It seems many riders have been pulling out of Tirreno-Adriatico. Yesterday we heard Philippe Gilbert, Edwald Boasson-Hagen, Matthew Goss and Lars Boom all left the race.
In fact 22 riders left the race yesterday for a variety of reasons. It sounds like a lot. It is. But it leaves 148 in the race which is exactly the same as this time last year. Only last year 160 riders started compared to 176 this year.
Certainly pulling out makes sense for several riders. After some long stages – some were over seven hours – and riding past fields still full with snow, now is the time to recover ahead of Milan-Sanremo. Some have a cold to shake, others prefer caution and don’t want to get a cold. Perhaps others just want to recover. In training terms this is sometimes called “tapering”, easing off prior to a big objective in order to stay fresh.
Today’s stage is “only” 10km but this will put plenty of strain on the muscles, eleven minutes of leg presses at, say, 500W, plus all the routines and hassles of life on the road and in the hotel.
If there is one race where arriving fresh counts, it’s Milan-Sanremo. The Italian one day race is the longest race on the calendar at 298km. So long in fact that it benefits from an exemption to the rules which normally cap the maximum distance of a race at 280km for big races like the Worlds or Olympics. Over the distance, the slightest fatigue is amplified the Cipressa and Poggio climbs which lie near the finish. Here a single mistake can cost the entire race.
No love for the east coast?
It can seem a little disrespectful. Whilst those living on the west coast of Italy got to see Cavendish, Gilbert and the other stars of the sport, those on the Adriatic won’t get so many riders. You wonder how the race organisers RCS feel about this although their consolation is that the riders are pulling out now only to perform better in Milan-Sanremo which is organised by the same company.
Note there is a rule saying if you drop out of one race you cannot start another until the first race you were in has finished. This is sensible as it protects the first event from becoming a training race where half the field abandons or makes sure sprinters can’t quit a grand tour before the mountains appear only to start racing and winning elsewhere. But more sensibly exceptions can be made via an official appeal, for example if a rider crashes out of a race and cannot continue thanks to injury then sometimes they can resume in another race.