Giro Rosa 2019, 5/7 - 14/7

So, it's July. And most of us have been through it all before. The Tour is about to begin, so there'll probably be a quick scandal or two, to try to scare a few riders, then the big spectacle begins. After all the build-up, everybody will pile to their screens to watch a flat stage 200km from home because after all, this is the pinnacle of cycling... and then after watching the péloton roll serenely on all day in pursuit of a couple of little-heralded Belgian wildcard riders, a day or two later, the comments begin. How do we liven up the first part of the Tour? Why are these flat stages so boring? What can be done? Hopefully if we're lucky, some controversy will happen in a sprint, or a Frenchman will initiate a break that survives, and there'll be something else to discuss other than who will achieve what when the mountains begin. More likely, because every team still has something to protect and wants to put their leader to the front, a nervous péloton will cause a major favourite to crash out early, and so arguments about what your favourite rider might have done had he still been there can colour the rest of the race. And then the mountains will come, and the inevitable will happen: doping insinuations, temper tantrums by fans of other teams and riders, complaints that the riding is too negative, that the course makes it too easy to control, and so forth and so on. We've all been there before. That's why "July fan" has come to be an insult among cycling fans, and connoisseurs and élitists (there is often significant crossover between the two, often with the latter believing they are the former) will deride the three weeks around l'Hexagone.

But of course, ASO's showpiece spectacle is not the only focal point of the cycling calendar in July, and there is an alternative.

That's right - starting just one day before the Grand Départ, we have the biggest race on the women's calendar, the only surviving Grand Tour for women, the ten-day Giro d'Italia Femminile, rebranded the Giro Rosa.

Sounds good, can I watch?
Well, literally speaking, no you can't. The Tour de France juggernaut runs roughshod over anybody trying to produce televised cycling in July and live coverage is at a premium. You can, however, watch a one-hour highlights broadcast produced by Trek in conjunction with Voxwomen, who produce a current cycling magazine show for the women's side of the sport, which will be available for streaming and apparently syndicated to various TV stations. The exception is if you are in Italy or its Italophone neighbours, whereby RAI will be broadcasting the highlights. This was put forward as a great leap forward, but in reality it's no different to what we had last year, when PMG Sport were broadcasting the final hour as-live after the Tour stage finished, with RAI then dubbing commentary onto it for broadcast in the evening. The leap forward is that because of this, last year English-language coverage was on a 24-hour delay to enable Eurosport to dub their commentary onto the raw footage from PMG, which meant many fans had already watched the Italophone commentary well in advance of the broadcast. If you are in Italy, then you also are winning because you get analysis from the highly-rated Giada Borgato, former national champion who retired in the wake of the Estado de México fiasco, so her frame of references is very current and her knowledge is first rate.

Otherwise, there will be the usual scraping of sources on Twitter for as-it-happens updates, but the fact that the highlights will be able to be appended to the end of the Tour show is a bonus.

That's kind of disappointing. But if I can't see it, why should I be excited?

Because you'll get some serious, serious racing. On the day that the Tour de France has a 215km flat stage (broadcast in its entirety, of course), the women are climbing the Passo di Gavia, the mythical summit which has so frequently served as the Cima Coppi and which we missed out on seeing in the men's Giro d'Italia earlier in the year due to snowfall. And the men's Tour de France has suffered from a negative racing aura, especially in the first half of the race, for many years due to a convergence of factors including but not limited to the strength of domestiques, the importance attached to lesser placements, horrible stage design and pacing, and, all too frequently, timid racing. You don't tend to get that so much with the women. In recent memory at the Giro d'Italia Femminile, I can name you a stage where a former winner, biased almost entirely in her skillset towards climbing, got into a breakaway that stayed away in a pan-flat stage; Annemiek van Vleuten even lost the race in 2017 in a seemingly innocuous flat stage because of a split in the péloton. The race has been won and lost in the descents before (hello Mara, hello Emma), while when the race has gone all out for big mountain stages, which there are disappointingly few of in the women's calendar in general, the women haven't been shy about making it mano a mano very early on. I often go back to 2010's Grand Tours in July. Each race featured a climactic mountain stage on a mythical pass where the two best climbers in the péloton faced off. Contador and Schleck held each other's hands and giggled like adolescent schoolboys to play down rumours of discontent after Chaingate; Pooley and Abbott tried to race each other, to drop each other and to beat each other. And that's before I get to 2016's epic Madonna della Guardia stage, with Niewiadoma trying to ride solo from the first climb of the day, Abbott and Stevens attacking on the penultimate climb 50km from home and all hell breaking loose. Last year, the women climbed Monte Zoncolan, the first time they've done it from Ovaro (even though the women were the first to climb Monte Zoncolan, in 1997, this was from Sutrio), and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio attacked almost as soon as the climb began, from which point it was every woman for herself. And Annemiek van Vleuten's winning time would have placed her top 40 in the men's stage from the 2018 Giro. Feast your eyes upon it here.

