Preview: 21 things you need to know about the 2019 Giro Rosa

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While the best riders in the men’s peloton are currently readying themselves for the Tour de France, the best in the women’s peloton are doing likewise for the Giro Rosa. The “Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile” is the biggest and most prestigious race on the Women’s WorldTour and it’s just around the corner.

Ahead of the race, which starts this Friday, we’ve got everything you need to know about the course, the contenders, and how you can keep up to date on all the action.

This is the 30th edition of the Giro Rosa.

Previously known as the Giro Donne, the Giro Rosa was first raced in 1988. The race wasn’t held in 1991 or 1992 but it has been contested every year since, making this the 30th edition.

Italian Fabiana Luperini holds the record for the most wins with five. Impressively, there was 13 years between her first and last wins — she took the title every year from 1995 through 1998 and then again in 2008. Marianne Vos is equal-second on the all-time winners list with Nicole Brändli, both with three wins.

Vos on the podium at the 2012 Giro Donne. She has won the race three times: in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

It’s the longest race on the women’s calendar.

A bunch of races extend to six days but at a total of 10 days, the Giro Rosa is the longest race on the Women’s WorldTour by a considerable margin.

The race is held entirely in the north of Italy.

The 2019 Giro Rosa starts in Cassano Spinola in the northwest of the country, and finishes in Udine, in the northeast. It crosses four regions — Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia — over its 920.4km and being in northern Italy, a lot of those kilometres take place in the hills.

The riders of the 2019 Giro Rosa are in for quite a few long transfers.

There’s one team time trial and one individual time trial.

The race begins on Friday July 5 with an 18km team time trial. It’s far from an easy course — there’s a 5km climb basically out of the gate, a descent, and then another 5km of climbing towards the end.

Expect to see the likes of Mitchelton-Scott, Trek-Segafredo and Boels-Dolmans at the pointy end.

The stage 6 ITT is similarly unfriendly. It’s only 12.1km long, but it’s basically all uphill from kilometre 1 to the finish. It’s not terribly steep — an average of 4.5% for those last 11km — but that’s hard enough to create some significant time gaps.

This one has Annemiek van Vleuten written all over it (more on her in a moment).

The profile for the stage 6 ITT doesn’t look too severe, but look at the elevation gain over 12km.

There are two big summit finishes at this year’s race.

Stage 5 is going to be brutal. There’s a tough 11km climb that starts just 7km into the stage, and then the stage ends with the punishing Passo Gavia ascent.

A look at the profile shows that it’s basically all uphill from kilometre 32km to the finish at 101km, but the Gavia climb proper is roughly 26km at 6%.

UPDATE: Stage will no longer finish at the top of the Gavia Pass “due to a landslide above the road”. Instead the stage finish “has been moved to the top of the climb to the Laghi di Cancano.” It’s still a challenging stage with a lot of climbing towards the end:

The other summit finish comes on the penultimate stage. It’s a mostly flat stage from Gemona to Malga Montasi … apart from the last 20km which averages 4.5%.

Stage 9: Flat, then up.

Just about every stage could have an impact on the GC.

The TTT, the ITT and the two summit finishes — they’ll be the stages that have the biggest effect on the overall leaderboard. But this year’s route is tough — there are plenty of opportunities throughout for riders to lose or gain time.

Stage 2, for instance. It’s not a true summit finish, but the road does tend uphill for most of the last 20km and the final kilometre is uphill. There will be splits here.

Or stage 3. It’s also a long uphill drag over the last 35km, with a few tough kilometres to the finish. More time gaps should emerge here.

In fact, there are no truly straightforward stages in this year’s Giro. Every single stage has the ability to create time gaps.

Annemiek van Vleuten is the near-unbackable favourite.

This course is perfectly suited to the time trial world champion. A tough TTT, a tough ITT, tough mountain-top finishes, plus a bunch of rolling stages that should split the field — it all just plays into the Dutchwoman’s hands.

Van Vleuten goes in as Mitchelton-Scott’s sole leader and deservedly so. She won last year’s Giro Rosa by more than four minutes after winning three stages: an uphill ITT (by more than two minutes), the Monte Zoncolan summit finish (by 40 seconds) and another stage solo, by nearly 30 seconds.

Van Vleuten winning the final stage of last year’s Giro Rosa, further extending her lead.

The 36-year-old is the strongest rider in the women’s peloton at the moment and she’s equally adept in a time trial, on a mountain-top finish, or going solo on just about any terrain really. This is her big goal for the season and on top that, she’s got an excellent team behind her, not least last year’s Giro Rosa and Worlds podium finisher Amanda Spratt, plus gun climber Lucy Kennedy.

