The 2010 Giro Donne again looks set to be the toughest stage race in women's cycling with organisers including a high-altitude finish on the Passo Stelvio and other testing stages during ten days of racing.
The route of the women's equivalent of the Giro d'Italia was recently unveiled by organiser Giuseppe Rivolta, who will have extra organizational support from the newly formed EPINKE ASD Association, which supports and organises women's racing in Italy.
The route for the ten-day race stays totally in the north of Italy this year, but sweeps from east to west before the central mountain stages and a finish in Monza, north of Milan, with several laps of the Formula 1 racing circuit.
The race begins in the eastern city of Trieste with a short road stage replacing the usual evening prologue time trial. The 59km stage covers several laps around the Pasta Zara factory in homage to one of women's cycling major sponsors. The finish is in the centre of Trieste and will surely see the sprinters take the first honours and the first maglia rosa of this year's race.
The Giro Donne heads to northern Veneto for stage two with a 130km stage from Sacile to Riese Pio X, near the heart of the Italian cycling industry. Stage three from Caerano S. Marco to Biadene is a 16.9km individual time trial that will suit the specialists and create the first major shake up of the overall standings.
The race heads south towards Rovigo for a sprinters' stage in Lendinara before a transfer west to Novara and stage five between Orta San Giulio and Pettenesco around the Lake Orta shores. Stage six visits the Varese area, near where the Cittiglio World Cup race is held, while stage seven visits the hills near Como, including the legendary Ghisallo, which is likely to split the race, just as it did in 2004 when Nicole Cooke set up overall victory.
With no rest day during the race, stages eight and nine in the mountains will be especially hard. Stage eight includes the Passo Berninia at an altitude of 2328 metres and then finishes in Livigno after passing through Switzerland.
Stage nine is only 68.5km but starts with a climb and then dives down to Bormio for the long and testing climb to the summit of the Passo Stelvio. The Giro Donne has never climbed so high, up to 2725 metres, and the Stelvio will be the last major climb of the race before the final stage around the Monza motor racing circuit on July 11.
Last year Claudia Hausler (Cervelo TestTeam) added her name to prestigious list of winners. She could be a favourite again this year but it will surely be the climb of the Stelvio that decides who pulls on the final Giro Donne maglia rosa.
Giro Donne stages
Stage 1: July 2: Muggia – Trieste 59km
Stage 2: July 3: Sacile – Riese Pio X 130km
Stage 3: July 4: Caerone S. Marco – Biadene 16.9km
Stage 4: July 5: Ficarolo – Lendinera 90km
Stage 5: July 6: Orta S. Giulio – Pettenasco 122km
Stage 6: July 7: Gallarate – Arcisate 116.7km
Stage 7: July 8: Como – Albese con Cassano 110.8km
Stage 8: July 9: Chiavenna – Livigno 93km
Stage 9: July 10: Livigno – Stelvio 68.5km
Stage 10: July 11: Autodromo di Monza – Monza 115km.