Moolman-Pasio tried, tried and tried some more, but she just couldn't rid herself of van Vleuten

So the women climbed Zoncolan six years before the men did?


I need to know more about the history of this thing to help me appreciate it in context.

That's great to hear. Let's talk a bit more about the history of the race (with thanks, especially regarding the first decade or so, to long-departed forum member Skip Madness, with whom I discussed the race back when I was a women's cycling novice), then.

Two things that converged to make the Giro d'Italia Femminile a viable thing to run were the initiative taken by ASO (no, seriously) to run a Tour de France Féminine in 1984, and Italy's star cross-country skier Maria Canins. From this unlikely convergence, came the inspiration that led to a women's Giro being created. Having been a successful cross-country skier since the early 70s, Canins initially sought cycling as something to keep her occupied and healthy in the off-season, but soon developed a real knack for it, at a time which was proving a real cross-roads in the development of women's cycling, with some serious stage races beginning to take off (almost all of which are now dead, of course, or have had long gaps in their running, with the Emakumeen Bira being the oldest continuously-running stage race on the calendar). After the Tour de France in 1984, the Tour de l'Aude followed in 1985, and the fact that very few women's races had featured significant mountains before meant that somebody like Canins, born in the high Dolomites, had a natural advantage, and despite already being in her mid-30s, she swiftly became one of the stars of women's cycling, winning the Tour twice and the Tour de l'Aude once.

The first Giro Donne was run over 9 days and 700km, from Milan to Rome, and the first ever stage was a prologue won by Petra Rossner. The East German went on to win four more stages, taking sprint bonuses all the way to the GC podium, and her 18 stage wins - running all the way until the early 2000s - were a record which remained unbroken until 2015, when the record was broken by - you guessed it - Eddy Merckx. Canins won the race in the mountains, however, giving the race a home victor, though already being 38 years old, she was unable to replicate that success in future Giri. Nevertheless, she remains in the record books as the oldest ever winner. As the race got off the ground, the startlist was largely padded by national teams, and this led to even the inclusion of a "best foreign rider" jersey in early editions; 1989's race only being taken from overseas star Rossner on the final day by Roberta Bonanomi, however, suggested that the parochial nature would not remain for long. 1990's edition confirmed this suspicion as well as heralding in newer, younger riders, with Catherine Marsal winning the shortest ever Giro d'Italia Femminile at the age of just 19. The Grande Boucle Féminine had been rebranded the Tour of the EU, in line with l'Avenir rather than Le Tour, in the first of a series of dwindlings of its importance, and Marsal won all three 9-day-plus stage races that season. The faltering Grande Boucle was able to coast a bit longer as the Giro Donne was not organized for a couple of years, but it returned soon after with a new direction and ambition that would shape it for the years to come.

The Fanini family has many connections with cycling. Lorenzo Fanini was the founder of a bicycle marque, and his sons Brunello and Ivano were both deeply embedded within the sport. Ivano has been running teams since the mid 80s, and is the boss of Amore e Vita to this day. Brunello's daughter Michela was a rising star in the early 90s and, aggrieved that she may not get to ride a Giro the way the great male prospects could, he took it upon himself to gather sponsorship and set the race back in motion. At first in a reduced one-week format, he succeeded. 1993's edition was won by Lenka Ilavská, then in 1994, his darling daughter (pictured with him above) won the race at the age of 21. It was to be her last great achievement; just three months later, she lost control of her car driving between Lucca and Capannori, and died before seeing her 22nd birthday. The Fanini family have kept Michela's memory alive - even after Brunello passed on the organisation of the Giro Donne, the Giro della Toscana-Memorial Michela Fanini is a fixture on the calendar in the Worlds tune-up spot, and the SC Michela Fanini-Rox team has been a mainstay of the Italian domestic péloton since the late 90s. Though there was a certain depressing irony in Brunello telling riders in 2013 to go home if they wanted to protest due to unsafe road conditions with cars getting onto the route. However, there is a documentary featuring some rare archive footage of the 1993 and 1994 Giri on her tragically short life and career, which you can see here.

The year afterward, it was the turn of another young Tuscan rider to take the plaudits, with Fabiana Luperini taking the first of her record five Giri. She was a pivotal figure for the race, as she swiftly became a women's cycling superstar, winning both the Giro and the Grande Boucle three times in a row from 1995 to 1997. The Giro expanded to two weeks in duration and from the late 90s onwards Monte Serra became its signature climb, seeing as it was both local to the outgoing organizing Fanini family, and to Luperini. 1998 also saw the introduction of one of the women's Giro's traditions: insane transfers. The first three stages were held in Sardinia, and then the riders were ferried to Civitavecchia, with riders not reaching their hotels until almost midnight. 1999 saw the circle finally broken, however, as Luperini crashed on the Monte Serra stage and had to withdraw, which drew parallels to Indurain's downfall, seeing as Monte Serra is the Hausberg of Luperini's hometown. Joane Somarriba took the GC win, and at this point, with the Giro now being at the longest it would ever achieve - sixteen stages in 2000 - its position of supremacy in the women's calendar was now established. Although Luperini testing positive for nandrolone in the autumn did rather dampen Italy's enthusiasm for the event. But worse was to come.

