Annemiek van Vleuten will line-up as the sole leader of the Mitchelton-Scott team as she attempts to defend her title at the Giro Rosa from July 5-15. The time trial world champion is expecting the tough edition for this year's parcours with two summit finishes – Passo Gavia and Montasio – along with an uphill time trial, but said she feels confident she can win for the second year in a row.
"I feel really strong and feel confident going to the Giro," said Van Vleuten, who recently won the time trial title at the Dutch championships. "I know the power is still there and I am super prepared for the climbing, too, and that combination can work out very well.
"With two summit finishes it is epic, also with an uphill team time trial and individual time trial and a few more stage finishes slightly uphill, they designed a really hard Giro this year. I really love that they put in a famous climb like the Gavia so people back home can understand what we are doing in the Giro and that there are really hard climbs."
Van Vleuten went into last year's Giro Rosa as a co-leader with Amanda Spratt. The entire team was successful, however, as Van Vleuten won the overall title, the points jersey and three stages, while Spratt won one stage and the mountains classification.
This year, Van Vleuten will have sole leadership of the team at the Giro Rosa. Spratt will also be there and will support Van Vleuten but could also find opportunities for herself to win a stage during the 10-day race perhaps. The team will also include Lucy Kennedy, Sarah Roy, Moniek Tenniglo and Grace Brown.
"I'm super excited, I really love the Giro Rosa, it is the biggest stage race and it is a super beautiful team goal to do it together," Van Vleuten said. "It is really a team effort, not just the riders but all the staff and everybody is preparing for it a lot, doing recon, and even between the girls, it feels like everybody wants to be in the team."
Van Vleuten has spent multiple blocks training at altitude in Tenerife this spring and also spent time training in the general area of the Passo Gavia at altitude.
"I think I have prepared optimally for it, I know altitude works well for me. It was train, eat, rest, repeat for three weeks, so I have worked very hard for this.
"I was also together with Amanda and Lucy at altitude, and before at [Emakumeen] Bira, Spratt showed she has super good form with a stage win and also for Lucy Kennedy to win in Durango, we came home from that race with a good team spirit. I think we are coming in with some a really good team also with some horsepower with Moniek, Sarah and Grace.
"I've been so focused on the Giro Rosa and not really doing any flat time trial training. I rode my time trial bike but more uphill, so I knew if at the nationals I wasn't super strong I could explain it, but to win the national time trial with such a big time difference, it gives me a good sign that I still have power."
There will be many riders contending for the overall victory at the Giro Rosa, including Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv), Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb), Kasia Niewiadoma and Omer Shapira (Canyon-SRAM), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla) and Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), among others. Van Vleuten is expecting the toughest competition to come from Boels-Dolmans teammates Anna van der Breggen and Katie Hall.
"I have the feeling that more girls are targeting the race this year. I've seen many girls climbing better.It will be a good battle and that makes it nice that all the climbers will there this year," Van Vleuten said.
"It will be good to have Anna van der Breggen there this year. Katie Hall is also good climber but wasn't at the race in 2018, and I expected Boels-Dolmans to bring many other strong climbers that can target the GC that weren't there last year, so that will for sure be a factor. The harder the battle the better."