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Views of the Adriatic

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Tirreno Adriatico was supposed to be a magnificent Battle of Four Tour de France contenders in an early preview of what we should expect in July. In the end Froome got the sniffles and His Nibalishiousness wasn't super-interested. So what we got was young Nairo shooting a massive warning shot across old man Alberto's bow. The Colombian Kid might just be the one to beat this summer.

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After some unfortunate and filthy March weather the real excitement never quite materialized at Tirreno. The big Terminillo finish became as much about snow and controversy as it did about Quintana stomping the opposition emphatically. As a prelude to Tour de France action it was almost optimal with Nairo confirming that he is quite possibly a few steps above the others in pure climbing ability. Throwing a cat like that among the three former Tour de France winning pigeons sounds like an awful fun way to spend July.

With a victory in today's TT we saw Fabian Cancellara return to his winning timetrialing ways and it's somehow reassuring. Malori once more cemented his position as a top level specialist but against a Cance in classics-peaking form there should be no serious opposition in a 10 km TT like today. With Sanremo only days away he could well keep his remarkable monuments record intact and there is no doubt that he will be scary come cobbles (ONLY 8 DAYS UNTIL DWARS!). I'm sure his TT here was merely one of his "try to win more races" efforts but it's still good to see the guy actually trying more (and if he could try complaining less that would be nice too). Otherwise it was an uneventful final day with Peter Sagan making the most notable performance, only missing the timecut by the narrowest of margins. Like Cavendish his eyes of course turned to Sanremo the second he had gotten the monkey off his back and won a stage but it was still an odd way to finish the week. What goes on in the head of the Slovak remains a mystery to me and I'm guessing his team manager would be getting some gray hairs from it too if he actually had any hair. The guy could be a double Monument winner in a fortnight or he could be way off the mark once again. After this week I'm not sure which I'd put my money on.

The final short timetrial mostly served to confirm the weeks results. Quintana  did enough to comfortably hold off a Bauke Mollema who is clearly thriving after a change of scenery. Trek have apparently made a wise move in putting their GC trust in the dutchman who seems to be in the process of closing in on the top-tier GC contenders. Uran had a slightly disappointing TT this time but only because we have become used to seeing him outperform our expectations on a regular basis and at some point that becomes technically impossible. The fact is that Uran is clearly well on course for his big Giro goal with an early performance like this. We have come to expect from the Colombians to be able to perform straight off a block of training like few others. Nairo only had a weeks casual racing in San Luis before he came here and served warning to all the others and Uran isn't far behind in performances like that. As for their compatriot Carlos Betancur, the less said the better. The poor guy has clearly lost his way somehow and it is getting slightly painful to watch.

Contador on the other hand had an anonymous week. We've seen him trash opponents in Paris-Nice before but here he didn't seem to quite have his heart in it. Perhaps it is the prospect of preparing for a Giro-Tour double attempt that has him slightly cooler than otherwise or it was quite literally being cooler that didn't work perfectly for him? Conditions like the ones on Saturday especially aren't to everyone's liking and it might have put a damper on the Tinkoff captains ambitions this week.

Next stop for the stage racers will be the Volta a Catalunya next week and we'll see a perhaps stronger than ever starting field.  While Quintana and Nibali will sit it out, Froome, Valverde and Aru will instead join what is essentially the cream of the crops from Paris-Nice and Tirreno. While the race will be in the shadow of the classics for many and doesn't have the most challenging course of the weeklong races this spring, it will most likely be a feast for those who prefer their racing in stages and going uphill. I hear there are weirdos like that?

Top 3 Stage 7
1. SUI TFR Fabian Cancellara
2. ITA MOV Adriano Malori + 4 sec
3. BLR SKY Vasil Kiryienka +9 sec
Top 10 Final General Classification
1. COL MOV Nairo Quintana
2. NED TFR Bauke Mollema
3. COL EQS Rigoberto Uran
4. FRA FDJ Thibaut Pinot
5. ESP TCS Alberto Contador
6. GBR MTN Stephen Cummings
7. NED SKY Wout Poels
8. ITA ALM Domenico Pozzovivo
9. GBR OGE Adam Yates
10. CZE TCS Roman Kreuziger