On the face of it, it should have been a glorious moment. Belarus' Zinaida Stahurskaia had won the rainbow jersey the previous September and was wearing the maglia rosa after 9 of 15 stages when, in a portent of what was to come in the following May's men's race, police raided the teams and although no direct charges ensued, the cat was truly among the pigeons. Rosalisa Lapomarda, 3rd on GC, was thrown out of the race due to high hematocrit, and despite a late charge by Nicole Brändli, Stahurskaia held on. The Belarusian had been a prominent voice against doping at the time of the raids, so there was a great deal of eye-rolling going on when in October it was announced that one of her samples was positive for a banned diuretic (another stage winner, Elena Tchalykh, was also suspended). A protracted legal battle ensued, the race directors quit on the race, new ownership took over the race, and Nicole Brändli was officially awarded the 2001 Giro victory less than a week before the 2002 event began (though Lapomarda got to keep the stage win she inherited from Stahurskaia, natch). The new race director Giuseppe Rivolta, surmised not unreasonably that the race had got too unwieldy to be profitable and, with other long-form stage races also struggling, decided on a more compact and consistent format, which led to the ten stages no rest days format with which we are familiar today. Vowing to take back what was hers, Stahurskaia was back, and remained prominent throughout the 2002 Giro, eventually finishing 2nd overall behind Svetlana Bubnenkova. She never did succeed, however, and eventually was suspended again after testing positive in 2005. As this was before the rule came in on life bans, she was able to make a second comeback, but was unwanted by major teams, and a sad coda was added to her story when she was struck and killed by a car when training for her third lease of cycling life in 2009, at the age of 38.

The spectre of doping continued to haunt the Giro Donne, however, with Luperini again proving a problem, having to be withdrawn for failing the 50% test (somewhat ironic in a race won by Bubnenkova ahead of Stahurskaia, but there you go). It is perhaps for this reason that the race routes started to become a little tamer in the early 2000s, with Edita Pucinskaite taking on the role that in latter days has been fulfilled by Annemiek van Vleuten and now seemingly by Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, of drawing attention to the lack of difficult mountainous days on the women's calendar. Pucinskaite nevertheless is central to the GC battle, and her feud with Nicole Brändli characterized the era; Brändli's success led to a few excursions overseas to Switzerland for the race to capitalise, although some of this innovation is truly bonkers - the 2004 edition features a mountain TTT to Leukerbad, and perhaps due to a somewhat tame route is raced at a faster speed than the men's Giro that year (which is pretty remarkable when you consider there were no fewer than ELEVEN sprint stages in that Giro). Despite the concern of the riders that the race was easier, its position as the stage race par excellence is assured, after the Grande Boucle, spluttering along at this stage, grinds to a halt. The response to the easier courses is a stepping up of the iconic racing locations; previously apart from Monte Serra, the women had tended to finish at mountaintops which were somewhat lesser known, such as Nevegal, Tambre, pre-fame Monte Zoncolan and Blatten bei Naters. 2004 saw the introduction of the Madonna del Ghisallo, and this returned in 2006, serving as the race-ending final showdown. 2006 saw the closest ever Giro finish, when Pucinskaite snuck ahead of Brändli by just 11 seconds on the final day.

2007 is the last time the race seriously came close to folding, with financial pressures. Bubnenkova is supposedly suspended but continued to race due to confusion between AFLD and UCI, which puts a cloud over proceedings, and just to add to the sense of gloom around the race, Fenix called up their young German rider Liane Bahler to travel to start her first Giro; she is then tragically killed in a car crash on the way to the airport. Pucinskaite again narrowly defeated Brändli, before, back on more stable footing, the race tilted back toward the mountains in 2008, leading to a surprise Indian summer for Fabiana Luperini, who took her fifth Giro title, a decade after her fourth, after dominating on her local favourite climb once more.

