Sagan and Valverde favourites for Tirreno-Adriatico's tough stage 2

The finale of stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico was designed by two-time world champion Paolo Bettini and, hardly surprisingly, the finish at Pomarance seems set to favour riders in his own image – puncheurs who pack a decent sprint, with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) among the contenders for the win.

The 207-kilometre stage has a rather gentle opening, with flat roads greeting the peloton as it heads south from the start in Camaiore via Pisa and Cecina. The softening-up process begins with the climb to Pian di Forno after 150 kilometres, which is followed in quick succession by a kick up to the intermediate sprint at Castelnuovo Val di Cecina.

The real sting of the day comes in its tail, however, on the sinuous roads around Pomarance. The village is located in the so-called Valle del Diavolo – Devil’s Valley – which the tourist brochures like to claim provided some of the inspiration for the lay-out of Dante’s Inferno. The inspiration for Thursday’s stage was not so much the Hell of the North, however, as the hills of Limburg. 


“The last 25 kilometres are very technical,” Bettini wrote in Gazzetta dello Sport. “And the final 12 kilometres are the decisive ones – the race goes into the countryside and the roads are narrow and twisting, they remind you of Amstel Gold Race. That’s a race I never won and where there’s barely a metre of flat.”

The highlight of the finale is the climb of the Cerreto – or, as Bettini jokingly labels it, the “Cerretemberg” – whose summit comes just three kilometres from the finish line.

The gradient stiffens and relaxes irregularly on the road leading up to the climb proper, and the toughest section begins with four kilometres remaining on the stage, as the slopes pitches up to 16%. After a brief respite, the road tilts upwards again, and this time the Tirreno-Adriatico peloton faces 350 metres at 17% before the summit.

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