Just when you thought it wasn't possible for the Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile (Giro Rosa) to get any harder, organisers went ahead an upped the ante of the 10-day Women's WorldTour race held from July 5-14. Mountains, mountains, and more mountains will be the name of the game this year and, with the inclusion of a summit finish on Passo Gavia, it will be the most challenging edition in the event's 30-year history.
[Editor's note: Organisers were forced to cancel summit finish on the Passo Gavia due to landslides and bad weather. Stage 5 has been re-routed to finish at the Lago di Cancano.]
To whet your appetite ahead of the race, Cyclingnews is running a five-day 'countdown' of special Giro Rosa features, beginning with this in-depth race preview.
There will be 144 athletes of the 24 of the best teams in the world on the start line for the opening team time trial held in Cassano Spinola, many in pursuit of the event's first coveted maglia rosa. The real race for the overall title will begin a few stages later when the favourites will challenge one another in the mountains of northern Italy.
The race also includes stand-out riders like Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv), Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott), Lucinda Brand (Sunweb), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla), new climber Clara Koppenburg (WNT-Rotor), and Italians Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Tatiana Guderzo (BePink) and Sofia Bertizzolo (Virtu). You can learn more about the riders to watch in Cyclingnews' detailed overview as part of the Giro Rosa countdown, to be published Tuesday.
The organisers of the Giro Rosa have historically offered the women's peloton the longest and most challenging stage race on the calendar. Riders don't come to the Giro Rosa to race flat stages or criteriums, but rather to take on the toughest mountain passes across in Italy. Cyclingnews highlights each of the 10 stages of this year's Giro Rosa.
Stage 1: Cassano Spinola-Castellania, 18km (TTT)
The Giro Rosa will once again kick off with a team time trial that allows the strongest teams in the discipline to both win the stage and secure the event's first maglia rosa. The race is 18km between Cassano Spinola and Castellania, which is the hometown of Italy's cycling icon Fausto Coppi.
Last year, the UCI announced that it would no longer include a trade team time trial at the World Championships, and so the last-ever world champions of the discipline are Canyon-SRAM. Other teams that will no doubt arrive prepared to win the team time trial include Sunweb, Boels-Dolmans and Mitchelton-Scott.
Stage 2: Viù-Viù, 78.3km
The women will embark on the first road race stage in Viù, nearby former the city of Torino, host of the 2006 Winter Olympics. The race is short at just over 78km, but it starts with a climb over the Colle del Lis, which is the highest point of the stage and peaks at just 15km into the stage. The peloton will descend onto the wooded Valli di Lanzo roads before making a gradual ascent, crossing through an intermediate sprint in Lanzo Torinese, and to the finish line back in Viù.
Stage 3: Sagliano Micca-Piedicavallo, 104.1km
The third stage will take the riders on a gradual descent and then relatively flat terrain toward the only intermediate sprint of the day in Gaglianico at the 75km mark. After contesting the sprint, the peloton will start climbing through Tollegno and Campiglia Cervo to the steeper uphill finish in Piedicavallo, which is also the day's QOM.
Stage 4: Lissone-Carate Brianza, 100.1km
The Giro Rosa heads into the Lombardy region for stage 4. It is 100km through the relentless and steep hills in the area between Lissone and Carate Brianza. The peloton will contest an intermediate sprint in Sovico at 70km before climbing the day's only QOM at Besana in Brianza before descending to the finish line in Carate Brianza.
Stage 5: Ponte in Valtellina-Passo Gavia (changed to Passo Fraele in Valdidentro), 100.7km
The real test for the overall classification arrives on stage 5, which was initially meant to finish on the summit finish on Passo Gavia, but was changed due to landslides in the area and will now finish on nearby Passo Fraele.
The race starts in the Valtellina region and includes an initial category 2 climb over Teglio at 18km. The peloton will descend before gradually climbing to the intermediate sprint at Bormio-Ciclabile da Cepina. The race was then mean to head up through Santa Caterina and into the base of the daunting category 1 Passo Gavia, but that part of the course has been altered due to landslides and bad weather.