To me, this is where we transition to the "modern" Giro Rosa. Veteran stars like Arndt are still prominent, and there is certainly an element that 2009 is where I started from in the women's game, but there is still a pronounced changing of the guard. The big mountaintop finish at Monte Serra is not duelled over by the established veterans, but by a new pair of superclimbers who would characterize the big mountain stages for the next several years, Mara Abbott and Emma Pooley. Claudia Häusler takes the Giro win at the age of 23, and young prospects making their mark on the race include Lizzie Armitstead, who takes the best young rider's jersey. 2010 sees Vos start to come into her element and cease to be an amazing rider in the one-day races alone but alarmingly all-round; nevertheless the much-hyped presence of the Stelvio puts paid to her GC threat, with Abbott taking the win and the GC as a result. The Diadora-Pasta Zara team is then launched to great fanfare, with both Häusler and Abbott signing for them, but the team's season is a disaster, with Abbott's health problems at their worst, and the team unwilling to budge from plan A until it's completely ruined the season; the American takes a sabbatical from the sport to get healthy. In the meantime, the Mortirolo has been introduced to the Giro Donne, but from an easier side. Emma Pooley makes comments about ice cream to poke fun at her own lack of descending nous; this is proven to be a disappointing harbinger of the future, however, as she loses the race on the descent of the climb, with Vos taking the first of her Giri.

The move towards trying to alternated 'northern' and 'southern' Giri leads to a somewhat disappointing route in 2012. Another problem is that the attempt to try to kickstart support for the race by taking it to the big cities almost financially ruins the race, as well as leading to a somewhat disappointing edition. 2013 sees the big mountains back, and like a phoenix from the flames, Fabiana Luperini, now 39, is back and is flying on the climbs; she can't, however, match a rejuvenated Mara Abbott, and the American wins on Monte Beigua and San Domenico di Varzo to take her second Giro - and as a curious aside, both wins are when she was on a national team - a real rarity in the Giro after the early 2000s - instead of a trade team. Luperini is ejected from the race for her bike being underweight, the last in a string of controversies to mar the great Italian's time at the top, but the next Italian climbing superstar appears to be among us, as Francesca Cauz climbs like a queen to finish 7th overall despite having next to no skills for any other type of riding.

2014 is another Vos year, and Rabobank locks out the podium thanks to a monstrous unit which also contains Pauline Ferrand-Prévot - who would have won but for bonus seconds - and Anna van der Breggen, and they therefore shepherd the attacks from the specialist climbers; Pooley goes from deep over La Crosetta, with Rabobank able to mark her with 19-year-old débutante Kasia Niewiadoma, and Abbott tries to attack on Madonna del Ghisallo on the final day only for Rabo to block the road. Much fuss ensues about the lack of sporting fairness about this - however personally I do feel that some of this is tainted by a touch of bias and chauvinism for two reasons: one, that although I agree it was unsporting, Mara has always seemed, like Kristin Armstrong before her, to attract a lot more of the myopic "USA! USA!" fans than most of her compatriots, and I'm not really sure why (the same never seemed to happen with Evelyn Stevens or Amber Neben), and two, that even if Abbott had been able to drop Vos, I do not see any way shape or form in which she takes the minute and forty seconds she needed on PFP in that stage. Regardless, it was a bit of an unnecessary piece of unsporting behaviour that slightly soured an otherwise comprehensive victory.

Of course, Vos then entered into an annus horribilis as illnesses and injuries slowed her down; 2015 featured an overseas start in Slovenia, but with the year's Classic Climb(©) being Aprica, time gaps are pretty slim. Van der Breggen wins big in the ITT in Nebbiuno, and though Abbott does what she can on San Domenico di Varzo, swiftly becoming another piece of Giro Rosa lore, it is not enough. The balance of power shifts in 2016, however, from one Dutch team in orange to another, and Boels-Dolmans take over as the most important team. There is a three-way battle of two-tiered leadership duos, as Abbott and home favourite Longo Borghini take on van der Breggen and Niewiadoma take on Guarnier and Stevens. Abbott takes advantage of the Mortirolo to manoeuvre her way into the lead, although she loses almost all of her advantage again on the descent; this leads to the aforementioned Signora della Guardia stage of all manner of epic proportions, only for Guarnier to take the lead from her compatriot; Mara then compounds the disappointment by losing out on the podium in the ITT, a somewhat disappointing sign of what was to come as she signed her career off with disappointment (although again, those fans who had hoped Mara could have won had Annemiek not crashed are kidding themselves; Mara would never catch Annemiek on a descent, and it's highly unlikely she'd catch a world TT champ on the flat either) in the Olympic road race. 2017's race was the first 'southern' route in a while, and was also criticized by fans and riders alike, with a combination of unbearable 35-40º heat daily and a lack of truly selective stages, but with an early stage which reduced the pool of likely winners to 3, especially after Moolman-Pasio had to withdraw. Nevertheless, it did give Longo Borghini her chance to finally podium, having always had one off-day before that. However, Annemiek van Vleuten publicly eviscerated the organizers for not giving the women the chance to showcase what they could do in the real mountains, so the organizers duly responded by giving her the chance to put up or shut up.

Annemiek put up, dominating the MTT, winning on Monte Zoncolan, and taking the final stage for good measure, and becoming the oldest winner of the Giro d'Italia Femminile since Maria Canins, thirty years earlier, in the process.

