Tour de France champion Cadel Evans has been handed a potential duel with former three-time champion Alberto Contador when the pair line up for the Tirreno-Adriatico race in March. Evans (BMC) won the Italian stage race known as the ‘Race of the Two Seas’ last year, and with Contador also set to compete if he is cleared by a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing the pair could cross swords on stages four and five.
Stage four will lead the peloton through the central Appenine mountains, over 252 km from Amelia to Chieti, and is capped by a formidable finale. The climb over the Passo Lanciano mountain pass is followed by a tricky closing 25 km which culminate with a steep climb, at a punishing average gradient of 18 percent, towards the finish line in the streets of Chieti.
All eyes will be on Evans and Contador, as well as Italian aces Vicenzo Nibali and Michele Scarponi, but the biggest slice of action could come the next day on the 196 km ride from Martinsicuro to Prati di Tivo. It features a series of small climbs before the Piano Roseto (20.8 km at an average of 4.7) and the 14.5 km (at an average of 7) climb to the mountain finish.
If those stages are inconclusive, a 9.3 km time trial around San Benedetto del Tronto on the final day should decide whether Evans keeps his title. With a 16.9 km time trial opening the race on March 7, sprinters such as British world champion Mark Cavendish (Sky) will get a chance for glory on stage two’s 230 km run from San Vincenzo to Indicatore. The finale of stage three meanwhile could be tricky enough to tempt one-day classics king Philippe Gilbert of Belgium (BMC).
Contador (Saxo Bank) is still awaiting a decision from the CAS, due for February 6, following a positive test for the banned substance clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France.
Stage 1 March 7: San Vincenzo-Donoratico (16.9 km team time trial)
Stage 2 March 8: San Vincenzo-Indicatore (230 km)
Stage 3: March 9: Indicatore-Terni (178 km)
Stage 4: March 10: Amelia-Chieti (252 km)
Stage 5: March 11: Martinsicuro-Prati di Tivo (196 km)
Stage 6: March 12: Offida-Offida (181 km)
Stage 7: March 13: San Benedetto del Tronto (9.3 km time trial)