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Last weekend it was the start of Paris-Nice: ‘The race to the sun’. This weekend it’s ‘The race of two seas’; Tirreno-Adratico. This is a seven day Italian stage race, starting this year in Livorno on the west coast of Italy, then shooting down and across to finish on the east coast in San Benedetto del Tronto.

This year’s race will be held in memory of one of Italy’s ex-classic stars and the director of the Italian team; Franco Ballerini, who only last month tragically died in a car accident.

The race isn’t always remembered for who takes the overall title, instead it’s a race that’s picked apart by the experts and Tifosi to try and gauge who’s got the form for the following weekends classic race, the Milan-San Remo. This a race that’s usually suited to and won by a sprinter.

The organisers of Tirreno-Adriatico know that their race is used as a testing ground and a final warm up for Milan-San Remo and design a race that’s suited to the sprinters. Consisting mainly of flat stages, the organisers throw a few harder climbs into the mix to make sure the race isn’t too boring. Not that it ever is!

The line up for this year’s race is as exciting as ever. Amongst the peloton will be Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Thor Hushovd (Cervelo). Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) is also on the start list. Cavendish, who will be taking part in only his second race of the year after recovering from an infection in his tooth, will be a rider that everyone will be watching and scrutinizing after his amazing win at San-Remo last year. Every big team will be represented apart from the RadioShack team.

As well as the sprinters testing themselves, will be the guy’s aiming for overall victory. One half of the Schleck family; Andy will be turning up with his Saxo Bank team, world champion Cadel Evans (BMC), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Edvald Boasson Hagen and Thomas Lofkvist (Both SKY) are all men to watch for stage wins and possibly the leaders jersey.

The racing gets under way starting with three relatively flat stages and these will be targeted by the sprinter’s teams. Stage four starts to get a bit lumpy which may be a good day for a group to break away. The profile shows a few good climbs but nothing too savage to put off the faintest of hearts.

Stage five hits the mountains at its half way point and if the climbs in the second half of the stage haven’t sorted the field out, the final 2km is where it will see the pack disintegrate. (There’s a stinger of a hill of 20% gradient in one place and an average gradient of 15%).

Stage six provides nothing too technical, but with it being a short 134km stage, expect a very quick day with yet another sprint finish.

The last day sees another stage for the sprinters, with a few lumps and bumps to start with, but then hitting the coast road. If the winds are whipping up along here it’ll be a tough home leg for the riders, if not it’ll be strung out and super fast. Either way it should be a great finish to a great stage race.

After the presentations are all over, it’ll be feet up time for the riders, analysis by the team managers, Tifosi and experts and then predictions made for Milan-San Remo.

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