MONTALTO DI CASTRO, Italy (VN) — The classics and grand tours stars come to central Italy to race Tirreno-Adriatico. It prepares them for the appointments ahead, but as Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) says, “Tirreno is one of the most important races of the year.”
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Tirreno-Adriatico, along with Paris-Nice to the north in France, prepares some riders for the classics starting with Milano-Sanremo next Saturday and offers the grand tour men a chance to test their legs against rivals.
The Italian stage race, now in its 52nd edition, however, stands on its own and holds a special place in the hearts of many cyclists.
“When I was a kid, I knew only about the Amstel Gold Race and the Tour de France, but when I started cycling, I knew pretty quickly that this was one of the most important races of the year,” Tom Dumoulin told VeloNews.
“It’s one of the most important spring races together with Paris-Nice, all the favorites and good riders are here to perform, not only to prepare. The level is high, but so far I’m holding up well.”
Dumoulin spun on his rollers after stage 3, won by world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe). Following the opening day’s team time trial, he sits 49 seconds behind overall leader Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) and 28 seconds behind others like Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ).
Thursday, the Dutchman tried to claw back time with an attack and finished second behind Geraint Thomas (Sky). On Saturday, the 16.1-kilometer climb up Monte Terminillo will sort out the race overall.
Many of cycling’s stars have taken the Tirreno-Adriatico title, from Roger de Vlaeminck to Francesco Moser, Maurizio Fondriest to Michele Bartoli. Since 2006, the podium has been a place of celebration for grand tour stars like Cadel Evans, Vinceno Nibali, Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, and Nairo Quintana.
With so many Giro d’Italia stars here this year, it will be an important test for the May race. Both in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro, Dumoulin will face BMC’s Dennis and Tejay van Garderen, Quintana, Pinot, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Fabio Aru (Astana), Mikel Landa (Sky), and Geraint Thomas (Sky).
“For me, it’s beautiful,” 2012 and 2013 winner, Italian Nibali said. “I race here with pleasure because I like it. Maybe the others don’t see it that way.”
Many others, unfortunately, plan their season around a big goal and simply see the races ahead of the classics or the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, as stepping stones. They measure one’s health and develop race rhythm.
“To be honest, it’s more important using it this year as a stepping stone towards the Giro d’Italia,” Australian Rohan Dennis said in the leader’s blue jersey Friday afternoon. “We go over a lot of the roads that will be challenges in May. It’s a perfect preparation for the Giro.”
Tirreno-Adriatico, alongside Paris-Nice, is the first WorldTour stage race on in cycling’s heartland after the series began in Australia and the Middle East.
“Tirreno is a mini Giro d’Italia, concentrated, explosive, hard to manage your team left and right,” BMC Racing sport director Max Sciandri said. He helped guide Cadel Evans to his win in 2011.
“It’s technical and hard, demanding. Everyone comes here prepared from Australia or the Middle East, this is the second step for them towards other races.
“When a rider comes to Tirreno, they know that it’s a checkpoint. They can see if they are going well or not. It’s a confirmation of a good rider. That’s why the riders and teams hold this race highly, this race and Paris-Nice are the first true stage races of the season.
“It’d be an important win for someone like Dennis to win, it underlines you as a cyclist.”