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‘Winning formula’ for 2016 Tirreno-Adriatico

MILAN (VN) — On a day when RCS Mediagroup confirmed it will keep its races, its subsidiary, RCS Sport, presented its second-biggest stage race after the Giro d’Italia, Tirreno-Adriatico. The seven-stage WorldTour race partly overlaps with Paris-Nice when it begins three days later on March 9 along the Tuscan seaside in Camaiore.

The race starts and ends with a time trial, features two flat and two rolling stages, and climbs to 1,208 meters (3,963 feet) to finish at Monte San Vicino. Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won the race this March, when a snowstorm blanketed the Terminillo finishing climb.

“The last years’ formula is a winner,” said RCS Sport race director Stefano Allocchio. “The course made of time trials, both team and individual, stages for sprinters, finisseurs, and climbers, give the opportunity to all the athletes to show their best characteristics and, at the end of the seven stages, to crown a complete athlete at the highest possible level.”

RCS Sport’s top brass gathered in Camaiore, hours after its parent publishing house in Milan gave the green light to investment in the Giro and its other races. As news spread that German stage race Bayern Rundfahrt would not continue, due to budget problems, the time was right to be proud of a race that counts 50 editions.

Allocchio referred to the revamped Tirreno that since 2011 ended with an individual time trial instead of a flat sprinters’ stage into San Benedetto — once a final test for Milano-Sanremo. Top results followed with grand tour heavy-hitters winning the trident trophy: Cadel Evans, Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador, and Quintana in 2015.

“This race was born as a preparation race for Milano-Sanremo, but over the years, with the great names who’ve raced and won, it has become one of the biggest events on the calendar,” cycling director Mauro Vegni told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“And to help understand, 154 countries receive it on TV, 1.7 million viewers watched the stage to Terminillo this year. And it’s the desire of our company, which RCS CEO Laura Cioli said this morning, to invest more and more in cycling. More investment, more internationalization, cycling is a strategic asset and important.”

Tirreno-Adriatico travels west to east, through the Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo, and Marche regions, using a proven formula bookended by time trials. The team time trial is back in Camaiore after high winds and downed trees forced the organizer to hold an individual test this March. The second stage covers 200-plus kilometers and ends in Pomarance on a small uphill suited to new world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo). The third stage to Montalto di Castro could favor an escape that any GC hopeful will have to control for a chance to win the overall.

Stages 4 to Foligno and 6 to Cepagatti suit sprinters. If present, Dimension Data’s Tyler Farrar will be able to lead Mark Cavendish in a head-to-head duel with Marcel Kittel (Etixx) and André Greipel (Lotto).

The fifth day stands out with its 13-kilometer climb and 12 percent pitches to reach Monte San Vicino in the Marche region. Who wins the stage, as Quintana did last year in white-out conditions, will likely claim the blue leader’s jersey and defend it in the final 10.05-kilometer time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.

BMC Racing could send new leader Richie Porte to Paris-Nice and Tejay van Garderen to Tirreno-Adriatico. If so, the American could face stars Contador, Nibali, and defending champion Quintana. RCS Sport will confirm a start list after 2016 gets rolling in January with the Tour Down Under.