What to expect from the 2021 Giro della Donna
It’s now only a handful of days until the 2021 Giro della Donna weekend. So what can you expect from the stunning 125 km course?
Heading into its sixth instalment, the Giro della Donna is a weekend-long festival of road and gravel cycling based in the beautiful Yarra Valley town of Warburton, approximately 90 minutes east of Melbourne. It features the Gravel Giro and Piccolo Giro family ride on the Saturday, a fantastic dinner event Saturday night, and the Giro della Donna Road Ride on the Sunday, with plenty of great food, drinks and entertainment along the way.
For 2021, Simon Gerrans will be at the event all weekend. ‘Gerro’ will be hitting the gravel, wining and dining at the Coppi Dinner on Saturday, and joining the road ride on Sunday.
Before we break the Giro della Donna down into its various sections, here are some basic stats of what you’ll face on the day:
Distance: 125 km
Elevation gain: 2,750 m
Length of unsealed roads: 13 km
A mix of fully closed and traffic managed roads for your safety and enjoyment
For the 125 km Giro della Donna, three timed sectors give you a chance to stretch your legs and put yourself (and your mates) to the test. The times of the respective sectors are added together, giving you your total accumulated time, and with more than $3,000 on the line for Maglia Rosa podiums it’s worth knowing a bit more about the timed and neutral sectors.
Warburton to Reefton (0-20 km) – neutral
If you like riding flat roads then you’ll want to make the most of this opening section — it’s the flattest section of the whole course. Even then, it’s not particularly flat.
There’s no shortage of little rollers to sap the legs as you make your way towards Reefton and the first major climb of the day.
Reefton to Cumberland Junction (20-40 km) – timed
After rolling through the furthest reaches of the Upper Yarra Valley you’ll immediately be immersed in temperate rainforest as you tackle the lesser known Reefton climb, featuring more than 180 corners as it snakes its way toward the alpine resort of Lake Mountain. As soon as you turn left at Reefton and cross the bridge, the Reefton Spur climb begins. What follows is 20 km of climbing at an average gradient of 3%.
The first 7 km or so of the Reefton Spur climb is steadily uphill but from that point on the climbing is far less consistent. In the remaining 13 km there’s never more than 3 km of sustained climbing meaning there are plenty of flatter spots and even the odd short descent to give you a brief rest.
If you’re pushing yourself on this climb, you’ll have several opportunities to use the big ring on the easier grades towards the top. If you’re just trying to enjoy the scenery, be sure to look out to your left in the opening half of the climb for some terrific views over the Yarra Ranges.
Cumberland Junction to Narbethong (40-71 km) – neutral
While the Reefton Spur ascent is finished when you turn left at Cumberland Junction, you’ve still got a bit of climbing ahead of you as you skirt the lower slopes of Lake Mountain.
It’s up and down for a few kilometres but once you reach Cambarville (a dot on the map but there’s nothing really here) you’ve got about 3 km of sustained climbing ahead of you. This short section features the steepest part of the entire course — a couple hundred metres at roughly 10%.
From the 46 km mark there’s only a couple kilometres of gentle climbing (48-50 km) between you and an entirely downhill run into Marysville. A word of caution about this descent: the final 5 km or so into Marysville (from 55 km) are quite steep and there are some tight corners to be aware of. Be sure to take it easy on the way down and ride to your own ability!
Not far from your pit-stop in the tourist town of Marysville you’ll find yourself among tall-timbered giants on the single-lane Acheron Way (at 71 km) and the start of the second timed sector.
Marysville to Acheron Way gravel (71-98.7 km) – timed
What follows is one of the most amazing cycling roads in Victoria, if not Australia: a well-sealed, quiet, narrow road that winds its way through temperate rainforest and towering gums. Even if you’re pushing yourself for a good time, be sure to look up and around you once in a while.
The first 15 km of the Acheron Way tends generally upwards but at around 1-3% gradient you’ll barely notice it. The next section is a little more challenging.
At the 83 km mark the gradient increases a little as the Acheron Way switches away from pavement for the Trek Gravel Sector. As you can see from the photos, the surface is well and truly rideable on a road bike (just avoid the occasional pothole) but we recommend 25 mm tyres as a minimum, and naturally the wider the tyre, the smoother your ride will be.
For much of the first half of the 13 km unsealed sector you’ll be climbing; for most of the second half you’ll be descending. Keep pushing right through to Cement Creek at 98.7 km, as the clock will stop and you can enjoy a break for as long as needed. You’ll really want to use this opportunity to rest up your legs before the final challenge of the day: the final timed sector to the summit of Mt. Donna Buang.
Cement Creek to Mt. Donna Buang (98.7-108 km) – timed
At Cement Creek the road becomes sealed again and you’ll turn right to begin the Mt. Donna Buang climb. It’s all uphill from this point, with an average gradient of roughly 6%, so settle in and try to find a comfortable rhythm.
When you reach a big carpark on your right there’s just 3 km to go and when you pass the turn-off to Healesville on your left, you’re just 1.5 km from finishing. Cruelly, this final push to the line is the steepest section of the climb.
As you reach the the carpark at the Mt. Donna Buang summit, head to the left towards the lookout tower to finish the timed component of the ride.
Mt. Donna Buang to event village (108-125 km) – neutral
With the Giro della Donna complete, all that remains is to (safely) enjoy the final descent back into Warburton. At Cement Creek turn right and then turn right again at the end of the descent to make your way back into the event village. Back there, enjoy the entertainment, food, refreshments and post-ride war stories with your newfound mates. It’s worth noting that after a pro-style, neutral descent from Donna Buang summit, you MUST pass under the CyclingTips arch, back at the event village. Otherwise a DNF (Did Not Finish) will be issued!
Here’s a look at the course in full:
Haven’t signed up yet? Online entry is available until 11:59pm AEDT on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Don’t miss out. Sign up here.
Here’s what you need to know about the 2021 Giro della Donna weekend:
• 11am Saturday, 27 March 2021
• 12pm Saturday, 27 March 2021
• 6pm Saturday, 27 March 2021
• Sunday, 28 March 2021
• 8:30am Maglia Rosa (Fast Group)
• 8:35am Gruppetto (Relaxed Group)
• $280 (Save $14)