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Giro d'Italia Donne 2021: The contenders

The contenders for the Giro d'Italia Donne 2021
The contenders for the Giro d'Italia Donne 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The Giro d’Italia Donne starts on Friday, with a brand new organisation, new look and some challenging parcours. But who will be in for the running for each of the five classifications on offer? 

Cyclingnews highlights some of the contenders for each of the event's main classifications; pink leader's jersey, cyclamen points jersey, green mountains jersey, white best young rider jersey, and blue best Italian rider jersey, and team classification.

Pink jersey - Overall classification leader

Giro d'Italia Donne 2021 - Jerseys

Giro d'Italia Donne 2021 - Maglia Rosa (overall leader) (Image credit: PMG Sport / Giro d'Italia Donne)

The fight for the maglia rosa, or pink jersey, is always a tough one. In the past decade defending champion Anna van der Breggen and Marianne Vos have won the most, with each rider taking three overall titles at the race, while Annemiek van Vleuten took two in a row from 2018-2019, with her 2020 attempt to make it a third thwarted by a crash. The most consistent rider across the whole race, it takes a talented all-rounder to walk away in pink.

Anna van der Breggen (SD Worx)

Anna van der Breggen is the one to beat at the Giro d’Italia Donne — and almost every race she starts — having ridden away with a 1:14 gap over Kasia Niewiadoma in 2020. Her nearest rival, Annemiek van Vleuten, who crashed out on stage 7 while leading the race last year, won’t be at this year’s edition and has instead opted to focus on training for the Olympic Games. Van der Breggen will have one of the strongest teams behind her at the race with SD Worx, who also have Demi Vollering as backup as well as Ashleigh Moolman Pasio, super domestique Chantal van den Broek-Blaak and talented youngster Niamh Fisher Black. 

Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) 

Elisa Longo Borghini had an incredible start to her 2021 season. The Italian National Champion took the win in the second round of the Women’s World Tour at Trofeo Alfredo Binda as well as podiums in both La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Trek-Segafredo rider has been in and out of the Women’s World Tour leader’s jersey throughout the season and will be on flying form as she builds up to the Tokyo Olympic Games at the end of the month. Longo Borghini will be supported by Lizzie Deignan who has worked alongside her teammate in previous races to great success. The team also have an array of talented riders to support Longo Borghini in the form of Tayler Wiles, Ruth Winder, Ellen van Dijk and Lucinda Brand, who has been in the top ten in her last three starts at the race.

Last year, Longo Borghini claimed a stage win and third overall at the Giro Rosa and will be looking to better her result at her home race in the Tricolore. Trek-Segafredo’s directeur sportif, Ina Yoko-Teutenberg said, “It was a bold performance, but we want to look further. We want to do better. We’re well aware that we will have many eyes on us and that the competition will be strong, especially Anna van der Breggen, the most experienced and strongest contender.” 

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) 

Her 2020 Giro Rosa got off to a less-than-ideal start as FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine lost over one minute in the opening TTT, but Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig clawed back time on nearly every stage to bring herself into fourth overall and take the QOM jersey. This year, however, the dynamic Danish rider has a Women’s WorldTour win under her belt and will be hoping to make the leap onto the GC podium. Her team are looking far more cohesive than last season and with the likes of Evita Muzic, Brodie Chapman, and Marta Cavalli for support she could pull off a GC podium. 

Mikayla Harvey (Canyon-SRAM)

The 22-year-old Kiwi rode herself into an impressive 5th on GC in 2020 while racing for a Continental squad. This year, Mikayla Harvey has the full backing of a Canyon-SRAM team used to riding in support of Kasia Niewiadoma — who is choosing to train for the Olympic Games instead of racing in Italy this year. 

Amanda Spratt (Team BikeExchange) 

Grace Brown may have been the most prominent of the Team BikeExchange riders leading the charge at the team since Annemiek van Vleuten left to ride for Movistar, however now it is time for Amanda Spratt to take her turn. The 33-year-old Australian rider, who has twice finished on the podium of the Italian Tour while riding in support of Van Vleuten, is the team's designated leader this time around. Brown and Ane Santesteban are there to back her up, but they'll also be trying to keep that pair reasonably positioned on the GC so they can play the numbers game to secure pink, just like they did with Van Vleuten and Spratt in recent years.

Green jersey - Mountain classification leader

Giro d'Italia Donne 2021 - Jerseys

Giro d'Italia Donne 2021 - Green mountains jersey (Image credit: PMG Sport / Giro d'Italia Donne)

Last year’s QOM jersey was taken by Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig on her way to fourth overall. This year, we might see a similar scenario wherein any of the GC contenders above could also sweep up points in the process of fighting for pink. However, if a breakaway specialist chooses to chase the points we could see the jersey go to somebody altogether different. 

Maria Novolodskaia (A.R Monex)

The young Russian rider for A.R Monex impressed at last year’s race as she went on the attack on multiple stages. Notably, Novalodskaia broke away solo on stage 5 into Terracina and looked to be on her way to a win before crashing on one of the final corners. She got herself up to fifth on the mountains classification and if she races as aggressively as last year she might be able to top her previous result.

Heidi Franz (Rally Cycling)

The Rally Cycling rider stood out during the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas as she chased down the mountains jersey in that race, will she be looking to repeat the same tactic at the Giro d’Italia Donne? She also has very strong climbing teammates in Clara Koppenburg and Krista Doebel-Hickok.

Cyclamen jersey - Points classification leader

Giro d'Italia Donne 2021 - Jerseys

Giro d'Italia Donne 2021 - Cyclamen points jersey (Image credit: PMG Sport / Giro d'Italia Donne)

The nature of previous editions of the Giro have meant that a points classification that would usually go to a sprinter has fallen to a GC contender or a punchy rider like Marianne Vos. This year, however, the design of the race means that we may actually see the sprinters battling for points towards the jersey. 

Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma)

Marianne Vos has won the overall title on three occasions but she is also a prolific stage winner with a remarkable 28 career victories at the Giro d'Italia Donne. In recent years, she won four stages in 2019 and three stages in 2020, where she also secured the points classification. Vos has had another stellar season, so far, and we can expect that to continue in Italy. (KF)

Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM)

Lorena Wiebes is one of the fastest riders that the women’s peloton has seen for a long time. A pure sprinter with an impressive turn of speed, Wiebes will be the one to beat should any of the flatter stages come down to a bunch sprint. Plus, if breakaways don’t sweep them up, we could see her contesting for any intermediate sprints.

Emma Norsgaard (Movistar) 

The former Danish national champion is the closest match to Wiebes’ speed. The Movistar rider has had a string of second-place finishes amidst a few wins this season but she will certainly be looking to make it onto more top-steps. Meanwhile, she could challenge Wiebes for the sprint classification. 

White jersey - Best young rider

Giro d'Italia Donne 2021 - Jerseys

Giro d'Italia Donne 2021 -  White best young rider jersey (Image credit: PMG Sport / Giro d'Italia Donne)

The white jersey for best young rider is almost as hotly-contested as the GC as young hopefuls look to make a name for themselves and get up onto the podium. With one of the main overall contenders qualifying for the white jersey, however, it’s highly likely that we will see a repeat of 2020s result. 

Mikayla Harvey (Canyon-SRAM)

Still just 22-years-old and having walked away with the young rider’s jersey by 4’55” last year, Mikayla Harvey will be a shoo-in for white as well as a contender for pink. Harvey will likely be Canyon//SRAM’s leader for the overall and if the talented young Kiwi can walk away so comfortably with the classification while racing for a smaller team, she’s the nailed-on favourite with their backing.

Evita Muzic (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) 

If any rider can challenge Harvey for the jersey it’s last year’s second-place in the classification: Evita Muzic. The young French rider beat the experienced Audrey Cordon Ragot to win the French national championships last month and last year claimed the final stage of this race. If she isn’t required to completely bury herself for team leader Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Muzic could pull off a consistent ride in Italy.

Niamh Fisher Black (SD Worx) 

Similarly to Muzic, if 20-year-old Niamh Fisher Black isn’t required to relinquish her own chances for her teammates she could be a strong contender for the white jersey. The compatriot and former teammate of Harvey rode an incredibly consistent Giro in 2020 and came second on the same stage that Muzic won, showing her ability to maintain her form throughout the 10-day race. 

Blue jersey - Top Italian rider

Giro d'Italia Donne 2021 - Jerseys

Giro d'Italia Donne - Blue best Italian rider jersey (Image credit: PMG Sport / Giro d'Italia Donne)

The maglia azzurra jersey is one of  the most coveted jerseys, outside of the maglia rosa, for a rider racing on home roads in Italy. It represents the top placed Italian rider in the race. While Italian Champion Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) might be the one wearing the blue jersey (if she's not in pink), we  took a look at two other Italian riders who could shine at the Giro d'Italia Donne.

Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope)

Marta Cavalli has had a few stand-out performances this season but she is missing that big top-tier victory. She is an aggressive racer and has been among the top 10s in many of the punchy races this spring.  Consistency is key at the Giro, and while she is in a support role for Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, watch for her to be up there in the GC, too. Last year, she was the second best Italian rider in the peloton behind Longo Borghini. (KF)

Soraya Paladin (Liv Racing)

Second at the Italian National Championships behind Longo Borghini, 7th at La Course and 5th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda show that Paladin is a powerful rider. She was also inside the top-20 at the Giro d'Italia Donne last year, behind Longo Borghini, Cavalli and Katia Ragusa. (KF)

Teams

MOTTAMONTECORVINO ITALY SEPTEMBER 19 Podium Ashleigh Moolman Pasio of South of Africa Sabrina Stultiens of The Netherlands Marianne Vos of The Netherlands Sofia Bertizzolo of Italy Soraya Paladin of Italy and Pauliena Rooijakkers of The Netherlands and Team CCC Liv Super Team Celebration Miss Hostess Covid safety measures Mask Champagne during the 31st Giro dItalia Internazionale Femminile 2020 Stage 9 a 1099km stage from Motta Montecorvino to Motta Montecorvino 645m GiroRosaIccrea GiroRosa on September 19 2020 in Motta Montecorvino Italy Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

The teams competition winners in 2020, CCC-Liv, with their best placed GC rider being Ashleigh Moolman Pasio in sixth (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Having a consistent team is a vital element of winning a race like the Giro Rosa, but the nature of the team’s classification means that it doesn’t always go to the team of the GC rider. 

Comprising the accumulated GC times of each rider, the domestiques who bury themselves for a leader bring the top teams’ times right down. Last year, team CCC-Liv won the classification, with winner Anna van der Breggen’s Boels Dolmans team right down in fourth. 

We can never discount SD Worx because of their depth, but we look at two other teams that could win the teams classification.

Trek-Segafredo 

By virtue of having a strong opening TTT and a number of possible stage winners within the team – from Lizzie Deignan to Lucinda Brand as well as team leader Longo Borghini – Trek-Segafredo might come away with the team classification by the end of the race. 

FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope 

The team came third in 2020 so if they can just improve on their TTT capabilities from last year, the French-registered team – with the strong players of Uttrup-Ludwig, Marta Cavalli and Evita Muzic – might also have enough of a consistent race to take the title of best team.