10 Days Around Northern Italy – Meet The 2021 Giro d’Italia Donne
The long-running Giro d’Italia Donne—the women’s iteration of the Giro d’Italia stage race, formerly known as the Giro Rosa—is back this year, albeit with a downgraded UCI status. However, despite the downgrade from Women’s WorldTour status to a UCI Women’s ProSeries event, it will feature the top women’s teams in the world as many of the riders use this 10-day stage race as Olympic preparation. This year’s edition of the Giro Rosa will see 24 teams and 144 riders competing for the Maglia Rosa (pink jersey) over 10 stages and 1 022 kilometres,. Each day, five jerseys will be awarded: Pink for the General Classification (GC) leader, Cyclamen—purple—for the General Points leader, Green for the Queen of the Mountains, White for the leading younger rider, and Blue for the best Italian in the GC.
History of the Giro d’Italia Donne
In its 32nd iteration, the Giro d’Italia Donne is one of the longest-running women’s stage races in the globe. Formerly known as the Giro d’Italia Femminile and Giro Rosa, it began in 1988 and has run nearly every year since. It’s one of the only women’s races actually to have 10 stages of racing. That’s two more stages than the much-anticipated Tour de France Femmes, scheduled for 2022.
While it lost WorldTour status for 2021, the organisers are confident that thanks to new management from PMG Sport / Starlight, the race will be back on the WorldTour circuit for 2022. “The decision of UCI to bring the Giro d’Italia Donne back into the Women’s World Tour in 2022 is a great piece of news that the Giro,” says Roberto Ruini, founder of PMG Sport and General Manager of the Giro d’Italia Donne, said in a press release. “This confirms our desire right from this year to invest all the available means to give the right value to thisgreat sporting event.” He also noted that this year, the prize money has doubled, and security for racers has been upgraded.
The Giro d’Italia Donne route will run through four northern Italian regions: Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia. For those not familiar with Italian geography, Piedmont borders France and Switzerland at the base of the Alps. Next to it, the Lombardy region includes its capital, Milan, and the well-known Lake Como resort. Veneto—home of Venice—sits to the east of Lombardy and runs from the Dolomite mountain range to the Adriatic Sea. Finally, Friuli Venezia Giulia sits on Austria and Slovenia’s border and includes some of the Dolomites.
“The high technical quality of the race is guaranteed by the presence of all the most important teams in the world and by a medium-high difficulty route that is extraordinary from a landscape and naturalistic point of view and that symbolically touches the Italian regions most affected by the first wave of the pandemic,” says Race General Director Giuseppe Rivolta. “If last year, the intention was to be the edition of restart, this year’s edition wants and can be the one of rebirth.”
The Giro d’Italia Donne is broken into 10 stages, covering 1,022 kilometres in total over the 10 days of racing.
Stage 1 – July 2 – Fossano to Cuneo
The Giro kicks off with a relatively flat team time trial that only ascends a gentle 100 meters over the course of 16.5 miles.
Stage 2 – July 3 – Boves to Prato Nevoso
Just over 1 000 meters of climbing kicks off the mountain stages of the race early on, finishing with a massive climb—and determines who will be the first rider to wear the coveted pink jersey.
Stage 3 – July 4 – Casale Monferrato to Ovada
Another mountainous stage, this one punctuated with a few sharp, short climbs in the second half of the race.
Stage 4 – July 5 – Formazza Loc. Fondovalle to Riale Di Formazza Cascate Del Toce
An individual time trial of only 11.2 kilometres provides no respite for riders: It’s a challenging 500-meter gradual climb that finishes at the highest altitude in the region: 1,714 meters.
Stage 5 – July 6 – Milano to Carugate
Milan might be known as the world’s fashion capital, but on July 5, it will also be the start of Stage 5. It’s the flattest stage so far, so make sure you tune in for a potential sprint finish.
Stage 6 – July 7 – Colico to Colico
This long and mountainous stage circles Lake Cuomo and is the only stage that ends in the same location that it starts. It’s the longest stage of the race and is punctuated by punchy climb after punchy climb, with very few “relaxing” sections.
Stage 7 – July 8 – Soprazocco Di Gavardo to Puegnago Del Garda
This race is comprised of six 18km circuits with five significant climbs that count towards the Mountain standings, ending in a summit finish.
