Australian Cadel Evans returns to Tirreno-Adriatico this year – the race he won in 2011 before taking the Tour de France title in July.
Evans lines up against a select group of Grand Tour contenders and classics hard men, including winner of 2012 Strade Bianche, Fabian Cancellara.
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The Italian WorldTour-level stage race once again opens with a team time trial and finishes with a short 9.3km individual test against the clock. In between there are a selection of tough stages, not least stages four, five and six in the Apennine mountain range.
Here we rate the chances of the favourites. Our full preview of 2012 Tirreno-Adriatico features a guide to the route, stage list, teams, previous winners and much more.
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing)
Defending champion may be playing down his condition as he did last year before the race. Look for a stage win, perhaps an overall dedicated to his new baby boy.
Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-QuickStep)
Proved to be on form with his Tour of Oman win. Whether he can handle Tirreno’s mountains and the Italians’ passion is something else, but OmegaPharma does seem to be on a roll.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale)
Won the Green Mountain stage in Oman and has said his goal is “to win” Tirreno. The race is part of his important early season, before tapering off after the Ardennes Classics.
Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD)
Would like to race the Tour instead of the Giro this year. As with Nibali, he will want to score big in the early months before taking a break ahead of the Tour. He won in 2009 and finished on the podium in the last two years.
Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone)
Tirreno became important very important for the 38-year-old after his team was left out of the Giro d’Italia. In his final year, this may be one of his last big performances.
Joaquín Rodríguez (Katusha)
Always performs well in Tirreno, but may lose ground to the better time trialists.
Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan)
He showed to be on form in Strade Bianche, a win which also preceded his 2008 Tirreno victory.
Mark Cavendish (Sky), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD), Matthew Goss (GreenEdge), André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Oscar Freire (Katusha) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda).
Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: The Big Preview