Analysis from a great week of racing in Italy
1. Michal Kwiatkowski bubbling nicely ahead of Milan-San Remo
12 months ago Michal Kwiatkowski won Milan-San Remo having finished second at the Volta ao Algarve and been on domestique duty for Geraint Thomas at Tirreno-Adriatico, so imagine how high his confidence must be having won both races overall in 2018.
Kwiatkowski’s victory was built on his consistency and concentration, never being far from the front of the race, attributes that saw him never finish lower than 16th on any stage.
In fact, his second best stage result of the race came in the bunch sprint of stage two, where he finished fourth behind Kittel, Sagan, and Nizzolo, something which he then followed up with a defensive ride to finish in the second group and only concede six seconds on the summit finish to Sarnano Sassotetto on stage four.
He may be a little concerned with the ease with which Sagan was able to out-sprint him on stage six, but it will still be hard to bet against the Pole repeating his 2017 triumph.
2. Crisis over for Marcel Kittel
Going into Tirreno-Adriatico as a big-name sprinter with no wins to his name and there was talk that Marcel Kittel‘s season was in crisis.
However two stage wins out of two bunch sprints later and Kittel’s year is back on track, and might even be fancying his chances at Milan-San Remo on Saturday.
It is the first of his two wins which will probably be the most satisfying for Kittel, as his new Katusha-Alpecin lead-out train finally came together after continually misfiring in the Middle East.
Not only did his team-mates manage to help him avoid a crash with just over seven kilometres to go, but Rick Zabel and José Gonçalves were then able to keep Kittel at the very front of the bunch through the final kilometre, dropping him off in the perfect position at the front of the pack with 200m to go from where it was almost impossible for the German to lose.
3. Geraint Thomas just can’t catch a break
If you were looking for the unluckiest rider in the professional peloton, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a less fortunate rider than Geraint Thomas.
After his assault on the 2017 Giro d’Italia was ruined by a crash with a race motorbike, Thomas had mechanical issues to thank for scuppering his chances of a Tirreno title.
Having moved into the blue jersey on the previous day, Thomas dropped his chain at the worst possible moment just as the attacks really started to fly with a kilometre to go.
That saw him lose 34 seconds to Kwiatkowski, a time loss that would ultimately see him miss out on the overall victory as he finished in third place, just 32 seconds behind his team-mate.
4. Damiano Caruso makes his case for more Grand Tour opportunities
While BMC Racing have pinned their hopes on Richie Porte, Tejay Van Garderen, and, to some extent Rohan Dennis, to deliver Grand Tour results, Damiano Caruso surely deserves more opportunities to ride for himself rather than going into the biggest stage races on the calendar as a back-up option.
The Italian has quietly picked up top 10s in the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España in the last four years, and also finished in 11th place at last year’s Tour having ridden in support of Porte for the first half of the race.
With Porte ill, Van Garderen at Paris-Nice (where he abandoned on stage one after crashing into a car), and Dennis seemingly short of form despite focusing on the Giro this year, Caruso seized his opportunity with a strong second place finish overall.
5. Mixed fortunes for Milan-San Remo contenders
Although five of the last seven winners of Milan-San Remo have prepared for the first Monument of the season by riding Paris-Nice, the stellar start list of this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico means that it will be one of the riders who have spent the last week in Italy who will take victory on the Ligurian coast.
Despite not being able to take a win, Peter Sagan can still be happy with his three second places on stages two, five, and six, particularly on the lumpy stage five where he was only thwarted by a late attack by Adam Yates.
However the race didn’t prove as fruitful for the likes of Greg Van Avermaet and Sonny Colbrelli, who were largely anonymous throughout, but at least they fared better than Fernando Gaviria who will not be on the start line in Milan after fracturing his hand in a crash on stage six.