Tirreno-Adriatico will start with a big name missing from the roster, that of Chris Froome, the 2013 Tour champion and Tirreno favourite. Froome has pulled out due to back problems and will be replaced by Richie Porte in the Sky line up.
The reigning Paris-Nice champion will now not defend the title he won so impressively last year. He is the stand in for Froome and will be team Sky’s main GC hope in Italy.
The Tasmanian improves with each passing year and Sky are clearly the team able to bring out the best in a rider previously criticized for being overweight.
While the Giro is Porte’s stated goal for the season, his form in the Tour Down Under was enough to suggest that he is ready and willing to add another race to his palmares.
Alberto Contador (image)
A stage win in the Volta ao Algarve, his first victory in a year, as well as 2nd place overall. Is El Pistolero back in business?
Contador races to win, always has, so expect him to come out all guns blazing in Tirreno in a bid to unsettle the man that took his place as grand tour kingpin.
Last year’s Tour would’ve hurt the man from Pinto and this year, in his head at least, will be about payback. Can he still dance away from his rivals like he used to?
Quintana is no longer the great unknown. An overall win in Basque Country showcased his ability and then he confirmed his arrival on the big stage in style with 2nd in the Tour de France, including a stage win along with the white and polka-dot jerseys. Not bad for his first try in La Grande Boucle!
As a youngster, there are naturally doubts about consistency but a stage and the overall win in the Tour de San Luis suggest Quintana is not planning on waiting around long for more success.
A place he could suffer is the time trial, but given Tirreno’s ITT is a short one, an in-form Quintana could have the race already sewn up before that last stage.
We’re still awaiting the time when we can fully write off Evans as a GC favourite. The tough Australian just keeps coming back for more and a stage win and second overall at the Tour Down Under as well as second in the national championships show he’s still a force to be reckoned with. He also won here in 2011 and knows the race well.
Evans has a lot of strings to his bow and the ability to grind out big results against younger, more natural climbers is perhaps the most impressive.
Write the old Aussie off at your pearl….
Bradley Wiggins would have teamed up with Chris Froome at Tirreno-Adriatico in what was to be a strong Sky line-up despite the obvious tension between the two. That’s not going to happen and Porte and Wiggins are now the two men to watch. Given the race is book-ended by time trials, the first a team effort and the last an ITT, Wiggins has the ability to gain some seconds here on key rivals, and in the ITT, that includes his team mate Porte.
If there is no breaking the group of favourites on the climbs, an unlikely scenario, it is possible that Wiggins could find himself in with a chance for the overall.
Uran has left the Sky setup that was dominated by Wiggins and Froome and is now the main GC threat at Omega Pharma-Quick Step. 2nd in the Olympic road race, 2nd in the Giro and 3rd in the recent Tour of Oman, Uran has been threatening a big win for a while. Could the breakthrough arrive in this year’s ‘Race of the two seas’?
Other riders to watch out for in the overall GC
Teammate of Uran and recent winner of the Volta ao Algarve, beating Contador. And March 8 winner of the Strade Bianche, beating Sagan.
Bauke Mollema and Robert Gesink
Strong Dutch partnership for Belkin- both will be aiming high on GC.
Daniel Martin and Andrew Talansky
Last year’s Liege winner and runner-up at Paris-Nice, the Garmin duo will be looking to nab a stage win and both could finish in the top 10.