Let’s get straight to it...
My own personal favorite for the race. Nibali has been good all year long and showed his strong climbing legs in Tour of Oman when he won on Green Mountain. In Strade Bianche last weekend he was among the best riders as well and with a strong team to back him I think he has very good chances of finally winning Tirreno-Adriatico. Liquigas always perform well in the team time trials and with a real mountain stage on the menu this year (final climb of 15 km on stage5) and a short time trial to end the race, I can’t see anyone better than Vincenzo Nibali right now.
Kreuziger has only a few race days in the legs so far, but one of his big goals of the season is Tirreno-Adriatico. In Strade Bianche Kreuziger was very strong making the final group and working hard for Iglinskiy, so it seems like he is ready. Kreuziger is very good in the short time trials as well as in the mountains and the short, steep finishes with his powerful sprint. Astana may not have the best team for the team time trial on day 1, but they shouldn’t lose that much either. Kreuziger isn’t afraid of attacking when needed and I think he is a solid pick for the podium.
Another solid podium pick is Peter Velits. Just like Kreuziger, Velits has red circled Tirreno on the calendar and with his overall win in Tour of Oman and great time trial abilities (strong team as well) he should be mentioned as one of favorites to win Tirreno-Adriatico. The steep finishes like the ones in Chieti and Offida suit Velits well and if he can hang on to the best riders on the final climb on stage5, he has a very good chance of overall success.
It would be a mistake not to mention Cadel Evans. He won the race last year, without having done much before, and is more or less in the same situation this year. I must admit I have my doubts though. BMC hasn’t been great so far this year, with all their big riders now knowing they don’t have to top too early. Last year Cadel Evans really needed an overall stage race win, but know he knows what he is capable of. He will be motivated, no doubt, and he has a great team to support him, but I’m not sure he is as strong as Vincenzo Nibali on the climbs just yet.
With only one race day in 2012, Michele Scarponi is a big question mark on my paper for Tirreno-Adriatico. In good shape he could end up winning it, but to be honest I have my doubt with Lampre captain. Last year he took third place overall, 15 seconds behind Cadel Evans, but last year he had already shown great shape in Giro di Sardegna. The course is actually pretty good for Scarponi but like Evans I doubt he is good enough shape to win overall already. He can take a stage, sure, but for the long run I see Nibali and Velits as better contenders.