Quite simply, if all goes to plan, Van Vleuten should win the Giro Rosa again.

Anna van der Breggen is likely to be van Vleuten’s biggest challenger.

The two Dutchwomen have had some great battles in recent years, not least at last year’s La Course. (Seriously, check out the highlights if you haven’t already.) Hopefully Van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) is at her very best and is able to take it to Van Vleuten over the 10 days.

Van der Breggen (right) took it to van Vleuten in last year’s La Course but was overhauled just before the line.

Like van Vleuten, van der Breggen is excellent on just about any terrain, particularly in the mountains, as she showed to win the world championships last year. She’s a two-time winner of the Giro Rosa in her own right, and brings some solid form to the race. She won the recent Tour of California (plus one stage solo) and won Fleche Wallonne a little earlier on in the year.

Van der Breggen will likely drop time to van Vleuten in the ITT so she’ll need to go on the attack on the other days if she’s going to dethrone her compatriot.

Note that the addition of Katie Hall to the Boels-Dolmans line-up gives Van der Breggen a valuable ally in the mountains. Hall is an excellent climber — she won the Mt. Baldy stage of the Tour of California (just ahead of Van der Breggen).

Italian hopes lie with Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo).

Longo Borghini finished second overall in 2017 (behind Van der Breggen) and is a real threat for the podium again in 2019. Somewhat surprisingly, the 27-year-old is yet to win a stage at the Giro Rosa, despite a whole host of top-five finishes in the past. She’s a good chance of rectifying that this year.

2017 Giro Rosa podium
The GC podium of the 2017 Giro Rosa: 1. Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans), 2. Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-High5), 3. Annemiek van Vleuten.

Longo Borghini has built into the season nicely, as seen in her recent stage and overall wins at the hilly Basque race Emakumeen Euskal Bira. Like everyone on the startlist, ELB will almost certainly drop time to van Vleuten in the ITT, but if she can stay close in the mountains she should finish inside the top five.

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (CCC) is another top-five contender.

The South African was second last year behind van Vleuten and a similar finish is within her range 12 months on. Her nationals title is her only win for the year but she has been around the mark. In all she’s got eight top-fives for 2019 so far, including third overall at the Tour of California and the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and fourth at Cadel’s Race. Look for the flyweight South African to be at her best when the road tilts up.

Moolman (right) has spent plenty of time on podiums in recent years.

Other contenders for the top 10 include Lucinda Brand, Kasia Niewiadoma and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.

Dutchwoman Brand (Sunweb) was fourth overall last year and is a three-time stage winner at the Giro Rosa. Overall victory is very unlikely, and the podium is perhaps a stretch, but another top five is certainly a possibility.

Polish rider Niewiadoma will lead Canyon-SRAM’s hopes and she too should be aiming well inside the top 10. She brings in some good form — the 24-year-old was second at the Women’s Tour of Britain where she won a stage, and she also won Amstel Gold earlier in the year. She was seventh overall at last year’s Giro Rosa and should probably improve on that this time around.

Uttrup Ludwig finished sixth last year and should finish inside the top 10 as well. She’s had a very good year so far, with third at Trofeo Alfredo Binda and the Tour of Flanders, amongst a bevy of great top-10 finishes.

Uttrup Ludwig on her way to third at the Tour of Flanders this year.

It’s worth keeping an eye on Soraya Paladin.

She mightn’t yet be a household name but the 26-year-old Italian is fast becoming one of the most exciting prospects in the sport. The Ale Cipollini rider has had a very good season thus far: second at Valenciana, fifth at Amstel Gold, fourth at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, third at the Tour de Yorkshire, two stage wins plus second overall at the Vuelta a Burgos, third at Durango-Durango and, most promising of all, third overall at Emakumeen Bira. That’s quite a year, albeit without a big win.

It’s not hard to imagine Paladin snagging a breakthrough stage victory at this year’s Giro Rosa.

Paladin on the podium at the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire.

Even in a support role Amanda Spratt is capable of another strong overall finish.

The Worlds silver medallist finished third overall last year while supporting Van Vleuten and it’s not hard to see the same happening in 2019. While Spratt is dedicated to supporting her Dutch teammate, there’s only so much supporting she can do when Van Vleuten is up the road on her own. On those occasions, Spratt will likely get free rein to ride for a high placing herself too.

