The 52nd edition of Tirreno-Adriatico will unfold with a familiar rhythm. The ‘Race Between the Two Seas’ opens with a 22-kilometer team time trial in Lido di Camaiore and concludes with a short individual time trial on the San Benedetto del Troto sea front. Between the two time trials, the peloton will cross central Italy from the Tyrrhenian coast to the Adriatic as it tackles two sprint stages, two stages for the rouleurs and a stage for the pure climbers with an uphill finish to the Terminillo.
Throughout the seven-day stage race, Cannondale-Drapac endeavors to support Rigoberto Uran for the general classification while preparing its Classics squad for the upcoming cobbled campaign.
“We have built a team around Rigo, but we can play some stages with the other riders,” said sport director Fabrizio Guidi. “It’s a solid team. We expect a good team time trial. That’s pretty important in this Tirreno.
“The other days, we will be around Rigo, supporting Rigo,” Guidi added. “In the finals, if we have the opportunities with the other riders, we will take them. Those are our main targets.”
Wednesday’s TTT is a flat, fast course with only four corners for teams to navigate. The 22.7 kilometer opener serves as the first general classification sorting.
“It’s going to be a big team effort,” said time trial specialist Ryan Mullen. “We have to go as fast as we can to get a stage result but primarily the goal is to keep Rigo within touching distance on the general classification. That’s our biggest goal here.
“I’d call it a straightforward out and back” Mullen added. “A 22 minute, 56 kilometer an hour blast. Easy, right? We’ll all whack out five million watts and be done with it.”
The five days that follow aren’t so straightforward. While the queen stage, with the Terminillo finish, offers up the most obvious challenge for the overall contenders, Uran considers every stage a crucial one.
“In a week-long race, every day is important,” said Uran, who finished third in Tirreno in 2015. “Maybe one day is flat and you think it’s no problem, but the weather can change everything like we saw in Paris-Nice. Normally flat is easy but you never know. Every stage is important here.
“My first priority in the first half of the season is the Ardennes – Liège and Flèche – but Tirreno is also a big goal,” Uran added. “At the moment, I have good condition. We are here to use it.”
Guidi echoes Uran’s sentiments. He sees a race route that suits the Colombian and a team equally suited to supporting general classification ambitions.
“Rigo is a rider that can do a good GC in Tirreno,” Guidi noted. “He did it in the past. The stages suit him. Why not try? It’s never easy but considering we are not the team to work every day on the front we can save him and put him together with some riders and play some others for the stages. Our main opportunity is with him. We have a super strong team here. To use that strength, we need to be smart with good strategy and a good team spirit.”
With the team’s work for the general classification done on stage six, Mullen hopes to give the final stage individual time trial a crack.
“It’s a hair longer than 10 kilometers and it’s similar to the first stage in that it’s an out and back,” said Mullen. “Speeds will only be slightly slower. It’s a 52, 53 kilometer an hour kind of job.
“I’ve been targeting this stage since I got the call up,” Mullen said. “I’m going to take it day by day, make sure I’m recovering well after I do my job for Rigo. If all goes well, the numbers I know I can do should have me in touching distance to the top, barring any mishaps in the week. I don’t want to put a number on it but I’m aiming to be competitive.”
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Watch the finish of Tirreno-Adriatico daily on RAI Sport and EuroSport 2 (Eurosport 1 on the weekend) from 1.15-3.30 CET.
Cannondale-Drapac for Tirreno-Adriatico:
Alberto Bettiol (ITA)
Paddy Bevin (NZL)
Simon Clarke (AUS)
Sebastian Langeveld (NLD)
Ryan Mullen (IRL)
Rigoberto Uran (COL)
Dylan Van Baarle (NLD)
Sep Vanmarcke (BEL)