Great! Now I know a bit more about what the race has historically been like, what about what it's like now? What's the route like?

This is the easy bit, I analysed it at length in the Women's Road Racing thread.

Yes, I'm not a fan of the (note: stage 1) TTT, especially in the most important stage race in the calendar, but it's also quite a tough one with a lot of up and down. But still: more TTT than ITT is just as much a sin here as it is in men's cycling.

Stage 2 is quite odd, a circular course around Viù, climbing the Colle del Lys from the easier side to start the stage (I believe this was the side climbed in the Froome stage in the 2018 Giro), then descending the steep side, a long flat loop around northern Piemonte before gradual ascending up towards the finish - probably not one for the pure sprinters, but probably not tough enough to be truly selective either. This profile shows you both the start (only significant climb of the stage) and the run-in (Viù is at the 15,5km mark, so the final 15km are the start of the stage, and the first 13km are the run-in - so the finish is after 2km at around 3,8%):

Stage 3 is essentially completely flat in the Po Floodplain before slowly ascending toward the climbs in the area of Oropa. The finish is at Piedicavallo, which is a valley town between Bielmonte and Oropa, where the plateau gradually turns uphill; there's around 600m altitude gain in the last 18km or so, with the last 2,2km at just over 5%, so this could open up some gaps just from the length, or if we're lucky give us something like Montenars from a few years ago. Stage 4 around Carate Brianza is lumpy on the profile but not too challenging, it's a traditional women's cycling rolling kind of stage. Potential banana skin, but unlikely to end in anything but a sprint or an unthreatening group bearing in mind the following days. And that there is one of those traditional Giro Rosa stupid length transfers following the stage.

Stage 5 is the Gavia MTF. Although don't underestimate the first climb, which is to Carona, a little-known side route to Aprica from Valtellina which really ought to get a bit of a run-out for men's cycling as it can lead in to Santa Cristina, to Valico di Trivigno and to other climbs (how's about Carona, then descending to Tirano rather than continuing to Aprica as the women do here, Santa Cristina, Monte Padrio, Mortirolo, Aprica? Or, perhaps even better, Mortirolo, Monte Padrio, Valico di Trivigno, then climbing to Aprica via this double climb?) - it's tough enough on its own:

It's been a tradition of the Giro Rosa in most of the last few years to have one stage taking in an icon of Italian cycling, which has been good for prestige and also for eyes (hey, Annemiek's time on Zoncolan would have placed her in the top 40 of the stage Froome won earlier in the year) on the race. 2010 was the Stelvio, 2011 and 2016 were the Mortirolo, 2014 was Madonna del Ghisallo, 2015 was Aprica. This one is all about the Gavia.

Well, and then the uphill ITT the following day, though Teglio is difficult to argue whether it should be considered an MTT or not. Certainly it's easier than last year's TT!

Stage 7 should be really good. It has a lot of small hills, but with a lot of tired legs from Gavia and Teglio, could be very fun as controlling it should be hard. It also uses one of my tricks from the Race Design Thread, as it passes through Sarcedo - home of the Cappellotto sisters, Alessandra (who was Italy's first female world champion) and Valeria (who won the Trofeo Binda and podiumed the Giro in the 90s but died of a tumour aged just 45) and Marostica - home of Tatiana Guderzo. The finish is uphill, but should be closely matched between versatile sprinter/rouleuses and puncheuses. Also liable to go to the breakaway.

Stage 8 is transitional - a couple of tough climbs in Forcella di Pala Barzana and Clauzetto (profile only as far as signpost for Pielungo) but over 30k to go from the summit, so shouldn't be totally decisive. Leave that for stage 9's Unipuerto summit finish at Altopiano di Montasio.

The final stage is better suited to the sprinters than previous years, but then they've been thrown almost no bones in the whole race this season. And there's still a small climb 15km from home in case somebody is close enough to the GC to make a desperation bid.
So who do I look out for?

Well, not every team has confirmed their entry list yet. And many people moving between teams means the dynamic changes year on year, of course. But there are obvious people to look out for, of course.

Annemiek van Vleuten

Now 36, it's easy to explain why Annemiek is a threat: she's the reigning champion. She's the world time trial champion. She won La Course both years on its mountainous routes. She is one of the best climbers in the péloton. She has some world class backup on her team. And she's Annemiek van freaking Vleuten. Trivial things like broken backs don't stop her winning races. She's won Strade Bianche and Liège solo thus far this year and demolished the field in the national TT championships.

Anna van der Breggen

While Annemiek can wear the rainbow in the TT, Anna will be in it the rest of the time. Winner of the 2015 and 2017 Giri, she was absent last year through choice but is keen to reclaim what she never lost. She was the strongest climber in La Course last year, but lost to Annemiek in the tensest showdown in years; she is the queen of Huy, won the stupendously tough Innsbruck Worlds and won the Tour of California too earlier this season.

