Last year’s winner Vincenzo Nibali returns to Tirreno-Adriatico as boss-man at Astana. He made the switch from Liquigas-Cannondale, and will want to prove something to himself and his new team ahead of target number one, the Giro d’Italia in May.
Several other Grand Tour contenders are coming to Italy. Chris Froome (Sky), Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), etc. Only a few are missing: Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) starts his season in the Tour of Catalonia, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) trains in Tenerife and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and Robert Gesink (Blanco) race in Paris-Nice.
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Along with the three-week racers, Tirreno-Adriatico will welcome classics riders and sprinters aiming for the classics and semi-classics on the horizon.
Chris Froome (Sky)
Sky’s leader is fresh from a win in the Tour of Oman, where he beat most of his Tirreno rivals. He appears to be going Wiggins’ way to the Tour, meaning GC wins. Though Nibali is defending champion, the Brit is the man to beat.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
As noted above, the Sicilian has become absolute leader in a new team. The management decided he should return to his roots, aiming for the Giro d’Italia in May. He needs a GC win under his belt to rally the Kazakh troops. In Oman, he indicated it is possible.
Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff)
Sure he won the Vuelta a España last year, but Contador does not seem as brilliant as he once was. In Oman, his attacks weakened rivals when before they would have exploded the race to bits. That being said, he made for a close race with Froome and showed some good form.
Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep)
After his Tour of Algarve win, it is impossible to count out the German in Italy. Omega Pharma should do well in the team TT. The rest is up to Martin, who can climb on Prato di Tivo and win in San Benedetto del Tronto.
Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha)
The world-number-one from 2012 loves when the going gets technical, which is just how the roads in Umbria, Abruzzo and Le Marche are. He is heading towards his best with the Ardennes Classics approaching, but we are just not convinced. Maybe the Katusha/UCI battle took some spring from his step.
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing)
Evans threatening the fans with the 2011 winner’s trident is a memory that is hard to forget. That year he went on to win the Tour de France. In 2013, age is slowly catching up although in the Tour of Oman he showed that he can still scrap. Expect Evans to win a stage, perhaps the day to Chieti, and place third overall.
Tom Jelte Slagter (Blanco)
“The Butcher” caught everyone’s attention with his Tour Down Under win. It was just what Blanco and the Netherlands needed in the wake of doping scandals. We do not expect TJ to win, but we do expect that he will make an impression and confirm his status.
Moreno Moser (Cannondale)
Cannondale’s top brass believe Moser can win the Tour de France some day. He is heading in a good direction with a Tour of Poland win last year for GC credibility and a Strade Bianche solo victory on Saturday to underline his power.
Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale)
After a team change, the little Italian appears a new man. Several riders were eyeing him as a danger man in Oman.
Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard)
Though getting older, Horner showed last year that he still has the bite by leading the race and placing an eventual second. After five months without a number on his back, it is hard to say what he will do.
André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Mark Cavendish (OmegaPharma-Quick Step), Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano), Davide Appollonio (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), Daniele Bennati (Saxo-Tinkoff)
Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha), Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM)