After the cancellation of this year’s Tour de l'Aude, the Giro Donne is the biggest race on the 2011 women’s calendar. Ten dynamic stages and a field bursting with talent will arrive for the start in Rome and will provide cycling fanatics with an enticing alternative to ‘that other big race’ in July.
Now in its 22nd edition the race features a flat first week before it ramps up in the final five stages. Stage 7, which crosses the Mortirolo in the final 20km and the finish the next day Valdidentro will likely be the most difficult days, but with the depth of talent in this year's field, the race may not be decided until the final 16 kilometre time trial through the streets of San Francesco al Campo.
Other than stage two’s mountainous ride around Pescocostanzo, the first week will be one for the sprinters. Riders like Rochelle Gilmore (Lotto-Honda), Giorgia Bronzini (Colavita Forno d’Asolo), Ina Yoko Teutenberg (HTC-Highroad) and Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) will all likely feature. Vos particularly will be eyeing a win on stage three’s hilly parcours; with a short but sharp finish in Fermo almost designed for the prolific Dutch rider.
The climbers come out to play in the second week
Once the race reaches the mountains the race will be set for one of the most demanding finales in the Giro’s history. The Mortirolo is a monster; by the time the riders reach the summit they will have been going uphill for nearly 40 kilometres, and will have climbed nearly 1800 metres in elevation. But while it does stand out, the downhill finish may mean that the climb won't be as decisive as the following two days into Valdidentro and Ceresole Reale.
Despite a less than ideal preparation to this year’s race, it’s difficult to look beyond Mara Abbott to repeat in 2011. Abbott’s all round strength and consistency in stage races make it difficult to imagine her losing but there will be plenty of riders out to spoil the American’s plans.
Italian Tatiana Guderzo was strong last year and the tifosi will be cheering her on, hoping that she can step up to the top spot in 2011. If Abbott fails to perform Diadora also have 2009 winner Claudia Hausler in the team and the two will likely form a formidable partnership when the race gets tough.
Judith Arndt has never won the Giro Donne and will be all the more hungry after last year’s second place, and Emma Pooley (Garmin-Cervelo) can never be counted out.
The Giro Donne 2011:
Stage 1 July 1 Roma - Velletri 86 km
Stage 2 July 2 Pescocostanzo - Pescocostanzo 91 km
Stage 3 July 3 Potenza Picena - Fermo 104.3 km
Stage 4 July 4 Forlimpopoli - Forli' 101 km
Stage 5 July 5 Altedo - Verona 129 km
Stage 6 July 6 Fontanellato - Piacenza 128 km
Stage 7 July 7 Rovato - Grosotto 122 km
Stage 8 July 8 Teglio - Valdidentro 70 km
Stage 9 July 9 Aglie' - Ceresole Reale 114.8 km
Stage 10 July 10 San Francesco al Campo (ITT)16 km