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Who'll win the opening team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico?

Photo: Sirotti

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TIRRENO - ADRIATICO

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09.03.2016 @ 14:38 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

As it has become a tradition, Tirreno-Adriatico will kick off with a flat team time trial along the Tyrrhenian coast and it will be important to be ready right from the gun. With the race including just one mountain stage and a very short time trial, the time differences made in the completely flat 22.7km test can end up playing a huge role in determining the overall winner of the prestigious race.

 

The course

In recent years, the organizers have introduced a tradition of kicking things off with a team time trial and that won’t change for 2016. It’s the fifth year in a row that such a stage has been scheduled for the opening day but last year bad weather forced the organizers to make a late change, replacing the planned stage with a prologue. Hence, they have decided to start things with the stage that was cancelled 12 month ago.

 

In 2012, 2013, 2014, the opening stage saw the riders travel between San Vincenzo and Donoratico but this year, the location has been moved to another coastal city, Lido di Camaiore. The distance has varied a bit over the year from 16.9km to 18.5km and this year the riders will have their longest test yet as the opening stage is 22.7km long.

 

The old course was pretty non-technical and mostly flat but had a small climb along the way. This year there is no reason to turn on the climbing legs as the organizers have designed a very simple, straightforward course in Lido di Camaiore. From the start the riders follow the coastal road for 9.5km before they take a sharp right-hand turn at the point where the intermediate time is taken. Another three turns follow in quick succession as they riders do a small loop before getting back onto the coastal road. The final 10.2km consist of the long run back to the start-finish area in the opposite direction. The stage is completely flat as the riders will stay between 2 and 5 metres above sea level for their entire ride.

 

Given the flat, non-technical nature of the old course, it is no wonder that Orica-GreenEDGE and Omega Pharma-Quick Step who are two of the two greatest specialists in the discipline, are the winners of the past three opening team time trials, with the Belgian team triumphing in both 2013 and 2014. In 2012 and 2013, however, the wind had played a role and given rather unequal circumstances for the early and later starters and the breeze from the sea could again influence the outcome of what is guaranteed to be a spectacular opening with lots of power and speed.

 

Lido di Camaiore hosted last year’s prologue which was won by Adriano Malori. It has also been the scene of the Italian one-day race GP Camaiore which was won by Diego Ulissi in 2014 but has now disappeared from the calendar. In 2007, Danilo Napolitano won a Giro d’Italia stage here in a bunch sprint and in 2002, Rik Verbrugghe was the strongest from a breakaway in the Italian grand tour.

 

 

 

 

The weather

One of the great advantages of Tirreno-Adriatco is that it usually has better weather than Paris-Nice. This year it seems that the weather won’t be great throughout the week but it should be a reasonable start. Wednesday is forecasted to be cloudy but the sun should come out in the afternoon. There’s a 25% chance of rain in the early part of the afternoon so the early starters may have wet roads. The maximum temperature will be 11 degrees.

 

There will be a light wind from a northerly direction and it is set to abate slightly. This means that it will be a cross-tailwind in the first half of the stage and then a cross-headwind as the riders head back to the finish.

 

The favourites

It is a well-known fact that you have to be ready right from the gun of a one-week race but it has rarely been truer than it is the case for Tirreno-Adriatico. The Italian race only includes one chance for the climbers to make a difference and as the final time trial is very short, the opening team time trial stands out as one of the most important stages of the entire race.

 

As said, the race has kicked off with a team time trial every year since 2012 except for a last year when a last-minute change saw the organizers replace the opening test with a short prologue. Compared to the old course that was used in 2012, 2013 and 2014, this one is even longer and as there are fewer opportunities later in the race, the bigger time gaps will be even more important than they have been in the past. At the end of tomorrow’s stage, we will already know a lot more about who’s going to win this race overall.

 

With almost no elevation differences and plenty of long straight roads where the big TT specialists can excel, this is a course for the really powerful riders. The old course was a similarly simple affair but with a small climb and a few more technical challenges, it had a bit more variation. This one couldn’t be more straightforward and it will be one for the teams with the most power and the biggest engines.

 

The weather forecast predicts similar conditions for all teams but there is a risk that the first teams will have wet roads. This is not a technical course so it won’t play much of a role but as there are a few turns, the late starters may have a small advantage. This could be a problem for Movistar and Tinkoff who are among the favourites and the first two teams to start.

 

BMC have been dominating team time trials for more than a year. They have been world champions twice in a row and they won last year’s TTTs at the Tour de France, the Vuelta a Espana and the Dauphiné. They go into this race with most of their big specialist and stand out as the team to beat.

