Malori beats Cancellara to Tirreno-Adriatico opener
Italian Adriano Malori won the opening prologue of the Tirreno-Adriatico, a 5.4 km time trial around the Lido di Camaiore, to take the overall lead of the Italian stage race on Wednesday.
A team time trial over 22.7 km was supposed to open the March 11-17 World Tour event, however organisers were forced into drastic changes after bad weather damaged parts of the course in certain areas.
Malori`s BMC team would have been among the contenders for victory in the longer team event, however the 27-year-old Movistar rider from Parma went on to taste victory himself.
Malori clocked a time of 6min 04sec for the mainly flat course, finishing one second ahead of Swiss classics specialist Fabian Cancellara and two in front of Belgian Greg Van Avermaet.
"I`m really happy because I really didn`t expect to win, and to beat Cancellara - who is a great rider - makes it even more special," said Malori.
Malori will wear the race leader`s blue jersey into Thursday`s first stage, a 153 km ride from Camaiore to Cascina, but will be expected to give up the race lead as the overall challengers come to the fore.
Spain`s Alberto Contador, the reigning race champion, is expected to ramp up his preparations this week for a tilt at a rare Giro d`Italia-Tour de France double.
Two-time Tour de France champion Contador is aiming this year to become the first cyclist since deceased Italian Marco Pantani to win the Italian and French three-week Grand Tours in the same calendar year.
Although missing Britain`s former Tour de France champion Chris Froome, the "Race of the Two Seas", as Tirreno-Adriatico is affectionately known, will see Contador lock jaws with some of the rivals expected to stand in his way this season.
Former two-time Tirreno-Adriatico winner Vincenzo Nibali, the reigning Tour de France champion, is also racing as is Colombian climbing specialist Nairo Quintana, the 2014 Giro d`Italia champion and former Giro runner-up Rigoberto Uran.
On Wednesday the Spaniard finished in a time of 6:23, eight seconds slower than Nibali with Uran nine seconds faster.