Tirreno-Adriatico 2016 Preview

(L-R) World Champion Peter Sagan of Tinkoff, Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali of Astana Pro Team, US rider Tejay van Garderen of BMC, Spanish Rider Alejandro Valverde of Movistar Team and Colombian rider Esteban Chaves of Orica Green-Edge pose for the photographer prior to a press conference of Tirreno-Adriatico's Top Rider presentation, Lido di Camaiore, Lucca, 8 March 2016. ANSA/LUCA ZENNARO

Quite a collection talented riders is headed to Tirreno-Adriatico this week to hunt for results – and the race’s famed golden trident trophy – along the road from one side of Italy to the other. A balanced parcours offers something for everyone in the country’s first big stage race of the year.

The Route

Tirreno-Adriatico opens with a 22.7-kilometer team time trial. It’s long enough to make a difference, giving an advantage to the GC hopefuls with high-octane backing squads, but it’s not so long that it’s going to flat-out win someone the race on day one.

Stage 2 throws a few challenges at the riders at the end of a 207km day. There is a small categorized climb just before the finish that may open up a few gaps.

Stage 3 is a day for the sprinters. Stage 4 concludes with a flat stretch but a string of late climbs could inspire attacks, either from stagehunters or from aggressive GC types.

Stage 5 is the definitive queen stage, with five categorized climbs including a tough uphill finish of 13km at 6.6%.

Stage 6, the longest stage in the race, has some uncategorized ascents late on in the profile that could favor the more versatile riders in the peloton, but it’s hard to see it having any GC impact.

The race closes out with a 10km individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto. It’s a completely flat out-and-back run that should see some pretty high speeds.

The General Classification Contenders

Nairo Quintana won the 2015 edition of the race, but he won’t be defending his crown in 2016. However, with Alejandro Valverde leading the way, Movistar still has a great chance of coming away with a win. The Spaniard can do it all, and that’s a big plus on this varied parcours. Movistar’s great TTT will help.

Vincenzo Nibali makes the start in pursuit of a third career Tirreno title, and he too should appreciate the parcours. The queen stage involves plenty of descendning, which should allow the Italian to put his downhill abilities on display. Jakob Fuglsang gives Astana a strong Plan B.

Tejay van Garderen would probably have a hard time drawing up a more favorable parcours. BMC’s world-class TTT squad should set him up well from the get go, and the long queen stage finishing climb and stage 7 time trial will both give him a chance to put his own big engine on display. He looked strong in Andalucía last month and should be among the top favorites in Italy.

Rigoberto Urán will also like the style of climbs in this race and the closing TT, though the opening team time trial may hurt him given Cannondale’s struggle in the discipline. If he can limit his losses there, he’ll have a shot at the overall.

Joaquím Rodríguez should appreciate the plethora of opportunities to punch clear of the pack even if the chrono mileage doesn’t suit him. He has yet to deliver much this season but it’s not unusual for him to show up stronger than expected after a few quiet weeks riding tune-up races. Jurgen Van Den Broeck could be a nice alternative.

Bauke Mollema was runner-up in Tirreno in 2015 and looks to be in good form at the moment. He could be among the GC favorites trying to snipe a few seconds here and there on the intermediate stages.

Thibaut Pinot won’t be a fan of the opening TTT but he’s improved dramatically as a descender and so should be able to hold his own on the queen stag. He’s also capable of putting in a decent ITT, making him a real contender for the overall title.

Ag2r’s one-two punch of Domenico Pozzovivo and Jean-Christophe Peraud should be in the mix, as should Orica-GreenEdge’s duo of Adam Yates and Esteban Chaves. Sky brings a powerhouse trio of Michal Kwiatkowski, Vasil Kiryienka, and Wout Poels.

Diego Ulissi, Roman Kreuziger, Rafael Valls, and Rodolfo Torres are other potential protagonists in the General Classification.

The Stagehunters

Mark Cavendish looks like the fastest of the pure sprinters in attendance, although there are several big names that could challenge him in the bunch kicks. Caleb Ewan, Fernando Gaviria, Elia Viviani, Giacomo Nizzolo, and Sacha Modolo are the headliners there.

Peter Sagan should have a few opportunities of his own as well, as there are some lumpier days. Greg Van Avermaet could be in the mix as well—he actually beat Sagan in a sprint to take a stage here in 2015. Edvald Boasson Hagen, Ramunas Navardauskas, and Jens Debusschere are others worth keeping an eye on in the stagehunting game.

VeloHuman Top 10 Overall Favorites

Winner: Vincenzo Nibali
Podium: Alejandro Valverde, Tejay van Garderen
Other Top Contenders: Rigoberto Urán, Joaquím Rodríguez, Domenico Pozzovivo, Thibaut Pinot, Bauke Mollema, Michal Kwiatkowski, Wout Poels

Photo: ANSA / PERI – ZENNARO.

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