Sharon Laws previews the Italian Giro Rosa

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The Giro Rosa is arguably the most iconic stage race on the Women’s calendar. With the ending of the French Tour de l’Aude in 2010 it is, unfortunately, the only Grand Tour for Women. Traversing Italy, the riders face 10 days of racing including a team and individual time trial and 8 road stages. Unlike the most recent previous editions 2017 appears be ‘flatter’, consisting of only category 2 and 3 climbs. A number of teams have opted to take sprinters and lead out riders instead of pure climbers. The stages, however, often end up much harder in reality than they look on paper so even though it may not be one for the mountain goats I think the General Classification (GC) will still be won by a strong ‘all rounder’ rider.

I always had a love-hate relationship with the Giro. I loved the atmosphere, racing in Italy, taking part in a Grand Tour and supporting my team leader in the mountain stages. I hated the heat, the long transfers, moving from hotel to hotel each night and the fact I never had a ‘good’ race at the Giro. The year I was most prepared, had recced the mountain stages with teammate Emma Pooley when we raced for Cervelo, I broke my collarbone on the 2nd stage and never even made it to the mountains. My birthday also fell within the Giro Rosa – and, much as I loved racing my bike, it didn’t make for the best birthday celebration – particularly for my 40th. In 2011 I finished 2nd on stage 2 and instead of being ecstatic to be on the podium I was frustrated with myself to be so close to being in the pink jersey – this was taken by Shara Gillow, who won the stage. In total I raced 6 Giro’s (and finished 5) during my career so I know the excitement and nervous anticipation the riders will be feeling before the start on the 30th June.

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THE ROUTE

The Giro Rosa runs from the north of Italy to the south. The Italian version of the map is below. Tappa is Italian for ‘stage’.

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The race does not appear as mountainous as previously. The technical guide indicates a total of 7 climbs in the Tour that fall within 7 stages; five category 2 climbs and two category 3 climbs. There are no category 1 climbs, normally a feature of the Tour.

This is the elevation guide provided in the technical manual. From experience, however, I know this often underestimates what the riders will really face.

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THE RACE

The race starts with a 11.5km Team Time Trial and there is also an individual time trial (stage 4). The eight road stages include sprint and mountain points but the number varies according to the stage (see details below). The intermediate sprints also have bonus seconds (3, 2 and 1) and these can be critical in gaining seconds to contribute to a rider’s overall General Classification (GC) position. The outcome of the last two World Tour races has been determined by these intermediate sprints with Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans), winning the Tour of California by just one second, gaining two seconds in an intermediate sprint on the final stage. Hannah Barnes also moved into 3rd place on the GC at the OVO Women’s Tour by winning 2 intermediate sprints and coming 2nd in the final sprint on the last stage. There are also bonus seconds at the end of each stage; 10 seconds for 1st place, 6 seconds for 2nd place and 4 seconds for 3rd place.

JERSEYS

pinkGeneral Classification – the iconic pink jersey is awarded to the rider with the lowest cumulative time.

pinkkPoints Classification – the rider with the highest points obtained at each stage finish. Points 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2,1 for 1st-10th respectively.

greenQueen of the Mountains Classification – the rider with the highest points obtained on designated climbs per stage. Category (cat) 2 climbs awarding points for 5 places (7-5-3-2-1), category 3 climb 5 places (5-4-3-2-1).

whiteYoung Rider Classification  – best under 23 rider with the lowest cumulative time.

xxxBest Italian Rider Classification – first Italian rider on the general individual time classification.

THE STAGES

The stage details and technical guide for the race can be downloaded from the race website www.girorosa.it

Technical guide:

https://girorosadotit.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/anita-2017-doppia-web.pdf

Stage 1: Aquileia – Grado 11.5 km (Team Time Trial)
– this stage appears to be flat, not at all technical and with very few turns. This will favour the strong TTT teams (such as Boels Dolmans) as opposed to the more technically proficient teams (like Canyon Sram) and have an impact on the overall GC.

Stage 2: Zoppola – Montereale Valcellina 122.25 km
– includes 3 sprint points (at 28km, 48km, 71km) and a 2nd cat climb 24km from the finish. The climb doesn’t look that easy and the descent could be quite technical. A rider winning the 3 sprints and the finish could gain a valuable 19 seconds on this stage. It is, however, likely to be a reduced group that makes it to the finish ahead of the main peloton.

Stage 3: San Fior – San Vendemiano 100 km
 – includes 1 sprint (at 46.5km) and the challenging Ca del Poggio for the 2nd cat climb (at 61km). Although only 900m it has an average of 12%. Emma Pooley escaped the peloton here in the 2014 edition. With 39km of racing though it could be hard for a solo rider to stay away, but a selection could be made on this climb and, with good cooperation, they could make it to the finish ahead of the peloton.