 

Daniel Oss and Manuel Quinziato have both formed key parts of most of their TTT wins and are both in great condition. Tejay van Garderen had played a big role in most of them too and his form is also excellent. Taylor Phinney is getting back into form and everybody knows how much power he has. Greg Van Avermaet has developed into a great time triallist and Alessandro De Marchi and Jempy Drucker both have power too. Only Damiano Caruso stands out as a bit of a weak link but he is no bad time triallist.

 

The main question is whether they can win without Rohan Dennis who has been the most important riders in almost all their TTT wins apart from the Vuelta victory which was a very strange one as the time gaps were neutralized and most teams took it easy. There is no doubt that his absence will be missed but the team still has excellent power for this kind of course. With Phinney not at his best yet, they may miss the big engine but their homogeneity means that they are our favourites to win.

 

Etixx-QuickStep have won the opening team time trial twice and are double world champions. However, they have lost their position at the top of the hierarchy and are no longer as strong as they once were. Nonetheless, they are always among the best and they have a great team at the start here. Tony Martin will be the big engine and alongside Bob Jungels, he will deliver lots of power. Fernando Gaviria should also do well even though he doesn’t have much experience in the discipline and Julien Vermote and Yves Lampaert are both great time triallists. If one adds the power of Matteo Trentin and Zdenek Stybar, you have a very strong team where only Gianluca Brambilla will suffer on this kind of course. We expect this stage to be a very close battle between Etixx-QuickStep and BMC.

 

Trek-Segafredo always stand out due to their solid number of time triallists but for same reason they always fail to deliver. This time they may finally live up to their potential as their big engine, Fabian Cancellara, is in absolutely great condition. Markel Irizar, Marco Coledan and Stijn Devolder are all TT specialists and Yaroslav Popovych is known as an excellent TTT rider. Jasper Stuyven should be able to do well on this kind of flat course as he is in great form and a very powerful rider. Bauke Mollema is the GC rider and has improved his time trialling a lot. Overall there are no really weak links but for them to win Cancellara has to be absolutely at the top of his game.

 

Tinkoff are very motivated for this stage as it takes place close to Oleg Tinkov’s house. They should be among the best as they have developed into one of the best team time trial tams in the world. Peter Sagan is very strong in this discipline and Maciej Bodnar and Manuele Boaro are real specialists. Daniele Bennati is known as a great time triallist on flat courses. Adam Blythe and Roman Kreuziger also have some power while Evgeni Petrov was once a good time triallist too. Only Oscar Gatto will really suffer. The team is very homogeneous but they may miss the big engine to win.

 

Movistar are always among the best in the team time trials but for this stage they will be missing Adriano Malori and Jonathan Castroviejo who are both injured. They still have some real specialists in Alex Dowsett, Andrey Amador, Nelson Oliveira and Jasha Sütterlin while Alejandro Valverde, Giovanni Visconti and Rory Sutherland are also solid time triallists. There is little doubt that such a strong and homogeneous team wil be one of the best but without their two biggest engines they are unlikely to win.

 

Sky are always strong in team time trials and they should also be able to do well here. Vasil Kiryienka and Michal Kwiatkowski will be the two big engines and Salvatore Puccio and Elia Viviani should also be able to deliver some power. Wout Poels has improved his time trialling a lot but this is not really a course for him. Even though the team have two big engines, they probably lack the homogeneity to really be in contention for the win.

 

Dimension Data have never done well in team time trials but this is set to change tomorrow. For the first time, they have a really great team for this kind of test. Edvald Boasson Hagen is in great condition and is an excellent time triallist. Stephen Cummings is also one of the best and Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw have both won lots of team time trials in the past. If one adds the power of Reinardt van Rensburg and Kanstantsin Siutsou, you get a homogeneous team that should be able to do well.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE are always among the best in team time trials but they don’t have their best team here. Svein Tuft and Luke Durbridge are known as some of the best riders for this discipline but the rest of the team doesn’t really excel in this discipline. Christopher Juul is a good time triallist and Jens Keukeleire is a strong rider but with Caleb Ewan, Adam Yates and Esteban Chaves not really suited to this course and discipline, they won’t win the stage.

 

Finally, we will point to IAM. The Swiss team emerged as a bit of a specialist in 2015 and they should again be able to do well. They are without Matthias Brändle, Jerome Coppel and Sylvain Chavanel who has left the team, so they don’t have their strongest line-up. However, with Stef Clement, Roger Kluge, Aleksejs Saramotins, Heinrich Haussler, Leuigh Howard and an in-form Reto Hollenstein, the team is very homogeneous and solid and should be able to do well.

 

CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: BMC

Other winner candidates: Etixx-QuickStep, Trek-Segafredo

Outsiders: Tinkoff, Movistar, Sky

Jokers: Dimension Data, Orica-GreenEDGE, IAM

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