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Greg Van Avermaet won the 2016 Tirreno-Adriatico...

Froome, Dumoulin headline Tirreno-Adriatico

Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin will headline next week's Tirreno-Adriatico as they gear up for Tour de France and Giro d'Italia.

MILAN (AFP) — Briton Chris Froome and Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) will headline next week’s Tirreno-Adriatico as they gear up for Tour de France and Giro d’Italia title defenses, respectively.

Froome, 32, who won the Tour de France and Vuelta a España double last year, is competing in the race from May 7-13 despite an ongoing case over his abnormal doping test on last year’s Vuelta.

The Briton has the right to ride because Salbutamol, the substance that showed up in the test, is an anti-asthma drug which can be taken legally and so does not lead to an automatic ban.

Froome will be joined by Sky teammates Geraint Thomas and Michal Kwiatowski.

The podium from last year’s Tour de France — Froome, Colombian Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First-Drapac), and French rider Roman Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) — will be among the 154 competitors from 22 teams.

The race for the overall should hinge on the opening team time trial, the final individual time trial in stage 7, and stage 4’s summit finish on Sarnano Sassotetto after a long, hilly, 219km route from Foligno.

Briton Mark Cavendish returns in the “The Race of the Two Seas” despite the Dimension Data rider suffering a concussion on the Abu Dhabi Tour.

Sprinter Cavendish has raced in every Tirreno-Adriatico since 2008, picking up three stage wins in a race he traditionally uses to prepare for Milano-Sanremo, which is on March 17. He also won the 2009 edition of Sanremo.

The 32-year-old Brit will be joined by a number of other fast finishers. World road champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step), Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step) will all hunt for stage wins. The flat finishes in stages 2 and 6 should favor Cavendish or Gaviria. Sagan, Van Avermaet, and the other puncheurs will like the hilly routes on stages 3 and 5.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), third in the Giro and second in the Vuelta, will also compete, but Colombia’s Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who won the race for the second time in three years in 2017, will skip this year’s edition as he focuses on the Tour de France in 2018.

The race starts with a 21.5km seafront team time trial at Lido di Camaiore in Tuscany, culminating on the Adriatic sea coast at San Benedetto del Tronto.