Italian stage race a great pointer to form for our season opener, Milan-San Remo

Today sees the first road stage of the 2011 Tirreno-Adriatico, currently
led by Lars Boom after Rabobank won the opening team trial yesterday, and it’s a race that is definitely worth keeping an eye on if you’re entering our Fantasy Cycling game.

That’s because recent history shows that the winner of Milan-San Remo, the event that kicks off our season-long competition, will almost certainly have used this week’s race from coast to coast of the Italian peninsula to get into form ahead of La Classicissima – the ‘classic of classics.’

Accordingly, the six men currently racing who have won Milan-San Remo are all here – three time winner Oscar Freire, the Italians Filippo Pozzato and Alessandro Petacchi, time trial and classics specialist Fabien Cancellara and, of course, Mark Cavendish.

The man who missed out by millimetres to the Manx Missile two years ago, Heinrich Haussler, is missing, however, as is one rider who one imagines feels he has a point to prove against his former HTC-Columbia team mate, André Greipel.

The intra-team rivalry between Cavendish and the German came to a head prior to last year’s race when an out of form Cavendish got the nod to defend his title over Greipel.

That didn’t sit well with the latter, who had begun the year in strong form, winning the Tour Down Under, while Cavendish was suffering the after-effects of an infection following dental surgery.

Greipel, now with Omega Pharma-Lotto, did in fact plan to use Tirreno-Adriatico as preparation for Milan-San Remo. However, the 28-year-old crashed during the warm-up yesterday and although he finished the team time trial, swelling around his eye caused him to pull out of the race ahead of today’s 202km stage between Carrara and Indicatore in Tuscany.

As a result, Milan-San Remo may well turn out to be the first time the two men have truly gone shoulder to shoulder in a sprint – both raced in the Tour Down Under, but after Cavendish’s crash on Stage 2 he played a supporting role to his team rather than contest the sprints himself.

Rabobank won yesterday’s 16.8km team time trial at Marina di Carrara by nine seconds from Germin-Cervelo, with HTC-Highroad a further second back in third.

Today and tomorrow see the two most sprinter-friendly stages ahead of some bumpier stuff at the weekend that will see the contenders for the overall win come to the fore as the race heads towards its conclusion with an individual time trial in the town of San Benedetto del Tronto on the Adriatic coast next Tuesday.

If you haven't entered out Fantasy Cycling game yet, head over here and start making your team selection!

Tirenno-Adriatico Stage 1 Team Time Trial Result 
2  TEAM GARMIN - CERVELO      at 09"
3  HTC - HIGHROAD                10"
4  SAXO BANK SUNGARD             11"
5  LIQUIGAS - CANNONDALE         22"
6  BMC RACING TEAM               26"
7  LEOPARD - TREK                29"
8  TEAM RADIOSHACK               30"
9  SKY PROCYCLING                33"
10 LAMPRE - ISD                  37"
11 OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO          41"
12 ACQUA & SAPONE                47"
13 VACANSOLEIL - DCM             51"
14 PRO TEAM ASTANA               51"
15 MOVISTAR TEAM                 51"
16 KATUSHA TEAM                  53"
18 AG2R LA MONDIALE              57"
20 EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI         1'13"




Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.