Editor's note: The organisers of the 2019 Giro Rosa have been forced to cancel the summit finish on the Passo Gavia, which was to be the finish of stage 5 on July 9, due to unexpected landslides and bad weather in the area. The conditions have forced authorities to intermittently close the roads to traffic and organisers have re-routed the stage to finish at the Lago di Cancano.
Organisers confirmed the initial reports that pointed to the race traveling to Bormio and then turning left, up to the hairpin turns and past the Torri di Fraele, before finishing the climb at the nearby Cancano dam - the location of two lakes: Cancano and San Giacomo - in Valdidentro.
"The stage will end in Laghi di Cancano like in 2011," the CPA told Cyclingnews. The organisers followed with an announcement that provided additional details of the re-routed stage 5.
"During the afternoon, a local meeting in Alta Valtellina took place to verify the safety of the road from Bormio to the Gavia Pass through Santa Caterina Valfurva. Due to a landslide above the road, the finish of the stage 5, with start in Ponte Valtellina, has been moved to the top of the climb to the Laghi di Cancano, Valdidentro (Sondrio).
"The stage route is unchanged until passing from Valdisotto, then the race goes up to Le Motte, before reaching Isolaccia, where the final climb begins."
Stage 6: Chiuro-Teglio, 12.1km (ITT)
There will be no rest for the legs in stage 6's individual time trial as it is primarily uphill from Chiuro to Teglio. The race follows parallel to the Scrivia river and the Rhaetian Alps. It is not as drastic as the previous year's uphill time trial where Van Vleuten won by an astounding two minutes. Expect riders to opt for the use of a full time trial bike set-up rather than a road bike.
Stage 7: Cornedo Vicentino-San Giorgio di Perlena/Fara Vicentino, 128.3km
The race heads to the Veneto region on the seventh stage, and again, it is one for the strong climbers. The 128km race will start in Cornedo Vicentino and travel through the Valle dell'Agno. There are four significant climbs to contest; Monte di Malo (34km), Fara Vicentino (72km), Marostica (102km) and looping back around to challenge the summit finish at the top of Fara Vicentino-Loc. San Giorgio di Perlena (128.3km). There is also one mid-stage intermediate sprint located in Lugo di Vicenza.
Stage 8: Vittorio Veneto-Maniago, 133.3km
If the peloton isn't completely exhausted by this point, they might well be after stage 8's 133.3km race from Vittorio Veneto to Maniago. It's the longest stage in this year's Giro Rosa and includes two intermediate sprints in Polcenigo (24km) and later in the stage at Meduno (81km), but there is also a mid-stage climb over Andreis (61km) that will surely shake up the peloton, followed by a second QOM at Clauzetto (96.4km). The peloton will descend and race through Prinzano al Tagliamento, Sequals and Fanna before a gradual uphill to the finish line in Maniago.
Stage 9: Gemona-Chiusaforte/Malga Montasio, 125.5km
Don't be deceived by the relatively flat first 75km of the 125.5km penultimate stage between Gemona and Montasio. The first two-thirds of the stage may well give some reprieve to the riders in the closing stages of the Giro Rosa, but the final summit finish in Montasio will be brutal. If the general classification isn't sealed already, it certainly will be on this more than 15km climb.
Stage 10: San Vito al Tagliamento-Udine, 120km
The final stage of the Giro Rosa is relatively tame in comparison to all of the other stages. The 120km race starts in San Vito al Tagliamento and travels toward the final intermediate sprint of the Giro Rosa in Mereto di Tomba (65km). But the climbing isn't officially over until the peloton pass over the 5km Moruzzo ascent that peaks with just under 20km to go. The peloton will then descend onto the city streets of Udine where the winner of the 2019 Giro Rosa will be crowned.