Holly Blades - Tirreno-Adriatico

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At Tirreno-Adriatico, you win a trident. Let's get that out of the way. I could probably write an entire article about how much I bloody love that trident. It's a relatively new trophy in pro cycling, only being introduced in 2010, and get this, not only is the prize a trident, it's actually ceremonially raised from the sea by the divers of the coast guard, in a perfect King Arthur meets Neptune moment. Now, I'm not saying that you can 'expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you', but it's a start - as the trident actually has the official name of Sea Master Trophy. Which definitely doesn't sound like a Captain Pugwash character. Oh no.
 

Now famously known as the Race of the Two Seas, Tirreno-Adriatico originally began in 1966 as a race organized by Lazio based club Forze Sportive Romane to try and attract cyclists to the south of the country - as all of the high profile races in Italy at the time took place around the northern regions - and because of that it was named Tre Giorni del Sud, or "Three Days of the South". Because, well, it was three days long and ran from Rome to Pescara on the Adriatic coast (which to be fair, isn't even that southerly, but what's done is done. Let's not fall out over it).

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The first edition of Tre Giorni del Sud was won by Dino Zandegu, known amongst the peloton as The Singer due to his tendency to burst out into song during events and long journeys. An absolute cutie, he can still be seen entertaining the Italian public in studio during the live coverage of the racing season. Seriously, YouTube it. Not since Pou-Pou have I wanted to squeeze somebody's cheek and buy them a beverage of their choice quite so much.

Not to be outdone in the nickname stakes, the second - now five stage and nearly 500km longer - edition of the race in 1967 was won by Franco "Cuore Matto" Bitossi. "Cuore Matto", or "Crazy Heart" sounds ace doesn't it? Romantic, passionate, devil may care . . . Actually, he just had a cardiac arrhythmia which would force him to sometimes stop and recover during races. Still, you work with what you've got, I guess.

Nowadays, we see Tirreno-Adriatico as a suggestion of what's to come in Milan-San Remo, and in fact every winner of MSR from 2000 to 2015 had ridden Tirreno-Adriatico (rather than Paris-Nice) in the lead up. Indeed, by the 1970's it was becoming clear that Tirreno-Adriatico was perfect preparation for the more northerly Italian race taking place the following week, and bigger names began fighting it out for the win. Unfortunately those bigger names came at a time when Roger de Vlaeminck was at his prime, and nobody else got a look in. De Vlaeminck won six times between 1972 and 1977 and remains the only person to win Tirreno-Adriatico more than twice.

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At its longest, in 1998, Tirreno-Adriatico was eight stages long and covered 1,437km - this period of longer distance between 1984 and 2001 coincided with the race moving to slightly more central Italy and becoming the true Tirreno-Adriatico we know today, usually running from the Tuscan Tyrrhenian coast over the Apennines, which form the "spine" of Italy, and to the Adriatic coast. The Greek myths said the Tyrrhenian cliffs held the winds ruled by Aeolus, son of Poseidon - the Mistral, the Libeccio, the Ostro and the Sirocco - and hold them it does (or, well, doesn't do particularly well) if the weather of Tirreno-Adriatico is anything to go by. Plagued with strong winds, rain and blizzards, the race is often rerouted or shortened, with a third of the peloton abandoning due to conditions in Stage 6 of the 2013 edition, a fact that race director Michele Acquarone was forced to apologise for. But it's totally worth it, right? Because you win a trident. That's what he should have said.

 

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