Tirreno-Adriatico starts tomorrow; the unpredictable, sometimes fantastic, sometimes snowy, sometimes boring, springtime rival to the ASO’s Paris-Nice. I was unable to write a ‘Quick Picks’ for Paris-Nice but I can assure you I would have talked up Richie Porte (currently 15 minutes down) and Romain Bardet (currently sitting on his sofa eating croissants and reading Les Misérables). Tirreno is usually successful at luring in plenty of climbers and this year is no different. Two time trials and plenty of hard climbs mean most days could have an effect on the GC. Here are my quick picks.
Whilst absolutely nothing in Paris-Nice is going to plan, I expect Tirreno to unfold with all the big names at the head of the classification. Nairo Quintana was brilliant when taming the race’s Queen Stage in 2015 and starts a heavy favourite with the bookies. However, the Colombian is almost unbackable at such a short price, especially when you consider Movistar might not win the TTT and Quintana certainly won’t win the ITT. Furthermore, with Giro and Tour ambitions, can Quintana even go as gung-ho as usual in his favourite preparation races?
The Winner – Vincenzo Nibali 8/1
Following his Giro d’Italia win last May, a relative calm has been brought to Vincenzo Nibali’s career. There have been fewer headlines – good and bad – since his whirlwind 18 months that including a Tour de France win, a disappointing defence, a Vuelta expulsion and a maiden Monument. He’s beginning to resemble the Nibali of old who was a highly consistent and polished climber. There has been nothing wrong with his seasonal openers in San Juan and Abu Dhabi and he knows how to win at Tirreno-Adriatico. Stage 5 could be his chance to punish Quintana.
The Contender – Tom Dumoulin 8/1
I’m sure I’ve said this about Pierre Latour, Davide Formolo and John Degenkolb on Twitter in recent months but Tom Dumoulin really is my favourite rider. What an incredible ride he produced at Strade Bianche. He continues to prove he is far better than ‘just’ a world class time trialist and any rumours his 2015 Vuelta performance was a one-off have been well and truly put to rest. He won’t be able live with Quintana on the Terminillo but how much time will he actually lose? Will he lose more time than he can gain across the other six stages? The time trials which bookend the race will be crucial.
The Outsider – Rafal Majka 66/1
It took me a long time to accept Majka as more than just a stage hunter but his ability to produce a half-decent time trial has helped him transition into a capable Grand Tour contender. His potential remains unknown but new team Bora will be happy with his performance last month in Abu Dhabi. He finished sixth overall and there’s no reason why he can’t do better in Tirreno. He’ll need to have his good legs with him on the Terminillo – something that’s not always a given at this time of year.
Look Out For – Primoz Roglic, Rui Costa and our new favourite rivalry
I backed against Primoz Roglic in the Algarve and it quickly became evident I’d made a mistake. The Slovenian continued his progression by twinning an expected good time trial with a brilliant ascent of the Alto di Foia. I’m interested to see how he goes this race.
Rui Costa is priced at 50/1 to win Tirreno and continue his wonderful start to the season. He was brilliant in Abu Dhabi but will know that the Terminillo climb will push him to his limit. Nevertheless, he is a lofty price considering his form.
Greg Van Avermaet (who won the restricted Tirreno Adriatico last year) and Peter Sagan both travel to Italy and there’s plenty of rolling stages where the two should continue their rivalry. With Tirreno low down on both riders’ list of priorities we could see either of the pair try something different.
Stage Previews in Seven Words:
Stage 1 – Team time trial. Important for the contenders
Stage 2 – Long, hard day with an uphill finish
Stage 3 – A long stage into Lazio. Sprint probable.
Stage 4 – Summit finish on Terminillo. Remember the snow?
Stage 5 – Deceptively difficult stage profile. Brutal short climbs
Stage 6 – Should be one for the sprinters. Maybe
Stage 7 – Short time trial to decide the race