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The Giro Rosa is done for another year. The teams, staff and press have all either gone home or headed on to Imola for Worlds. The ‘podium girl’ can stop wearing the white dress that makes her look like a parasol and put on a nice pair of comfy joggers. The guy who plays the same four songs at the podium every day has presumably taken his Sean Paul collection to a nearby wedding DJ set.
Unfortunately, the Giro was almost invisible to the world at large due to the lack of live images. On the ground the organisation was chaotic and tumultuous but the racing was thrilling. Everyone who was embedded in the travelling circus of the race for an intense nine days knew about it, but the rest of the world only had Twitter, and some close-up shots of old Italian blokes shaking hands on TV ‘highlights’.
Anyone who has been at the Tour de France for the past three weeks might snort at the prospect of a mere nine days in the belly of the beast but this is the women’s equivalent of a Grand Tour, and the Tour organisers probably don’t change the start time twice on the morning of the stage for no apparent reason.
The narratives that come out of any stage race are just as thrilling whether it’s women or men who are pushing the pedals, although with the latter you are likely to witness them being played out in real time. The Giro Rosa contained the many twists and turns you might expect from nine days of hard racing, some of which made it to the mainstream — like Annemiek van Vleuten’s crash and Anna van der Breggen’s win — but there were many moments and stand-out rides that you might have missed while the highlights package was showing you 40 minutes of masked riders at sign on.
The Best Young Riders
The breakout ride of the Giro has to go to Mikayla Harvey of Equipe Paule Ka. The 21-year-old Kiwi managed to win the white jersey by a huge 4 minutes and 55 seconds whilst placing fifth on GC. She also took an impressive third place on stage 8 behind Elisa Longo Borghini and Anna van der Breggen on the savage slopes up to San Marco La Catola.
Harvey was given some freedom by the fact that Paule Ka GC leader, Clara Koppenburg, was forced to pull out of the race last minute due to a foot injury. A storming TTT performance from her team gave the young Kiwi a leg-up from day one and it was a team performance that carried her along for the whole race. It was an impressive showing from a small team mixing with the big guns. “We’re such a united group,” Harvey said. “All of us get along so well and our staff and everyone are just all there and we support each other so much.”
Honourable mentions for bright young things must also go to Evita Muzik and Mariia Novolodskaia. Muzik took the final stage on a tough day out for the bunch after being part of a 26-rider break. As attacks started amongst the breakaway riders, Muzik and her FDJ Nouvelle Acquitaine teammate Brodie Chapman pushed the pace on the penultimate climb and the 21-year-old French rider took the win.
Novolodskaia’s results on paper belie the young Russian’s performance throughout the Giro Rosa. The Cogeas Mettler rider was aggressive throughout. Most notably on stage 6: the 21 year old was out front solo when she crashed on a corner. Undeterred, or perhaps galvanised by the previous day’s mishap, Novolodskaia got herself off the front again on stage 7 as well as being part of the breakaway that animated the final stage.
The Real Grand Tour
If you believe women cannot race for longer than the nine days of the Giro Rosa, I present to you Simona Frapporti and Silvia Valsecchi of Bepink, and Maaike Boogaard, Urška Žigart, and Mavi Garcia of Alé BTC-City Ljubjlana. These women raced all seven stages of Tour de l’Ardeche, had one rest day, then finished all nine stages of the Giro Rosa.
Not only did Mavi Garcia race both stage races back-to-back, but the Spanish national champion came second overall in the Tour de l’Ardeche after winning two stages and leading the GC for half of the race. She followed that up with four top-10s on stages of the Giro Rosa and ninth overall on GC. This, after being involved in the same crash which took Annemiek van Vleuten and Amanda Spratt out of the race.
The catchily named Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardèche, to give it its full title, finished just two days before the Giro Rosa started, meaning that in 17 days these women had just one rest day. To paraphrase Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, nobody’s uterus fell out.
The thing about not having live coverage is that nobody is able to witness the teamwork that goes into making individual results possible. At least domestiques at races such as the Tour de France get their air-time and kudos for spending the day towing their leader on the front of the bunch.
The unsung domestiques of the women’s peloton, however, are in it for the love not the glory, but they go just as hard. There are numerous such riders who during the Giro Rosa sacrificed their own legs for their team leader.
Notable are those of Trek Segafredo who rallied around Elisa Longo Borghini, taking her from the lows of stage two (where she went from the overall lead to 10th) to finishing third on GC. Shout-outs too to FDJ Nouvelle Acquitaine, Canyon//SRAM, Equipe Paule Ka and of course, Boels Dolmans. CCC-Liv won the best team classification and they deserved it after taking Marianne Vos through three stage wins as well as placing Ashleigh Moolman Pasio in the top 10 on GC.
After four days of caning it around the beautiful Tuscan countryside, our rental car had enough on stage 5 and gave up the ghost in a kamikaze move as if to say “please, don’t make me go to Naples, I’ve heard about the roads there.” You can’t really blame Panda I (RIP) for such a move, given the state of some of the surfaces that were to come. And that’s to say nothing of the litter that was strewn all over the sides of the roads.
Naturally, the riders were less than impressed — “the roads were bad many times,” said Anna van der Breggen after securing the GC win on stage 9. “If you have that for a couple of days after each other you need to be so focused and things like that crash [with Annemiek van Vleuten] can happen all the time so you always need to take care of your position and be in front and that takes a lot of energy.
“Of course, that’s a bit like how Giro is but it’s nice sometimes to have a stage with good tarmac, just to relax a bit.”
The Cyclists’s Alliance, the women’s cycling union, called for riders to give feedback on course safety following the Van Vleuten crash. With the state of some of the roads on this race their inbox might be quite full.
In Case You Missed It
Live coverage of long Tour de France stages with start-to-finish commentary mean that every detail of the race and its characters can be chewed over and given their 15 minutes of fame. The nuances of a race like the Giro Rosa cannot be communicated in a tweet, or in a 45-minute highlights show where only a tiny portion of the action can be seen. Therefore the interest cannot be built outside of the truly dedicated fanbase.
Perhaps next year, when they might not be able to cry COVID, the Giro Rosa will stop shirking its responsibility as a Women’s WorldTour race and provide live coverage. But not many are holding their breath. If the 2021 calendar manages to go ahead uninterrupted and some of the better stage races such as the Women’s Tour and the new Tour of the North manage to bring live images to the audience who clearly crave it, then the Giro ought to step up, or it might find itself obsolete.