The Giro Rosa is the biggest women’s race of the season, and this year’s edition is special as it is the 25th running. It features a top field for the prologue and following nine stages, with defending champion Mara Abbot (UnitedHealthcare) and superstar Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv) topping the list.
The race kicks off Friday, July 3, with an evening 2 km prologue on a perfectly flat, there-and-back course in Caserta. Look for high speeds and fast times.
Stage one is 195 km carried out on a 5.1km circuit course in Santa Maria a Vico, with a short climb, which will count for the mountain ranking on two laps, but a bunch sprint finish is expected. The second stage is also a circuit course in Frattamagiore, which has no climbs, and will again be one for the sprinters.
The third stage starts out flat enough, but three-quarters of the way through stands the Belmont Castello, a 514m, Category two climb. The finish is not a ranked climb, but still provides a five km climb with numerous switchbacks.
Stage four has a Category three climb near the end, but another bunch sprint is expected. Stage five is similar, a largely flat 118.3km finishes in Cesenatico, hometown of the late Marco Pantani.
The difficulties start on the sixth stage, with three ranked climbs, including Category one-ranked La Crossetta. Stage seven is easier, with a mostly flat parcours.
Abbot will no doubt look to repeat her success from last year by winning atop the San Domenico di Varzo in the race’s queen stage. That is the only first ranked climb, and it is the highest in the race, running 13 climbing kms up to 1410 meters.
The race also ends with a bang, as the final series of switchbacks up to the top of the Madonna del Ghisallo-Magreglio will see the crowning of the overall winner.
Abbot won the 2013 edition by her dominant performance in the mountains stages, and based on her performance to date this year, may easily repeat that victory. However, Olympic and World Champion Marianne Vos, who won the race in 2011 and 2012, is always a threat and can be expected to shine in the middle-mountain stages.
Another returning former overall winner is Claudia Häusler (Giant-Shimano), who can challenge Abbot in the high mountains. Emma Pooley (Lotto Belisol) had a top finish of second place, but after a year off, is eager to show that she hasn’t lost her edge.