Contador, Froome, Nibali, and Quintana primed for Tirreno

The stage is set for the first major showdown between GC heavy-hitters, in early March, at Tirreno-Adriatico, a one-week WorldTour race

MILAN — Four of the modern era’s most dominant grand tour winners are set to face off at Tirreno-Adriatico, March 11-17 in Italy.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador, winner of three Vueltas a España, a Giro d’Italia, and one Tour de France will rekindle his rivalry with Chris Froome (Sky), who recently bested the Spaniard at the Ruta del Sol. Froome, who won the 2013 Tour, will be joined by reigning Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali. Like Contador, Nibali has won all three grand tours in his career and is looking to ramp up his form after a modest 20th-place finish at the Tour of Oman. Last, but not least, young Colombian climbing star and 2014 Giro champ Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will join his grand tour rivals in Italy to test his early season form.

“I am really looking forward to returning to this race because I had fantastic sensation there last year, and it gives me another opportunity to meet the Italian fans, who have always made me feel at home,” said Contador.

Contador is the reigning Tirreno-Adriatico champion, but Nibali won two consecutive editions (2012 and 2013) and is looking for a hat trick. Froome is also no stranger to the one-week race, finishing second in 2012. Quintana is recovering from an injury suffered in early February at Colombian nationals but will look to better his second place result earned last year.

Beyond the GC, sprinters Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step), Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin), and Elia Viviani (Team Sky) will aim for stage wins and the red points leader’s jersey.

2015 Tirreno-Adriatico teams and leaders

Ag2r La Mondiale (F) – Pozzovivo, Betancur
Astana (Kaz) – Nibali, Cataldo
Bardiani CSF (I) – Battaglin, Pirazzi
BMC Racing (USA) – Van Avermaet, De Marchi
Bora-Argon 18 (G) – Huzarski, Bennett
Colombia (Col) – Duarte, Rubiano Chavez
Etixx-Quick-Step (B) – Cavendish, Uran
FDJ (F) – Pinot, Roy
IAM Cycling (Swi) – Brändle, Pelucchi
Lampre-Merida (I) – Pozzato, Modolo
Lotto-Soudal (B) – Van Den Broeck, Roelandts
Movistar (Sp) – Quintana, Malori
MTN-Qhubeka (SA) – Boasson Hagen, Ciolek
Orica-GreenEdge (Aus) – Durbridge, Yates
Cannondale-Garmin (USA) – Martin, Hesjedal
Europcar (F) – Rolland, Arashiro
Giant-Alpecin (G) – Kittel, Mezgec
Katusha (Rus) – Rodriguez, Moreno
LottoNL-Jumbo (Nl) – Gesink, Vanmarcke
Team Sky (GB) – Froome, Viviani
Tinkoff-Saxo (Rus) – Contador, Sagan
Trek Factory Racing (USA) – Cancellara, Mollema

The stages

The race will start from Camaiore’s renowned Lido, in the Italian Versilia region, with a 22.7km team time trial.

The second stage, starting from Camaiore and finishing in Cascina (153km), is mostly flat and is likely to see the fastest sprinters in the peloton vie for the win.

Cascina will be the starting location of the 203km third stage and will end in Arezzo, on the same climb that saw Peter Sagan win last year.

Saturday will offer a deceptively challenging 226-kilometer fourth stage, held between the Umbrian and Le Marche regions. The stage will start from Indicatore (Arezzo) with four king of the mountain climbs: Foce dello Scopetone, Poggio San Romualdo, and the final Crispiero climb twice just before the short descent to Castelraimondo.

The 197-kilometer queen stage will be held on Sunday, starting from Esanatoglia and finishing at the summit of Monte Terminillo (5,495ft), with two KOM climbs earlier in the day (Passo Sallegri and Le Arette climbs).

The penultimate stage is ideal for sprinters and will bring the peloton from Rieti to Porto Sant’Elpidio over 210km.

The race concludes in San Benedetto del Tronto, with a final-day 10km individual time trial.