Froome has looked virtually unbeatable in the 12 months since he was out-manoeuvred by Vincenzo Nibali in the 2013 edition, and his absence opens up both the race as a whole, and the role of leader at Sky.
Bradley Wiggins may have his eye on Paris-Roubaix this spring, but he still intends to line up at the Tour de France in July in top form. Froome may be the designated leader for the Tour, but his absence in Tirreno will provide Wiggins with a chance to remind his colleagues of his own credentials in stage races.
It is, however, as yet unclear whether Sky will be riding for Wiggins or for Richie Porte, who has pulled out of Paris-Nice at the last minute in order to take Froome’s place. With his major goal of the season (the Giro) only two months away, Sky may decide that Porte’s needs are more pressing than Wiggins’s.
The course is certainly catered towards Sky’s blueprint for winning stage races. First there’s a team time trial for them to collectively put time into their rivals, then – after a couple of flat stages – successive mountain top finishes over the weekend, and, after one more probable bunch sprint, a 9.8km individual time trial to round things off.
It’s no coincidence that the Tirreno has become a more mountainous affair since the decline of Italy’s star sprinters and classics riders – such as Alessandro Pettachi, Mario Cipollini and Paolo Bettini – and the rise of Vincenzo Nibali. Nibali has won the last two editions of the race, but is skipping it this year in favour of Paris-Nice.
However, Tirreno still boasts a stellar line up. The likes of Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) are all set to ride, and will do battle on such mountains as the Cittareale Selvarotonda on Saturday, and the Passo Lanciano and Murdo Di Guardiagrele on Sunday.
Similarly big names will compete in the flat stages, with the elite trio of Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) all clashing for the first time since last year’s Champs Elysees stage at the Tour. Friday’s uphill finish, meanwhile, could be perfectly suited to Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Tirreno-Adriatico 2014: Stages
Wednesday March 12, stage one, Donoratico to San Vincenzo, 18.5km TTT
Thursday March 13, stage two, San Vincenzo to Cascina, 166km
Friday March 14, stage three, Cascina to Arezzo, 210km
Saturday March 15, stage four, Indicatore (Arezzo) to Cittareale (Selva Rotonda), 244km
Sunday March 16, stage five, Amatrice to Guardiagrele, 192 km
Monday March 17, stage six, Bucchianico to Porto Sant’Elpidio, 189 km
Tuesday March 18, stage seven, San Benedetto del Tronto, 9.1km ITT
Tirreno-Adriatico 2014: TV schedule
Digital and satellite channel British Eurosport will be broadcasting live coverage of the 2014 Tirreno-Adriatico.
Wednesday March 12, 13:30, stage one LIVE, British Eurosport
Thursday March 13, 13:30, stage two LIVE, British Eurosport
Friday March 14, 13:30, stage three LIVE, British Eurosport
Saturday March 15, 13:30, stage four LIVE, British Eurosport
Sunday March 16, 13:30, stage five LIVE, British Eurosport 2
Monday March 17, 13:30, stage six LIVE, British Eurosport
Tuesday March 18, 13:30, stage seven LIVE, British Eurosport
Tirreno-Adriatico 2014: Teams
Ag2r La Mondiale
Bardiani CSF (wildcard)
IAM Cycling (wildcard)
Trek Factory Racing
Tirreno-Adriatico: Recent winners
2013 Vincenzo Nibali
2012 Vincenzo Nibali
2011 Cadel Evans
2010 Stefano Garzelli
2009 Michele Scarponi
2008 Fabian Cancellara
2007 Andreas Kloden
2006 Thomas Dekker
2005 Oscar Freire
Tirreno-Adriatico: Last year’s top 10 (2013)
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana in 28-08-17
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky at 23 secs
3. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo-Tinkoff at 52 secs
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 53 secs
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 54 secs
6. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Leopard at 1-21
7. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia at 2-03
8. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar at 2-42
9. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida at 3-19
10. Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 3-35
Our pick of the main contenders for the 2014 edition of Tirreno-Adriatico, March 12-18
"Some think that SRM and team cars decide the race, but we are the ones that make the race" says