Italy’s Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, running nearly simultaneously as Paris-Nice, has long been the stage race for sprinters preparing for Milan-San Remo. They will be in for a surprise, though, when the race starts on Wednesday. This year’s edition kicks off with a team time trial and instead of the final sprint stage, there is an individual time trial.

Mark Cavendish, Tyler Farrar, Oscar Freire, Tom Boonen, Alessandro Petacchi and World Champion Thor Hushovd are still using Tirreno-Adriatico for preparation. It worked last year for Freire and in 2009 for Cavendish, they both went on to win San Remo. In fact, you have to go back to Andrei Tchmil in 1999 to find a San Remo winner that raced Paris-Nice beforehand.

The sprinters will still get their race training, though the overall will truly go to a well-rounded classification rider. There are a few to select from, too: Cadel Evans, Andy Schleck, Ivan Basso, Vincenzo Nibali and Robert Gesink.

Tirreno-Adriatico 2011: Who will win>>

Tirreno-Adriatico 2011: Key stages
The classification contenders will have to manage themselves well from start to end as there are only two off days. Cavendish and company will be able to fire in a pre-San Remo test on the second and third stages, Thursday to Indicatore and Friday to Perugia.

For the first time in Tirreno-Adriatico’s 46-year history, organiser RCS Sport has included a team time trial. The race starts in Marina di Carrara with a dead-flat 16.8-kilometre test, perfect for Sky, HTC or Liquigas.

There are no big mountains – the highest pass is Sasso Tetto midway into stage five – but there are three demanding mountain days. Think back to the 2009 Giro d’Italia, those two mid-mountain stages along Italy’s Adriatic coast (Faenza and Monte Petrano) that were similar to back-to-back versions of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. That’s what the cyclists will cover in stages four through six, with stages four and five both at 240 kilometres.

“It’s a unique race,” said Basso. “Those back to back 240-kilometre stages will make a difference.”

Tirreno-Adriatico 2011: Stages
Wednesday March 9, Stage one, Marina di Carrara, 16.8km TTT
Thursday March 10, Stage two, Carrara – Indicatore, 202km
Friday March 11, Stage three, Terranuova Bracciolini – Perugia, 189km
Saturday March 12, Stage four, Narni – Chieti, 240km
Sunday March 13, Stage five, Chieti – Castelraimondo, 240km
Monday March 14, Stage six, Ussita – Macerata, 178km
Tuesday March 15, Stage seven, San Benedetto del Tronto, 9.3km ITT

Tirreno-Adriatico 2011: Teams
Acqua e Sapone
Ag2r-La Mondiale
Astana
BMC Racing Team
Euskaltel-Euskadi
Farnese Vini-Neri
Garmin-Cervelo
HTC-Highroad
Katusha
Lampre-ISD
Leopard-Trek
Liquigas-Cannondale
Movistar
Omega Pharma-Lotto
Quick Step
Rabobank
Radioshack
Saxo Bank-Sungard
Sky
Vacansoleil-DCM

Tirreno-Adriatico 2011: British riders
David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo)
Roger Hammond (Garmin-Cervelo)
Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad)
Steve Cummings (Sky)
Ian Stannard (Sky)

Tirreno-Adriatico 2011: TV schedule
Tirreno Adriatico will be shown on satellite and cable channel British Eurosport. Times may be subject to change.
Wednesday March 9, 2-3.30pm, Stage one LIVE, British Eurosport 2
Wednesday March 9, 4.15-5.15pm, Stage one highlights, British Eurosport

Thursday March 10, 2-3.30pm, Stage two LIVE, British Eurosport 2
Thursday March 10, 4.15-5.15pm, Stage two highlights, British Eurosport

Friday March 11, 2-3.30pm, Stage three LIVE, British Eurosport 2
Friday March 11, 4.15-5pm, Stage three highlights, British Eurosport

Saturday March 12, 4.45-5.45pm, Stage four highlights, British Eurosport 2
Saturday March 12, 7-8pm, Stage four highlights, British Eurosport

Sunday March 13, 2-3pm, Stage five LIVE, British Eurosport 2
Sunday March 13, 8.45-9.30pm, Stage five highlights, British Eurosport

Monday March 14, 2-3.30pm, Stage six LIVE, British Eurosport
Monday March 14, 7.15-8.30pm, Stage six highlights, British Eurosport

Tuesday March 15, 2-3.30pm, Stage seven LIVE, British Eurosport
Tuesday March 15, 8.15-9pm, Stage seven highlights, British Eurosport 2

Stefano Garzelli and Michele Scarponi, Tirreno-Adriatico 2010, stage seven

2010 winner Stefano Garzelli (right) and 2009 winner Michele Scarponi (left)

Tirreno-Adriatico: Last year’s top ten (2010)

1. Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone in 30-51-36
2. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Androni Giocattoli at same time
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 12 secs
4. Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana at 22 secs
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 27 secs
6. Michael Rogers (Aus) HTC-Columbia at 29 secs
7. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Colnago-CSF Inox at 33 secs
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo at 42 secs
9. Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini at 1-04
10. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini at 1-07

Tirreno-Adriatico: Recent winners
2010 Stefano Garzelli
2009 Michele Scarponi
2008 Fabian Cancellara
2007 Andreas Kloden
2006 Thomas Dekker
2005 Oscar Freire
2004 Paolo Bettini
2003 Filipo Pozzato
2002 Erik Dekker
2001 Davide Rebellin

Related links

Tirreno-Adriatico 2011: Who will win?


Paris-Nice 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

Tirreno-Adriatico 2010: The Big Preview