Stage 8 – July 9 – San Vendemiano to Mortegliano
Finally, another flat stage. Look for teams to start making moves as the race enters the final stages.
Stage 9 – July 10 – Feletto-Umberto to Monte Matajur
This mountain stage features the starkest start-to-finish altitude discrepancy, with a finish at the top of Mount Matajur that’s 1,124 meters in elevation higher than the start.
Stage 10 – July 11 – Capriva del Friuli to Cormons
The final stage—yet another mountain stage—will finish in Cormons. Four big climbs for mountain points are separated over 70 miles, with a slight descent heading into an exciting finish.
Who Are the Riders to Watch?
Because the race is happening only a few weeks ahead of the Olympics Games, it could look very different from earlier season races. Riders who are using it as a tune-up for the Olympics will be focused on delivering good performances but will try to avoid burning out or getting injured ahead of Tokyo. Some riders who are usually podium favourites—like multi-time World Champion and two-time winner of the race Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar)—won’t be in attendance as they prepare for the Games. Meanwhile, riders who didn’t make their nation’s Olympic team will be hungry for redemption, so there could be some shakeups on the podium.
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Riders to watch include Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx), Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange), Lucinda Brand (Trek Segafredo), Marianne Vos (Lotto Jumbo) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek Segafredo). And, obviously, our very own Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, who is in fine form and has been focusing on this race all year. You can check out the full start list here.
Both Vos and Van der Breggen have won the Giro d’Italia Donne three times in their careers, with Van der Breggen winning the 2020 iteration that ran last September (postponed from the usual July date due to COVID). Vos hasn’t won the race since 2014 but has had a stellar start to the 2021 season, including a win at the Amstel Gold Race in April and a podium finish at La Course this past weekend, finishing just ahead of Van der Breggen. And Van der Breggen has had a stellar stage race season so far, winning Vuelta a Burgos Feminas in May and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February.
However, Spratt and Longo Borghini are no strangers to the podium either: Spratt has finished third overall twice, and Longo Borghini finished second in 2017 and third in 2020.
Where Can I Watch the Race?
Unfortunately, the reason this stage race was downgraded from its former standing was in part because organisers did not deliver on the required television coverage last year. But the organisers have promised an hour of content during each stage, covering the final 15 kilometres of racing followed by interviews with top finishers and coverage of the podium ceremony.
“Last year, we reached an overall audience of more than six million users,” Ruini says. “This year, we have significantly expanded the potential user base, thanks to a global distribution of national and international broadcasters and streaming media never seen before… For the first time, we are broadcasting live the last 15 kilometres of the race, a further productive effort to pursue the goal, shared with FCI (Federazione Ciclistica Italiana) and UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale), of giving maximum prominence to a historic sporting event and all its protagonists.”
Most days, the live stream begins between 2 and 3 p.m. on the race’s YouTube channel, and can also be caught on GCN Race Pass (available in selected territories). Cycling fans worldwide can help make a case for bringing better coverage to women’s racing by tuning in each day to catch the end of the race.
- Jumbo Visma Women’s Team (Netherlands)
- Alé BTC Ljubljana (Italy)
- Canyon / SRAM Racing (Germany)
- FDJ Nouvelle – Aquitane Futuroscope (France)
- LIV Racing (Netherlands)
- Movistar Women’s Team (Spain)
- Team DSM (Germany)
- Trek-Segafredo (USA)
- A.R. Monex Women’s Pro Cycling Team (Italy)
- Team BikeExchange (Australia)
- Team SD Worx (Netherlands)
- Rally Cycling (USA)
- Arkea Pro Cycling Team (France)
- Bepink (Italy)
- Aromitalia Basso Bikes Vaiano (Italy)
- Bizkaia-Durango (Spain)
- Born to Win G20 Ambedo (Italy)
- Ceratizit – WNT Pro Cycling Team (Germany)
- Isolman-Premac-Vittoria (Italy)
- Lotto Soudal Ladies (Belgium)
- Top Girls Fassa Bortolo (Italy)
- Servetto-Makhymo-Beltrami (Italy)
- Team TIBCO – Silicon Valley Bank (USA) CTW
- Valcar – Travel, and Service (Italy)