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Wiebes vs Norsgaard: Battle of the sprints at the Giro d'Italia Donne

Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) and Emma Norsgaard (Movistar) at the Giro d'Italia Donne
Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) and Emma Norsgaard (Movistar) at the Giro d'Italia Donne (Image credit: Getty Images)

Sprinters rarely get opportunities in women’s racing. Most of the successful riders in the women’s peloton are all-rounders who lean towards one speciality but can perform on any terrain. At the Giro d'Italia Donne and for much of this season, however, Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) is making a name for herself as the fastest female rider around, and close behind her — albeit more of an all-round rider — is Emma Norsgaard (Movistar Team).

A Giro Donne debutant, Wiebes took her second stage win at this year’s race on stage 8 and her 33rd career victory which, at the age of just 22, is an impressive figure. 

The Dutch rider counts the legendary Marianne Vos, who secured her 30th stage win at the Giro d'Italia Donne on stage 7, among her idols and revealed after stage 8  that she, one day, hopes to beat her compatriot’s record.

“I hope I also can go for 30 [Giro stage wins] but it's really long and we will see. What Marianne did is amazing," Wiebes said.

Wiebes came to prominence in 2019 where she won 15 wins -- including all three stages and classifications at the 2.WWT Tour of Chongming Island and the 1.WWT Prudential RideLondon -- that season. 

Since then, the 22-year-old underwent a process of breaking free of her contract with Parkhotel Valkenburg in order to join her current Team DSM. The move appears to have paid off for Wiebes who, at the Giro Donne in particular, is benefitting from a stellar lead-out train including Coryn Rivera.

Norsgaard is at her third Giro Donne but has yet to complete the race in full. After losing out to Wiebes on the flat finish on stage 5, Norsgaard successfully predicted her own victory the following day when she won stage 6.

“Unfortunately, we only got second place, but I am happy. What's next? To win, for sure," Norsgaard said before taking her first win at the Giro.

Norsgaard’s win on stage 6 into Colico was her first Giro victory but her ninth of the season so far. With DSM choosing to opt for Rivera on that day due to the punchier course, Norsgaard and Wiebes did not go head-to-head.

The former Danish national champion has had a breakthrough season in 2021 after a slower start to her career than her Dutch counterpart and is not as much of a pure sprinter as Wiebes, the 21-year-old can climb well for a fast-finisher and has a mean time trial -- indeed, she won the national time trial championships last month. 

Norsgaard has yet to beat Wiebes in a sprint finish so far, but her Dutch rival has now out-sprinted the Dane on four occasions this season. In a head-to-head drag race on a flat finish Wiebes has, so far, proven the fastest, but add a climb or two or an uphill drag and Norsgaard could edge the DSM rider out. 

Stage 10 could be the day that Norsgaard takes a victory ahead of Wiebes if the two come to the line together. 

The future is bright for both riders, with Norsgaard having signed a contract extension with her Movistar team until 2024, and Wiebes also settled in with DSM until the same year. 

Should the pair continue as they are, we could see a legendary rivalry emerge in the women’s peloton, with both riders continuing to rack up an impressive tally of results.