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio

Now on the CCC team alongside a certain Miss Marianne Vos, Ash is one of the péloton's elite climbers and, given that even in her years of total domination Vos struggled when the climbs got to real high altitude or mythical proportions, almost certainly the team's leader. She was 2nd overall last year and has won races such as Emakumeen Bira by dominating in the mountains. Other than the nationals she has no wins yet this season, but she's most definitely a threat.

Elisa Longo Borghini

The local favourite, ELB will likely lead the new Trek team. She got her first win in two and a half years when she took the final stage and GC of Emakumeen Bira; she's a strong climber who has historically had one bad day a year at the Giro, usually on her local climb of San Domenico. She got that monkey off her back in 2017, and will be looking to take another maglia azzurra at the very least. The only thing that can stop her is if Deignan is in La Course 2017 form, and even then it's only 50-50, as the Giro is traditionally the one time a year that Deignan's aims get subordinated to teammates.

Amanda Spratt

Third in last year's Giro, Spratt benefits from van Vleuten in a similar way to that in which van Vleuten used to benefit from Vos. She's a more than capable climber in her own right - podiuming the Giro and winning the Emakumeen Bira in 2018 - and riders will have to be wary of giving her too much room even if it means pulling Annemiek along and giving her a free ride.

Kasia Niewiadoma

Kasia is easy to spot: if the road goes uphill, there will be a skinny little thing with a dark brown ponytail attacking with gusto. That's Kasia. Popular and combative, she's kind of stalled at around the middle of the top 10 at the Giro, but has won a number of other difficult short stage races and hilly classics. And as she possesses no sprint weapon and, in her own words "the way to win is always by attacking", she's a fun rider to follow too. And if she has her Ardennes form, then she's a serious threat to podium too.

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig

Possibly the best thing about the sport of cycling right now. "Cille" is taking her first year as a team leader, and she had a breakout time as a climber in last year's Giro followed by La Course (especially La Course). She'll be a bit more tightly marked this time, but she'll also have no domestique duties. And if the organizers know what's good for them, they'll have a veritable parade of interviewers ready with microphones at the stage finish. Cille + microphone = money.

Eider Merino

The featherweightiest of all the featherweight climbers, Eider Merino is barely 1m50 and weighs about as much as José Rujano's left buttock. She is one of those riders that can climb like an angel but really can't do anything else. But she really can climb, and therefore while she's unlikely to pose a threat to the victory herself, she could well prove an agitant or an essential collaborator for somebody.

Lucinda Brand

Although she's had a comparatively quiet early season by her standards, Brand managed a somewhat surprising 4th place on the GC last season, and won the queen stage in 2017. With Ruth Winder having moved on to Trek and Liane Lippert not starting, she has the best Giro finish of any Sunweb rider (surpassing Kirchmann's 8th) and will likely be their leader. She can also gain time in unexpected places thanks to her all-round skills.

Katie Hall

A late starter to the sport, Hall has remained in the US until committing to Europe this year, so this will be her first tilt at the Giro. Nevertheless, she slots into Guarnier's old role, and having won California in 2018 and podiumed this year after winning on Mount Baldy, and having dominated all the mountainous races in North America since Abbott's retirement, she has a lot of potential waiting to be unlocked for races like this. The only problem for her is that van der Breggen is her teammate, so she's in a similar boat to Spratt - however perhaps more likely to be underestimated as despite being the same age she has a less obvious body of work.

After this we move on to the sort of 'wildcard' entries - those who have the ability to be there but aren't necessarily frontline contenders, or who have been able to do it in the past but without consistency, or who are not proven at the Giro level. For example, Margarita Victoria "Mavi" García, who was 11th last year but who went very well in Yorkshire and Ardêche and has proven a very strong climber, but at 35 isn't necessarily going to be a superstar for the future per se. There are also those who have had incredible seasons thus far in climbing-centric races but aren't necessarily proven over the length of climb they will need to survive in the Giro Rosa - Alé Cipollini's Soraya Paladin and Parkhotel Valkenburg's Demi Vollering are two names that spring to mind here. Then there's the whole WNT team, really - their best shout on paper would be Ane Santesteban, who finished in the lower edges of the top 10 last year, in her perennial duel with Merino over who is the best Basque climber in the bunch, but the team also has Janneke Ensing, combative and unpredictable, and Erica Magnaldi, a late-starting rider who has been a strong climber for the last two seasons. They may also start Clara Koppenburg who went so well in the Tour of California, and who also won the Setmana Valenciana thanks to her eye-catching performance on Xorret del Catí. BePink also have longtime veteran Tatiana Guderzo, who won the World Championships a decade ago and has podiumed the Giro Rosa, however the last time she managed it was in 2013, so it's perhaps a bit far-fetched at this point in her career.