We’re also likely to see Spratt go on the attack herself. She’s good enough that she has to be followed, which will allow Van Vleuten to wait in the wings as others chase.

Spratt won on a summit finish last year and should be in the mix again this year. Don’t be surprised to see two Mitchelton-Scott riders on the overall podium again in 2019.

The final podium of the 2018 Giro Rosa.

This year’s route offers slim pickings for the sprinters.

There are only two or three stages that seem likely to end in a bunch sprint. Stage 4 is lumpy but a reduced group should make it to Carate Brianza to battle for stage honours.

With its largely flat finish stage 8 could end in a sprint, but two sizeable climbs earlier in the stage might make this a day for a breakaway.

Stage 8: One for the breakaway?

And the final stage into Udine is likely to be a bunch sprint, but that’s not easy either — there’s a cobbled climb of a few hundred metres to the line, just to keep things interesting until the final metres of the tour.

Look out for Marianne Vos (CCC) in the sprints.

Vos’ days of racing for the overall at the Giro Rosa are behind her. She’ll let Moolman handle GC duties for CCC and will instead do what she’d done so effectively in recent years — target stage wins.

Vos has a staggering 21 stage victories at the Giro Rosa — the most ever — including a sprint stage last year. She’ll be one of the riders to beat in the few sprint finishes at this year’s race, and has shown good form so far this year. In 2019 she’s taken a stage win at the Women’s Tour of Britain, a stage and the overall at the Tour de Yorkshire, and the Trofeo Alfredo Binda.

With 10 stages on the menu, it would probably be a surprise if Vos didn’t win one.

Marianne Vos won stage 2 of the recent Women’s Tour of Britain.

Kirsten Wild (WNT-Rotor) is the best ‘pure sprinter’ on the startlist.

Wild has six wins for the year, including the Three Days of De Panne, Gent Wevelgem, two stages at the Healthy Ageing Tour, plus two stages of the recent Tour de Bretagne. If she can get over the various lumps and bumps throughout the potential sprint stages, she’ll be tough to beat in a bunch kick.

Amy Pieters (Boels-Dolmans) will be a contender in any sprint finish she’s part of.

Pieters doesn’t just have a strong sprint, she’s also versatile enough to be able to get into the winning move on hilly stages, just as she did to win a stage of last year’s Emakumeen Euskal Bira. She comes in with good form — a sprint win at the Women’s Tour of Britain and third at the Dutch nationals (behind rising star Lorena Wiebes and Vos) show she’s on the right track.

Victory for Amy Pieters from a lead group of nine on stage 3 of last year’s Emakumeen Euskal Bira.

Chantal Blaak is worth keeping an eye on.

The former world champion is very good at going it alone, and also handy in a reduced bunch sprint. She might spend much of the Giro working for Van der Breggen and Hall, and will probably help lead out Pieters on the sprint stages, but if she’s given an opportunity: look out.

Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo) is in red-hot form and can’t be given too much latitude.

Last weekend Winder got away late and held off the bunch to win the US national road title. As such, she’ll bring great form and confidence into the Giro Rosa.

She won a stage last year from the breakaway and is a great chance of a repeat performance this time around.

Winder’s stage win last year earned her a brief stint in the maglia rosa.

The broadcast of this year’s Giro Rosa should be the best ever.

Trek and have teamed up this year to deliver what is the Giro Rosa’s first “free global broadcast”. Set to be screened on the Trek and Voxwomen websites, the hour-long broadcast will be available shortly after each day’s Tour de France stage. It will be broadcast in English and will feature highlights and analysis from the day’s racing, with commentary from Ina Yoko Teutenberg and Giorgia Bronzini.

This is an exciting development for the Giro Rosa — a race that’s traditionally been difficult to watch — and indeed for women’s cycling in general. You can show your support by tuning into each day’s broadcast.

Twitter is your best bet for live coverage.

As exciting as the daily highlights show is, there’s still no worldwide live broadcast of the Giro Rosa. Instead, if you want to “watch” the race live, you’ll need to tune in to Twitter.

The official account is @GiroRosaIcrea but tweets mostly in Italian. Keep an eye on the hashtag #GiroRosa for up-to-the-moment updates as the race unfolds.

Who’s your pick to win the 2019 Giro Rosa? What are you most looking forward to from the race?

Stay posted to CyclingTips for daily coverage from the Giro Rosa. You’ll find stage reports in the Daily News Digest, daily updates in our Tour de France podcast, plus additional standalone features on the CyclingTips home page.

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