Here’s what’s going to happen (we think) at the Giro Donne
Instead of the usual pre-race riders to watch and race route breakdown, I’ve taken a leaf out of Dane Cash’s book and adapted his preview format for a more speculative look into the upcoming Giro Donne.
The eve of the 2021 Giro Donne seems an apt time to make some predictions about how the race will go. Albeit not a WorldTour race, the Giro Donne remains the longest stage race for the women, thus garnering a certain pool of riders.
It will be a fascinating edition in 2021. With the Olympics just around the corner, a few of the riders fighting for pink in previous editions have decided to sit this one out, although that is not necessarily bad news.
Without one or two top riders, the second in command at some teams will take over as leader, sometimes a once-in-a-career opportunity to show what you’re made of. The Giro Donne can make a career if it’s a good week sprinkled with a lot of luck.
What’s going to happen
The 2021 Giro Donne route is positively tame compared to other editions. There are only two high mountain days with one uphill time trial. It’s a good race for the domestiques and the risk-takers to nab some glory for themselves.
On the whole, there are some exciting punchy days as well and some sprints, a little bit for everyone. There’s a reason riders love the race, despite all the frustrations that come with it.
Anna van der Breggen is going to win her fourth Giro Donne
World champion Anna van der Breggen hasn’t slowed down with the news of her impending retirement. In fact, she seems to have said, “If this is my last year, I might as well make it count.” And make it count she has.
Her season started with a win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and then her seventh straight victory at La Flèche Wallonne, not to mention an overall win at the first WorldTour stage race of the season, the Vuelta a Burgos.
Of the 15 race days Van der Breggen has had in 2021, she has won six of them, and when she’s not winning her teammates are.
With the form she has, and the Olympics coming up, Van der Breggen will be looking top off her career with a fourth pink jersey at the end of the Giro Donne.
Van der Breggen’s dominance doesn’t mean the GC won’t be a fight. Mavi García (Alé BTC Ljubljana) proved at her National Championships that she is flying, as did Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo). Longo Borghini has finished on the overall podium twice, one of those being her third-place finish last year. She was the strongest of the peloton in the Spring but has taken some time to regroup and refocus since the Classics.
Grace Brown (Team BikeExchange) was on top form at La Course, sliding into a failed late-race move and still finishing fifth. She has Ane Santesteban and Amanda Spratt to distract and also help her out in key moments.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) is eyeing that GC podium. She spent some time with her French team practicing their team time trialling, after the team lost significant time in the opening TTT in 2020. Ludwig outsprinted Marianne Vos at La Course, she won her first WorldTour race on a stage at the Vuelta a Burgos, and she is more than ready for another win.
Breakaways will have multiple chances
There are a few stages that lend themselves to a breakaway. Up until the Vuelta a Burgos, most of the women’s racing was so full gas that younger and less experienced riders fell behind the cream of the crop.
The atmosphere at a stage race is different, more laid back, slower. It means that smaller teams have more opportunities to hunt for chances, and with so few chances so far this year, they will be keen for a fight.
Breakaways at the Giro Donne have a history of succeeding. Take the final day of last years edition won by Évita Muzic.
One rider to keep in mind for breakaway stages is Heidi Franz. The American riding for Rally Cycling found herself in a few moves at Vuelta a Burgos, and will surely slip into a break or two at the Giro Donne.
We will see some new riders rise to the top
As mentioned above there are key contenders sitting out the 2021 Giro Donne, most notably Annemiek van Vleuten and Kasia Niewiadoma. Van Vleuten won back-to-back editions in 2018 and 2019, and nearly won again in 2020 if it weren’t for a late-race crash on stage 7. The crash is the reason for Van Vleuten’s decision to miss the Giro Donne. It was simply too risky with the Olympics days away from the finale.
Niewiadoma, the 2020 runner-up, will also miss the race with the Olympics in mind. In this case, Niewiadoma stated that she did not adapt well to such a long hard race. At the World Championships in 2020, just a week after the Giro Rossa Niewiadoma’s form fell flat. The Polish rider is hoping for a top result in Tokyo and opted to control her training instead of submitting to the pressures of a race environment.