There are also a few others who are not yet confirmed whether they will take part but who, should they take the start, I would suggest keeping an eye out for. Omer Shapira was climbing really, really well in California and could be a useful helper for Niewiadoma, while Lucy Kennedy is another late starting rider who has gone very well in hilly and mountainous races when healthy; her problem is that she seems to attract crashes more than Geraint Thomas. And Cogeas-Mettler are liable to enter some suspicious 40-somethings. Katrine Aalerud finished top 10 on Zoncolan last year and I'd be surprised if BTC don't enter Hanna Nilsson who is a more than serviceable climber too, they could be outside shouts for a lower end top 10 too.

...and there's always that other rider called Marianne Vos, I hear she's reasonable...
Bravo LS, a truly amazing write-up, even by your standards. Stages 5, 6 and 9 then, lock them in. With the Giro starting a day before the Tour, that will mean that most of this interest comes before any interest in the Tour (stage 6). Those climbs look too long for Kasia, as you suggested, so Ashleigh vs. the Dutch.

Nice history lesson: The race was once as long as sixteen stages (thanks to ASO initiative lol), and there is plenty of clinic backdrop with the 'fairer' sex too. And that it was the men who followed in the women's footsteps on the Zoncolan; that's really interesting.
I noticed that in the DUtch RR that AVV drilled the last 10 to 15kms trying to find weaknesses in rivals, even though she had little chance in a sprint finish ( she finished 4th ) - It was a worry that AVB couldn't go the pace in the last 5kms which is a slight concern heading into the Giro Rosa - AVB can just about match AVV in the mountains, though the ITT of AVV is at another level - Add to that that MS have a stronger team in 2019 - Kennedy has ridden a full season, while Brown is an upgrade and will add to the TTT - All things being equal, AVV is an overwhelming favorite.
Little by little, we're getting the confirmed teams.

Movistar Team
Aude Biannic (FRA)
Sheyla Gutiérrez (ESP)
Małgorzata Jasińska (POL)
Eider Merino (ESP)
Paula Patiño (COL)
Gloria Rodríguez (ESP)

Surprisingly no spot for Lourdes Oyarbide, recently crowned Spanish champion who has had a great season so far with a win in Burgos and a GC podium in Thüringen. Mavi, however, is injured from the nationals, which is a bit of a shame for the team but will mean Merino is more or less unquestioned leader.

Audrey Cordon-Ragot (FRA)
Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA)
Anna Plichta (POL)
Tayler Wiles (USA)
Ruth Winder (USA)
Trixi Worrack (GER)

Again the route affects the team; Lizzie is resting, while Lotta is surplus to requirements with a lack of sprint stages; the team is therefore all out in support of Elisa. Tayler Wiles is a useful backup, having won a stage of Bira and also podiumed the California GC last year, while Winder won a stage in mountainous terrain last season too.

Janneke Ensing (NED)
Kathrin Hammes (GER)
Erica Magnaldi (ITA)
Ane Santesteban (ESP)
Lara Vieceli (ITA)
Kirsten Wild (NED)

No ride for Koppenburg then, but WNT are the first team to bring an out and out sprinter, with Wild, while Santesteban and Magnaldi offer strong climbing anyway. Hammes is on a career year, albeit largely thanks to that surprise victory in Thüringen after being in the day 1 escape.

Team Sunweb
Lucinda Brand
Pfeiffer Georgi
Leah Kirchmann
Juliette Labous
Floortje Mackaij
Julia Soek

A very young looking team, and no Rivera either, so Sunweb are all in for Brand - though Kirchmann is solid enough in the climbs and has top 10ed the Giro before, being 8th in 2016 and winning the prologue. Surprisingly no Liane Lippert (which may also come as a relief to Niewiadoma, who was full of praise for the young Swabian in the article on the front page), while Pfeiffer Georgi is making her Giro debut at just 18 years of age, a bit surprising for a team as big as Sunweb. She's done precious few WWT races. Resting Rivera, Lippert AND Mathiesen suggests maybe they have some designs elsewhere while the big names are fighting over the Giro?

Jeanne Korevaar (NED)
Marta Lach (POL)
Riejanne Markus (NED)
Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA)
Pauliena Rooijakkers (NED)
Marianne Vos (NED)

Pretty much as expected, and full strength especially taking that horror crash in the Women's Tour into account. Moolman-Pasio likely to be leader, with Vos as domestique de luxe and stagehuntress extraordinaire. Rooijakkers is a capable climber, Lach and Markus have won some stages at .1 races, and Korevaar is a favoured domestique for Vos, so it's a strong team.

Grace Brown (AUS)
Lucy Kennedy (AUS)
Sarah Roy (AUS)
Amanda Spratt (AUS)
Moniek Tenniglo (NED)
Annemiek van Vleuten (NED)

Again, as expected, and one of the strongest teams on paper. I guess Roy and Tenniglo can duel over residual sprinting duties after doing their job on the flat; Spratt and van Vleuten are the obvious 1-2 punch with Kennedy and Brown to handle the rest. Kennedy is also a tertiary outside threat to a lot of people as long as she stays upright.