Stage 4: Occhiobello – Occhiobello 118 km
 – one for the pure sprinters with no categorised climbs. There are 2 sprint points up for grabs (at 50km & 94km). A technical finish with 2 roundabouts in the final 1km. Expect to see Lotta Lepistö, (Cervélo–Bigla Pro Cycling), Kirstin Wild (Cylance), Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini), Jolien D’Hoore (Wiggle HIGH5) and Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) battling for this win.

Stage 5: Sant’Elpidio a Mare – Sant’Elpidio a Mare 12.73 km (Individual Time Trial)
 – the organisers say this will be one of the hardest days of the Tour, including two short but very hard climbs. Expect to see Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans), Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) and Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica Scott) featuring on this stage.

Stage 6: Roseto Degli Abruzzi – Roseto Degli Abruzzi 116.16 km
 – this appears to be a relatively flat stage with 1 sprint point (at 77km) and only a cat 3 climb (less than 500m in ascent at 83km). Another technical finish with at least 4 turns and a roundabout in the final 3km. Expect a similar winner to stage 4.

Stage 7: Isernia – Baronissi 141.98 km
 – the longest stage of the Tour, this includes 1 sprint point (at 89km) and a 2nd cat climb 43 km from the finish. The climb is likely to reduce the size of the group at the finish.

Stage 8: Baronissi – Palinuro 141.8 km
 – another long stage which features 1 sprint point (86km) and a 2nd cat climb just under 38km from the finish. This stage looks challenging and includes a section along the coast could be windy. I expect it to be more up and down than the profile suggests. The finish also looks quite technical with a number of turns.

Stage 9: Palinuro – Polla 122.3 km – although the only categorised climb is a cat 3 at 77.7km, the profile looks as though this stage could be more demanding than it appears on paper, particularly the first half of the stage. There is a sprint at 93km before what appears to be a less technical finish.

Stage 10: Torre Del Greco – Torre Del Greco 124 km – for the final stage the riders complete 8 rounds of a relatively flat 11km circuit (including a sprint point at 67.4km) followed by a larger lap which includes the challenging cat 2 climb to Mount Vesuvius, only 10km from the finish. This climb is likely to be decisive in the stage before the riders complete the 2017 edition of the Giro Rosa on the Torre del Greco waterfront.

THE TEAMS

Unlike the OVO Women’s Tour, which limits team entries to 17, there will be 24 teams at the Giro Rosa with 7 riders allowed per team. Some teams are opting to take only 6. Currently the start list stands at 166 riders adding an additional challenge to the race. It is, however, very unlikely that all these riders will finish. Although a number will fall out due to injuries from crashes and illness, some riders targeting Thüringen Rundfahrt in Germany are likely to race half of the Giro Rosa in preparation, but will not complete the whole event.

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WHO TO WATCH?

Last year the race was won by Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) ahead of her teammate, Evelyn Stevens. Anna van der Breggen, now riding for Boels Dolmans, was the 2015 winner. On paper Boels Dolmans are the team to beat, particularly with the addition of the Team Time Trial to the Tour and the strength of the team including World Champion Amalie Dideriksen and newly crowned British and Dutch National Champions, Lizzie Deignan and Chantel Blaak. Anna van der Breggan is likely to be the team leader with her incredible three win’s in the Ardennes and the GC in the Amgen Breakaway from Heart Disease Women’s race in California. She has won the Giro Rosa before due to her domination in the time trial and is surely the favourite going into the Tour.

Fabiana Luperini was the last Italian to win the race in 2008 and she also holds the record for the most number of wins (five). Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) will want to add her name to the list of Italian winners. She has a strong team behind her to take the valuable finish line seconds from other GC contenders, with a better sprint than herself, and as a TT specialist she should do well. 

Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) out foxed Boels Dolmans in the OVO Women’s Energy Tour, winning the first stage by an outstanding margin and she held the leaders jersey till the end. Boels Dolmans are unlikely to let her repeat this performance and I think it will be difficult for WM3 Pro Cycling to challenge Boels Dolmans in the Team Time Trial (TTT) which could have a big impact on Kasia’s challenge for the overall win. 

Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica Scott) has been targeting this event and I think she is a real contender, particularly following her win in the Time Trial at the Dutch National Championships. Although the team does not have as many TT specialists as Boels Dolmans she will have the support of World Championship TT bronze medalist Katrin Garfoot for the TTT.   

