Current Grand Tour champions Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) will go head-to-head for the first time in 2015 at Tirreno-Adriatico, starting on Wednesday in Italy.
The stellar startlist is a dream come true for the organisers of the Tirreno, especially as this is the landmark 50th edition of the race. Chris Froome (Sky) was also originally due to start, but was a last-minute withdrawal due to illness.
Rarely does such talent all converge in a single race. And although the week long Italian stage race will in the grand scheme of things overshadowed by the major grand tours, the trio will still be eager to demonstrate superiority over each other and tilt the balance of power in their favour.
A high level of competitiveness that goes against the trend of early season races was on display at the Ruta del Sol a couple of weeks ago, where Froome and Contador did battle. Initially Contador gained the upper hand by gaining time in the time-trial and the first mountain stage, but an explosive attack on the final summit finish saw Froome win the race by a mere two seconds. It is a shame that we will now be denied the opportunity to witness a rematch.
It’s not just the best climbers in the world that will be doing battle in the Tirreno – the sprinters will have their chance on stages two and six, both of which look set to finish in bunch sprints. It should have been a battle between Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) and Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep), but Kittel will be a non-starter due to the lingering illness that has hampered his early season.
First up, though, is a short individual time trial of 5.7 kilometres that replaces the originally scheduled 22.7km team time trial due to adverse weather. If the tiny margin that separated Froome and Contador in Andalucia is anything to go by this stage could prove crucial to determining who ultimately wins overall.
Following the flat stage two, stage three with six laps around a circuit in Arezzo, featuring an uphill drag to the finish line that is tailor made for fast uphill sprinters like Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo).
The next showdown for the GC riders occurs on stage four, which features three climbs in the final 80k, including one – the Crispiero – which is crested just six kilometres before the finish line.
Whereas the downhill run-in on this stage may put the favourites off from entirely committing themselves, stage five is guaranteed to play host to a battle for the overall up the summit finish of Monte Terminillo, which goes on for a relentless sixteen kilometres.
A brief respite follows in the form of another flat stage, before the final 10km individual time-trial in San Benedetto del Toronto along the Adriatic coast provides one final opportunity for a shake-up in the GC. If the favourites are all as even matched as they have been in past meetings, this could prove to be a thrilling finale.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2015: Stages
Stage one, Wednesday March 11, Lido di Camaiore, 5.7km ITT
Stage two, Thursday March 12, Camaiore to Cascina, 153km
Stage three, Friday March 13, Cascina to Arezzo, 203km
Stage four, Saturday March 14, Arezzo to Castelraimodo, 218km
Stage five, Sunday March 15, Esanatoglia to Terminillo, 194km
Stage six, Monday March 16, Rieti to Porto Saint’Elpidio, 210km
Stage seven, Tuesday March 17, San Benedetto del Toronto, 10km ITT
Tirreno-Adriatico 2015: TV Coverage
British Eurosport will be broadcasting the race live, with daily highlights.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2015: Teams
Trek Factory Racing
Tirreno-Adriatico: Recent winners
2014 Alberto Contador
2013 Vincenzo Nibali
2012 Vincenzo Nibali
2011 Cadel Evans
2010 Stefano Garzelli
2009 Michele Scarponi
2008 Fabian Cancellara
2007 Andreas Kloden
2006 Thomas Dekker
Tirreno-Adriatico: Last year’s top 10 (2014)
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo in 25-28-45
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 2-05
3. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo at 2-14
4. Jean Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 2-39
5. Julian Arredondo (Col) Trek Factory Racing at 2-54
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale at 3-04
7. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory Racing at 3-09
8. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha at 3-16
9. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 3-16
10. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky at 3-19