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Preview: Tirreno-Adriatico serves grand tour, classics antipasti

The route

The 168 riders will face a similar route to last year’s edition. Time trials bookend the race, two sprint stages appear early on and three mountain stages — two high and one medium — weigh down the back-end of the seven-day affair.

The time trials are nearly identical to the 2012 edition: a 16.9-kilometer team version in San Vincenzo to kick off the race and a 9.2km individual test on the final day in San Benedetto del Tronto. Between, the race weaves its way through Umbria, Lazio, Abruzzo, and Le Marche.

Slicing through Italy’s heartland, Tirreno-Adriatico travels over some of the most stunning countryside on the peninsula. As such, the sprinters are limited to two stages. By the weekend, it will be all business for the GC men and all-round stage hunters like Sagan.

The major GC romp will occur over the 14.5 kilometers leading to the Prati di Tivo ski station. The road tops out at 1450 meters and offers a stunning view of the 2912-meter Gran Sasso. Nibali won the stage last year, paving the way for his overall win over Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) in San Benedetto del Tronto.

The 2013 vintage will follow the same script, but with a twist. This year, Prati di Tivo comes a day earlier. The two following days, the stage to Chieti and Porto Sant’Elpidio, offer plenty of chances to stake claim for the overall. The Porto Sant’Elpidio circuit, for example, is like a saw blade. It never rises over 250 meters, but the road travels over what Italians call colline spacca-gambe or leg-breaking hills.

Stay close in the TTT, attack to Prati di Tivo, survive those tortuous late stages, and defend in San Benedetto del Tronto — that is the path to Neptune’s Trident trophy.

48th Tirreno-Adriatico
Stage 1: Wednesday, March 6, San Vincenzo — Donoratico (16.9km)
Stage 2: Thursday, March 7, San Vincenzo — Indicatore (232km)
Stage 3: Friday, March 8, Indicatore — Narni Scalo (190km)
Stage 4: Saturday, March 9, Narni — Prati di Tivo (173km)
Stage 5: Sunday, March 10, Ortona — Chieti (230km)
Stage 6: Monday, March 11, Porto Sant’Elpidio — Porto Sant’Elpidio (209km)
Stage 7: Tuesday, March 12, San Benedetto del Tronto (9.2km)