My wildcard for the G.C. is Hannah Barnes (Canyon Sram). She has a strong team for the TTT, was 2nd in the British National TT Championships and was 3rd in the GC at the OVO Energy Women’s Tour. With her fast finish and strong lead out riders/stage win contenders (Trixi Worrack, Elena Cechini, Barbara Guarischi, Alexis Ryan and Tiffany Cromwell) I think Hannah could be one of the big surprises in the race.

WORLD WOMEN’S TOUR

In addition to the overall GC there is everything to play for in the WWT ranking. Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) has only 42 points over Anna van der Breggen (Boels Dolmans) and 84 points over Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb). Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Cervélo-Bigla) is unlikely to be challenged in the U23 jersey as the Drops Cycling team (Alice Barnes and Anna Christian lying 2nd and 3rd) are not racing.

WHAT DO THE RIDERS THINK?

Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica Scott): This is the first time I will target GC in the Giro Rosa. I always believed it was more for the ‘real’ climbers. My team brought up the idea of targeting the GC this year because after my ride in the Rio Olympics they believed I could do it. My first reaction was: no. After some time – yes, why not, I love to challenge myself and after Rio I showed I can climb. I know what it is to ride for GC as I won the route de France in 2010. This was also ten days and I had to sprint every day against Judith Arndt for bonus seconds. It was really really stressful. A stage race is different to a one day race. You really need a team around you: girls and staff and you have to do it together. This makes it more a team effort and that’s what I also like about the idea of targeting it. I have a very motivated team, everyone is excited and with Katrina Garfoot and Amanda Spratt I have help in the climbs. With Jenelle Crooks, Georgia Williams, Sarah Roy and Alex Manly I have strong powerhouses around to help!’

Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb): ‘I’m excited to be back together with the girls. I’ve been racing solo Stateside in some criteriums and Nationals and it makes for some frustrating races. So I’m mostly excited to be back with the girls and have fun racing and creating memories over the 10 days of the Giro. I think we will definitely be hunting for stages and the parcours this year should make for some animated racing. What I mostly like about the Giro are the memories you walk away with. It’s an incredible race and the first and last time I did it was in 2014, with UHC, and I can tell stories for days about that trip’.

Hannah Barnes (Canyon Sram): ‘I haven’t gone to the Giro since 2014 so I am excited. Being on a team that has Italians on it I believe will make the experience really great. I love Italy. The food, people, scenery. It’s a special place to race a bike. The course isn’t as hard as it has been so I think that will make the racing a lot more interesting. It would be great to target a stage win. The team will go into the race with the GC in mind and hopefully we can have a good time and performance.’

Shara Gillow (Equipe FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope):The Giro is a special tour for women, it’s a bit like the Tour de France is for the men. For me it’s a special race as in 2009 it was my very first race in Europe, and I have raced it ever since. I’ve been in the leaders pink jersey, won a stage and finished 4th on GC over the years. I’m excited to be heading into the Giro, we have a strong team and our team objectives are for stage wins and GC’.

Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling):I have no expectations and no goals for this Giro Rosa! I want to do my best have fun on race with my team around! Enjoying the great county and scenery around! I want to push myself beyond all my pain limits and see how far I can go with it!

Lotta Lepistö, (Cervélo–Bigla Pro Cycling): I have never done the Giro so it’s a new race for me… so I don’t know yet if I like it or not. Our team is going for the overall and some stage wins. I think we have a strong team and we can play some cards in the longest stage race for Women‘. 

Chloe Hosking (Alé Cipollini):I’m starting my sixth Giro. I say starting because I definitely haven’t finished six of them. But this year’s edition seems a bit more special to me. I’m now riding for an Italian team and this is the biggest race in Italy, so it’s obviously a big deal for team. Everyone says it every time you ask them about the Giro but I’m really excited to race. It’s one of my favourite races on the calendar. While it’s not the same as races like the Women’s Tour or La Course there’s something that just gives it charm. It’s one of the most well established races on the calendar and arguably the most prestigious to win. Obviously as a sprinter I’m not going for the GC but winning my first stage the Giro last year has been on of my career highlights. I’m hoping to add to my tally this year.’

HOW TO WATCH?

You can follow online with the official hashtag #GiroRosa and official twitter handle @GiroRosaCycling. The UCI (@UCI_WWT) will also be tweeting using #WWT and #GiroRosa.

The Giro Rosa has a YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-j8PYUcpNacf0Zh9VpyxrA/videos which should be showing highlights.

The UCI Women’s World Tour YouTube channel will also have highlights https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4HyZDlA44k

Check the Giro Rosa website http://www.girorosa.it for details on coverage by RAI T.V.

Ella Cyclingtips will be providing daily Giro Rosa Round-ups including a photo gallery with the best photos and videos of the stage.

Voxwomen will be live tweeting each stage of the race, follow on the race hashtag.