The second major stage race of the season takes place in the Race Between the Seas. A stomping ground for the world's best climbers, Tirreno pulls no punches on the tough terrain in the Apennines, where early spring temperatures still account for snow on the many mountain tops the race has to offer.
The stage one team time trial was a proving ground for teams with GC ambitions at the Giro and Tour later this season. Two time World Champions BMC delivered on the opening stage, taking the win 17 seconds ahead of reigning World Champions Quickstep Floors and 22 seconds over FDJ. Team Sky looked well on their way to a great placing until Giovanni Moscon's front wheel disintegrated, causing the Sky train to lose significant time to GC rival Movistar. Geraint Thomas's GC ambitions seemed all but lost after only the first stage, which featured three wheel malfunctions.
Thomas, however, took his near certain defeat in stride, attacking late into stage 2, and holding off a strong chasing group to win the second stage. He may not have pulled back much time (9 seconds), but he did show his good form ahead of his Giro campaign in May.
Stage three was a day for the sprinters, with Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe) taking the sprint ahead Elia Viviani (SKY) and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soul).
The fourth stage finished at the top of the infamous Terminillo, a favorite of Movistar's Nairo Quintana. On the ascent, an elite group were the only ones to hang on the fast pace up the climb. Quintana and Thomas were joined by Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) and Adam Yates (Orica Scott), but it would be a victory for the former winner Quintana atop the Terminillo, pretty much securing his GC victory. Once again, Quintana proves he is on the form of his life heading into an ambitious Giro Tour double attempt this year.
The fifth stage was an Ardennes classic style stage, with an elite group staying away until the final steep climb into Fermo. Uran attacked up the drag to the finish, but was countered by Sagan, causing the duo to fall back to the group. Into the sprint, Sagan took his second stage win of the week, beating Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Primož Roglič to the line.
The second opportunity for the sprinters was on stage six, where Fernando Gaviria cemented his favorite status for this weekend’s Milan Sanremo, edging out Peter Sagan for the stage win.
The final day’s time trial did little to the overall GC, as a 10km time trial isn’t enough to claw back over a minute of time. Rohan Dennis (BMC), the Australian TT Champion, took the stage win, and moved himself into second place overall, beating Thibuat Pinot. Quintana limited his loses, still winning the race overall by 25 seconds.
The World Tour racing continues with the next big stage race, the Volta a Catalunya which begins on Monday March 20th. La primavera, Milan Sanremo, is the first monument of the season as well as the longest race on the calendar, and will be held on Saturday March 18.