have achieved podium sports this year.

“We're lining up for the start of this race with a competitive and motivated team" explained Quick Step Sporting Director Davide Bramati "In the sprint we'll be counting on important athletes like Boonen, Chicchi and Ciolek but we also have riders who can do well in stages that are altimetrically [sic] more challenging, who may end up in the high ranks of the general standings."

With Heinrich Haussler riding Paris-Nice, Garmin-Cervélo is sending World champion Thor Hushovd and American Tyler Farrar to the start in Marina di Carrara, which will be a first stage race partnership for the pair.

Lampre-ISD will have a three-pronged approach to the race, with Damiano Cunego and Michele Scarponi chasing overall goals. The first few days for the blue-fuchsia squad will be dedicated to Alessandro “Ale-Jet” Petacchi and Danilo Hondo though, as Petacchi primes himself for an attempt at a second Sanremo victory.

If all goes to plan we could be treated to the grudge match between Cavendish and former teammate André Greipel (OmegaPharma-Lotto) that we were denied by the Manxman’s crash in the Tour Down Under. Rabobank’s three-time World champion Oscar Freire has been victorious twice already this year, with two stages in the Ruta del Sol, and looks good for a second successive – and fourth career – victory in Sanremo.

Other sprinters choosing Tirreno over Paris-Nice include Allan Davis (Astana), Robbie McEwen (RadioShack), Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank-SunGard), CJ Sutton (Team Sky), Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek), and Borut Bozic and Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil).

One thing is for certain: the first two road stages of Tirreno-Adriatico should feature very fast finishes indeed; what happens after that point is unlikely to please many of the above.

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