With Van Vleuten and Niewiadoma out of the race, it opens the door for other riders and Movistar and Canyon-SRAM.
Mikayla Harvey will be Canyon-SRAM’s best bet at an overall result. The young Kiwi was fifth overall in 2020 and thrives on long climbs. The two mountain stages are great for her, and she has the perfect team to shepherd her through the rest of the race. Tiffany Cromwell has had the best season in years and is one of the best road captains in the business, as is Alexis Ryan. Hannah Barnes and Elise Chabbey are invaluable teammates. All in all, even without their top rider, it’s looking like a promising race for Canyon-SRAM.
While Movistar doesn’t have a clear GC rider to take over for Van Vleuten, any team would struggle to fill those shoes. Leah Thomas is a promising rider, as are Katrine Aalerud and Sara Martin. The three will be key in the mountain stages. As for the sprint stages, and any stage with the potential to be a small bunch, watch out for Emma Norsgaard. The young Dane has had a mindblowing 2021 campaign and will only continue to get better.
SD Worx will continue to be the strongest team
The strongest team of 2021, without hesitation, has been SD Worx. They have Van der Breggen, the favorite for pink, but they also have La Course and Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Demi Vollering, Strade Bianche winner Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, climbing sensation Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, and young breakout star Niamh Fisher-Black.
The team is stacked. All the other teams should be looking at this team and involuntarily gulp.
Vollering can do everything. She blew the peloton to pieces on the final climb of the Vuelta a Burgos. She wins sprints. She is a selfless teammate. It’s actually astounding, given how new she is. Can she podium in a 10-day stage race? It’s entirely possible. Vollering and Van der Breggen could be standing on the podium in Cormons.
Another strong asset for SD Worx is Fisher-Black. The young rider wore the leader’s jersey in Vuelta a Burgos. She finished 14th at La Course after landing in the breakaway of the day and then pushing the peloton on the climb. Fisher-Black is a rider of the future, and with the women of SD Worx to guide her the future is coming along quite quickly.
Finally, there’s Moolman Pasio. The South African rider finished sixth overall in 2020, fourth overall in 2019, second overall in 2018, fourth overall in 2015 … the list goes on. Moolman Pasio has always been a strong rider, but something was always not quite there. With Van der Breggen guiding her, Moolman Pasio is learning how to better race her bike, even after years at the top of the sport. Sure, she’s had some bad luck in the past, like crashing the day before Strade Bianche, but she’s an incredible rider, and it would not be surprising to see her up there.
If there’s a sprint, it will be between Lorena Wiebes and Emma Norsgaard
If the stage comes down to a sprint there’s a large chance it will go to Lorena Wiebes. Wiebes has seven sprint victories to her name in 2021. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been at a lot of the top-tier races with DSM, but she will finally be thrown in with the big dogs at the Giro Donne.
Against Wiebes, we have Norsgaard, who isn’t technically a pure sprinter but is as close to one as you can get, and Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma). Vos has won nearly all the fast finishes at the Giro Done in the last two years, three stages in 2020 and four stages in 2019.
The Giro Donne will disappoint those who looked forward to live coverage
The race hasn’t even started and it’s already letting us down. After announcing they would provide 30 minutes of live coverage for each stage, a first for the event, the organizers confirmed they would only broadcast the final 15 km of each stage the day before the race was to start.
Oh, Giro Donne, I always have hope, and I always am disappointed.
The Giro Rosa was a WorldTour event, but after failing to provide the mandatory 45 minutes of live video at the end of each stage the UCI demoted their status. The race was furious. In an attempt to get back into the top tier, the organizers announced an hour of coverage but failed to mention it would be an hour including the final podium – and so it’s barely any racing and a lot of awkward standing around. Sneaky move.
What other slip-ups will the race have? Improper race routes? The break being taken the wrong way? Yes, that happened in 2019. We will wait with bated breath to find out.