Fabian Cancellara posted up the best time in the final time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico to earn the second win of the season for RADIOSHACK NISSAN TREK. Teammate Chris Horner defended the race lead, but slipped to second on the classification behind winner Vincenzo Nibali. Throw in Daniele Bennati’s second place finish today and you have the makings of a very successful week in Italy.
“It was a tough one,” said Fabian Cancellara, “especially when I had in mind my best time from last year. But the conditions today were totally different. We had a tailwind to go out but a full headwind to come back. I see that I did three seconds slower than last year’s ride but I still think I did a great ride. I also wanted to provide good split times for Chris to compare. I didn’t feel under pressure to win this. I know where my form is now after 30 hours on the bike in this race and I have a lot of confidence.”
Starting in the first one-third of riders, Cancellara challenged his last year’s winning time by posting the time to beat at 10:36. Teammate Daniele Bennati challenged with the second best time at 10:48, a time that held up to the finish, making for a one-two punch on the final stage in San Benedetto Del Tronto. Third place on the stage went to Cameron Meyer of GreenEdge.
Roman Kreuziger (Astana) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) were five- and six-seconds behind Chris Horner on the GC, and started on the 9.3km, pan flat course just in front of him. Nibali looked strong, finishing with a time of 10:56 but Kreuziger faded in the headwind return. While Horner looked steady on the bike, his time was not quite good enough to hold off a strong Nibali, and the Italian took the overall victory by 14 seconds ahead of Chris. Horner became the first American rider to podium in Tirreno Adriatico.
“I have no mixed feelings about this,” said a happy Chris Horner after the stage. “It’s been a fantastic week. The team did a great TTT to set me up to take the jersey and I defended it for a few days. Tactically I think we did a brilliant race. This is not a course that is ideal for me, but to stay on the podium is good for me. I was concerned that I might not stay in the top three. The only feeling I have about this is one of feeling great – great about the way the team worked this week and great about the way my legs feel. After what happened in the Tour last year and to be out of racing for so long, for me there was always a little bit of doubt how I would feel to come back. I held the jersey for three days in my first race in eight months. I’m coming out of this very satisfied. My form is fantastic and I look forward to the next stage races.” Chris’ suffered a horrific race ending/season ending crash in last summer’s Tour de France, keeping him off the bike until his comeback in Italy.
Team director Luca Guercilena explained the team’s objectives coming to the race: “Tirreno-Adriatico is a big, historical race which has a lot of different aspects to it. We came here to get a good result with Chris Horner, to perform at best in the TTT and at the individual TT with Fabian, and to try our luck in the sprints with Bennati. We weren’t successful in the sprints, but we managed the other two goals really well with Horner and Cancellara.
“The expectation was to be competitive and to build up form for the upcoming Classics, starting with Milan-San Remo on Saturday. With the exception of Horner, the group here is more or less the line-up that is going to help Fabian in his spring goals. Therefore, it is very important that they ride together a lot and build on teamwork that will be useful in the Classics. The guys all come out of Tirreno-Adriatico in good shape and are ready for Milan-Sanremo on Saturday. Tirreno-Adriatico is in our eyes a better preparation for Sanremo than Paris-Nice because the stages here are longer. We had a stage of 230 km and one of 260 km, which comes close to the length of la Primavera,” Guercilena concluded.
Looking toward Saturday, Cancellara added, “I’ll have a few days rest now and then Milan–San Remo on Saturday. I feel calm about the race. It’s a race where no one can predict what’s going to happen. I’ve won before in 2008 but I think that was a surprise and now everyone watches me so it isn’t so easy.”