By Ben Atkins
With the men's Giro d'Italia finished just over a week ago, the route of the 19th Giro d'Italia Femminile, the Giro Donne, was presented in Desio, north of Milan yesterday. The race will consist of a prologue and eight stages, adding up to a total of 809.6km between the 5th and 13th of July.
After a short prologue, the race heads north and east for three stages in the Veneto region. The course then heads south and west to Toscana before turning north for the final four stages in Lombardia.
The event will begin with a 1.2km evening prologue in the city of Mantova, followed by the longest stage of the race – a flat 131.5km to Lendinara in the province of Rovigo in southern Veneto. Stage two will be similarly flat, finishing in the coastal town of Rosolina Mare to the south of Venice. Stage three also lacks hills but heads inland and south, through the city of Ferrara to Altedo in the province of Bologna. The climbing begins in earnest on stage four as the women transfer to the Pisa province of Toscana and the first hilly stage. The first category Prato a Ceragiola comes after 71km and is followed by an ascent to the finish at the top of the second category Monte Serra.
The course will once again transfer north, to the Lombardia region for the remaining stages, beginning with a short, flat individual time trial in Novara. The next stage returns to the hills and climbs two first category climbs – the Passo Sette Termini and the Passo del Cuvignone – before descending to the finish at Laveno Mombello, on the banks of Lago Maggiore.
Stage seven will be the real Queen stage of the race, taking in two first category and two second category climbs in just 83.8km. The course will ascend the Colle Brianza, the Giovenzana – known as the Piccolo Stelvio and features sections of up to 20 percent – and the Sirtori before climbing to the finish at Montevecchia. Stage nine should prove to be a traditional final stage as it features seven laps of a 13km circuit before the finish in Desio.
2006 and 2007 winner Edita Pucinskaite (Equipe Nürnberger Versicherung) will be out to get a hat-trick of victories, but will likely face some stiff competition from the runner-up in both of those years: Nicole Brändli (Team Bigla) who has herself won the race three times (2001, 2003 and 2005). Both riders will be challenged strongly by Susanne Ljungskog (Menikini-Selle Italia). The two-time World champion, whose recent wins include the Tour de Berne World Cup and the Tour de l'Aude, has earmarked the Giro as her big target for the summer.
The stages list as follows:
Prologue- July 5: Mantova 1.2km
Stage 1 - July 6: Asola - Lendinara, 131.5km
Stage 2 - July 7: Ca' Tiepolo - Porto Tolle - Rosolina Mare, 122.7km
Stage 3 - July 8: S. M. Maddalena/Occhiobello - Altedo/Malalbergo, 122.8km
Stage 4 - July 9: Calcinaia - Prato A Calci/Monte Serra, 106.4km
Stage 5 - July 10: Novara ITT, 9.3km
Stage 6 - July 11: Cardano Al Campo - Laveno Mombello, 113.4km
Stage 7 - July 12: Macherio - Montevecchia, 83.8km
Stage 8 - July 13: Desio - Desio, 118.5km