Time trial returns to Tirreno

After a four-year absence, the Tirreno-Adriatico organisers put a time trial back in the race, which

After a four-year absence, the Tirreno-Adriatico organisers put a time trial back in the race, which


Next month's 41st edition of Tirreno-Adriatico (March 8-14), the second race on this year's ProTour calendar, will feature a 20-kilometre time trial, the first in the race since 2002. Otherwise, the 'race of the seas' sticks to its usual testing format, which makes it the event of choice of most potential contenders at Milan-San Remo, the opening Classic of the season on March 18.

Rather grandly, and somewhat controversially, dubbed the World Stage Race Championship of the Spring by its organiser RCS, Tirreno kicks off with a stage on Italy's western coast at Tivoli, where there is a long and slightly uphill finish that may catch out some sprinters. Day two to Frascati is more hilly affair, including the Tuscolo climb on the finishing circuit.

Day three takes the race over the Forca Caruso (1107m) early on and concludes with two laps of a 14km at Paglieta, where Paolo Bettini has twice been a winner in the past. Stage four is the longest at 219km, but its generally flat profile should suit the sprinters, who are likely to include Alessandro Petacchi and Oscar Freire, both winners of three stages in the 2005 edition, in which Freire also took the overall prize.

Sunday brings that 20km rolling time trial at Servigliano. Erik Dekker won the last Tirreno time trial in 2002, and namesake and team-mate Thomas might fancy this course. Monday's stage looks the toughest of the race, as it finishes at the 1105-metre summit of Monti della Laga at San Giacomo after a 12km climb. The final stage takes the race to San Benedetto del Tronto, where the riders cover seven laps of the finishing circuit.

The 20 ProTour teams plus Panaria are down to start.

The stages:

Stage 1, March 8: Tivoli-Tivoli, 167km
Stage 2, March 9: Tivoli-Frascati, 171km
Stage 3, March 10: Avezzano-Paglieta, 183km
Stage 4, March 11: Paglieta-Civitanova Marche, 219km
Stage 5, March 12: Servigliano time trial, 20km
Stage 6, March 13: San Benedetto Del Tronto-San Giacomo, 164km
Stage 7, March 14: Campli-San Benedetto Del Tronto, 166km

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