Giro Donne Preview: The women’s Corsa Rosa
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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Giro Donne Preview: The women’s Corsa Rosa

by Ben Atkins at 12:33 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Can Mara Abbott repeat her 2010 victory?

mara abbottWith most of the cycling world’s eyes trained on the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia Femminile – the Giro Donne – gets under way in the Italian capital Rome on Friday. With the sad demise of so many women’s races this year, including the Tour de l’Aude in southwest France, the Giro Donne is the only “Grand Tour” on this year’s calendar, and so should be even more hotly contested that usual.

The race begins in Rome and crosses to the country’s east coast, before hitting the high mountains – including the infamous Passo di Mortirolo – and finishes a week on Sunday with a time trial just north of Turin.

The race favourites

2010 race winner Mara Abbott returns at the head of a very strong Diadora-Pasta Zara team. The American has ridden a quiet, mostly domestic calendar so far this season but there is no reason to suspect that she will not hit the Roman start line on Friday ready to defend her title.

Should Abbott falter though, the Diadora-Pasta Zara team includes 2009 winner Claudia Häusler, who will undoubtedly be ready to step up to the plate.

Last year’s second place Judith Arndt (HTC-Highroad) will also be starting the race to win, with the Giro Donne one of the few races she hasn’t won. Arndt won the Giro del Trentino earlier in the month and, if her performances in the German championships – with victory in the time trial and second in the road race – are anything to go by, Arndt comes into this race on top of her game.

One of the hottest favourites will be Emma Pooley (Garmin-Cervélo), who is doubtless still smarting from the Tour de l’Aude’s cancellation, having won that race last year. Pooley was the only one to anything like match Abbott in the mountains last year, and lost most of her time as she was put under pressure in the descents. The former British champion is a much improved descender this year though and, as World time trial champion, could capitalise on the final day’s time trial if the race is still close.

The other two former race winners to be starting are 2004 winner Nicole Cooke and five-time victor Fabiana Luperini, who both ride for MCipollini-Giambenini. The course may be a little mountainous for Cooke though, although she showed that she has returned to something like top form at last weekend’s British championships. Luperini came out of retirement at the beginning of May, and may find that, at the age of 37, she is a little too old to win the race for a sixth time.

Cooke and Luperini should both prove strong teammates for last year’s third place Tatiana Guderzo, with the 2009 World champion showing strong form at last week’s Italian championships.

The dark horse for the pink jersey though, is Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit). The Dutch champion has won virtually every race she has entered so far this season, only missing the podium four times, but she may find the high mountains a little too tough when the superlight riders like Abbott and Pooley attack. The only thing that the already-great allrounder has yet to do is win a “Grand Tour” but, the way Vos’ season has gone so far, you wouldn’t bet against this being the first time.

The stage favourites

Ina Teutenberg (HTC-Highroad) won the first four stages of last year’s race (the third of which was a time trial), and the way this season has gone so far the German champion will be the sprinter to beat as usual. Sadly Teutenberg’s big rival Kirsten Wild (AA won’t be in the race, thanks to a crash in the Netherlands championships, but there will still be plenty of competition.

World champion Giorgia Bronzini (Colavita-Forno d’Asolo), starts the race full of confidence after winning both the Grand Prix Gatineau and Liberty Classic earlier this month. Last year’s final stage winner Shelley Olds (Diadora-Pasta Zara) has enjoyed her first European spring, winning the Trofeo Costa Etrusca in March, and her second place in the Liberty Classic behind Bronzini shows that she has good form once more.

Rochelle Gilmore (Lotto-Ladies) will be competitive in all the sprints as usual, as will newly-crowned British champion Lizzie Armitstead (Garmin-Cervélo). Depending on how her overall ambitions are going Vos herself may decide to compete in the sprints too, where she might well be the one to challenge the dominance of Teutenberg.

Several of the stages will lend themselves to breakaways, in which case the usual names will undoubtedly be present. Annemiek van Vleuten (Nederland Bloeit) has been Vos’ right hand woman for the past two years and often exploits the presence of her team captain to her own advantage. With the peloton watching Vos, van Vleuten often capitalises and, with her ever growing palmares which now includes the Ronde van Vlaanderen, it is beginning to work the other way around.

Italian champion Noemi Cantele (Garmin-Cervélo) will be keen to show off her new tricolore as much as possible, although she will also be targeting the time trial on the final day. 2010 Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Grace Verbeke (Topsport Vlaanderen 2012-Ridley) will almost certainly be there on a number of stages, as will Swedish champion Emma Johansson (Hitec Products-UCK).

The course

In a departure from the usual prologue or sprinters’ stage opening, the first stage features a 3rd category climb, a rolling circuit, and a cobbled, uphill finish. Stage two hits the hills again, with a hilly circuit around the Appenine mountains of the Abruzzo region, while stage three has a saw-toothed profile as it tackles the hilly hinterland of the Marche coast.

Finally the sprinters get their say on stage four, with a flat run into Forli, followed by a spectacular finish in front of the Roman Arena in Piazza Bra, in the centre of Verona, on stage five. Stage six into Piacenza should also suit the sprinters, but the rest of the race will belong to the climbers.

After a stage finish on the Stelvio last year, the race will cross the Passo di Mortirolo on stage seven, as race organisers finally allow the women to race over the really high mountains again. The race stays in the mountains for stages eight and nine for summit finishes at Valdidentro and Ceresole Reale, before finishing with a 16km time trial in San Francesco al Campo, just to the north of Turin, where the men’s Giro started.

July 1st – Stage 1: Roma to Velletri – 86km
July 2nd – Stage 2: Pescocostanzo to Pescocostanzo – 91km
July 3rd – Stage 3: Potenza Picena to Fermo – 104.3km
July 4th – Stage 4: Forlimpopoli to Forlì – 101km
July 5th – Stage 5: Altedo to Verona – 129km
July 6th – Stage 6: Fontanellato to Piacenza – 128km
July 7th – Stage 7: Rovato to Grosetto – 122km
July 8th – Stage 8: Teglio to Valdidentro – 70km
July 9th – Stage 9: Agliè to Ceresole Reale – 114.8km
July 10th – Stage 10: San Francesco al Campo time trial – 16km

Past winners
2010: Mara Abbott (USA)
2009: Claudia Häusler (Ger)
2008: Fabiana Luperini (Ita)
2007: Edita Pucinskaite (Ltu)
2006: Edita Pucinskaite (Ltu)
2005: Nicole Brändli (Swi)
2004: Nicole Cooke (GBr)
2003: Nicole Brändli (GBr)
2002: Svetlana Bubnenkova (Rus)
2001: Nicole Brändli (Swi)
2000: Joane Somarriba (Spa)
1999: Joane Somarriba (Spa)
1998: Fabiana Luperini (Ita)
1997: Fabiana Luperini (Ita)
1996: Fabiana Luperini (Ita)
1995: Fabiana Luperini (Ita)
1994: Michela Fanini (Ita)
1993: Llavaska Lenka (Svk)
1992: no race
1991: no race
1990: Catherine Marsal (Fra)
1989: Roberta Bonanomi (Ita)
1988: Maria Canins (Ita)


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