While all eyes are on the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the women's peloton is getting ready to tackle the most prestigious stage race on its calendar: the women's Giro d'Italia, or Giro Donne.
This year's race marks the return of Marianne Vos (Rabobank), who last year dominated the event with five stage wins including stage 7 which crested the Mortirolo. Vos has been out of international competition since breaking her collarbone in the Valkenburg Classic in May. She finished second to teammate Annemiek Van Vleuten in the Dutch road championships last weekend in her first race back.
German Judith Arndt (Orica-AIS) will be tuning her already good form which earned her dual national titles in the past week. Arndt has never won the Giro Donne, but placed second in 2010 and third in 2011.
Last year's runner-up Emma Pooley (AA Drink-Leontien.nl) will return bolstered by her selection for the Olympic Games, and will be keen to test her climbing legs in the sole uphill finish to Montecatini Alto on stage four.
Exergy Tour winner Evelyn Stevens will look to test her new-found confidence on the bike and overcome the misfortune which has plagued her previous appearances in the Giro Donne. Stevens's best finish here was 15th in 2010, but her recent performances harken better placings this year.
Sweden's Emma Johansson (Hitec Products), five-time race winner Fabiana Luperini, 2009 winner Claudia Häusler (Orica-AIS), 2008 Olympic champion Nicole Cooke (Faren Honda) and new Italian champion Tatiana Guderzo will all be riders to watch for the general classification.
This mountain stage and the time trial aside, this year's route will feature ample opportunity for the top sprinters to work on their speed and positioning for London. That list includes Ina Teutenberg and Chloe Hosking (Specialized-lululemon), world champion Giorgia Bronzini (Diadora Pasta Zara) and Shelley Olds (AA Drink-Leontien.nl).
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