Sandra Alonso (ESP)
Nicole d'Agostin (ITA)
Natalie Grinczer (GBR)
Lucía González (ESP)
Enara López (ESP)
Cristina Martínez (ESP)

Probably the smallest team in the race, this Spanish team has really been harmed by the success of Movistar in hoovering up the biggest names. D'Agostin might be interesting to watch though - she was 2nd to Merino at the Subida a Gorla, on the Copa España, just 25" down on a MTF at Elosua, and she's only 20. Bespectacled 23-year-old Cristina Martínez finished 10th in Emakumeen Bira too.
Image stolen shamelessly from Saul Miguel, who did commentary and interviews at Emakumeen Bira and is one of the most reliable sources on women's cycling - his twitter handle is in the bottom right for those of you who may be on Twitter but don't already follow him.

Today, Slovak newspaper Pravda published an interview with Lenka Litvinova Ilavska the 1993 winner of Giro d'Italia Femminile.

Below there is a (slightly modified) google translate of the beginning of the article.

Q:You were Sagan in a skirt a quarter of a century ago ...

A:I never wore a skirt too much… (laughs). I only had it at graduation ceremonies and as part of the 1996 OH costume. But

the comparison flatters me. I had both performance and results, I won the 16 World Cup races and finished 105 times in

third place.

Q:Do you consider Gira's triumph to be the top of your career?

A:It was the most popular, well-known achievement, but maybe I also won harder races. I remember some in Australia,

incredibly challenging. It was February, we went to the other end of the world from winter training in the Tatras. The

races were hot, heavy hills were not acclimatized. We returned home to cross-country skis again.

Q:But even Giro was extremely difficult…

A:But It suited me. In Italy, I was thriving, I loved it. Not only did I win the Giro 1993, but a year later I was

fourth, in one of the other years sixth … But I also appreciate the performance of the Tour de France, where I ended up

tenth overall.

Q:You won the Giro when you were twenty-one. Do you remember how your triumph was born?

A:We spurt on the KOM premium. In front of us was Italian champion Michele Fanini, who died in a car accident as 21 year

old. When I went through the premium, I looked around and there was no one behind me. Come on, I told myself and started

down the hill. I was afraid of the downhill, I was weak in them. But I felt a chance and chose to chase Michele. I caught

her. Alena Barillová and Jara Kománková did a big job at the back, they didn't let anyone out of the group.

Q:Was that the stage you won in a successful year?

A:Yes, five kilometers before the finish, which was in San Marino, was another hill, I distanced the Italian. I won a

stage with a 20-second lead. That was the basis of the overall triumph.
OK, now for some bad news: the Gavia is still borderline impassable, and now appears to be out. The replacement MTF is Torre di Fraele. It's far less legendary and the altitude will be much less impactful, but it is still a reasonable enough final climb, given that there's also the Montasio stage to come. 9km at around 7%, with 2km of dirt roads to the finish at Lago Cancano.


Libertine Seguros said:
OK, now for some bad news: the Gavia is still borderline impassable, and now appears to be out. The replacement MTF is Torre di Fraele. It's far less legendary and the altitude will be much less impactful, but it is still a reasonable enough final climb, given that there's also the Montasio stage to come. 9km at around 7%, with 2km of dirt roads to the finish at Lago Cancano.

I was disappointed to see that the Gavia was out, but this replacement looks good; a solid climb at decent altitude, with a slight difference of dirt roads on a plateau to finish.

Still beats PDBF :D
Re: Re:

gregrowlerson said:
Libertine Seguros said:
OK, now for some bad news: the Gavia is still borderline impassable, and now appears to be out. The replacement MTF is Torre di Fraele. It's far less legendary and the altitude will be much less impactful, but it is still a reasonable enough final climb, given that there's also the Montasio stage to come. 9km at around 7%, with 2km of dirt roads to the finish at Lago Cancano.

I was disappointed to see that the Gavia was out, but this replacement looks good; a solid climb at decent altitude, with a slight difference of dirt roads on a plateau to finish.

Still beats PDBF :D
Torri di Fraele after Gavia or the Stelvio from Prato would be one hell of a combination.
Chapeau Canyon stage 1 winners - mechanicals do throw a spanner in the works (sorry bad pun :))
Servetto-Piumate-Beltrami TSA were twice struck by bad luck. The six-woman team lost two riders before the halfway mark, leaving them with only the necessary four to finish. A mechanical for one of the riders then forced the team to wait, seeing them lose further time,
Looks like some interesting racing to come - when is the Gavia passable? For one week in August only? :D
The Gavia had been made passable, only for the colossal weight of the snowmelt to saturate the land and lead to a landslide in the last week or two that has made the road dangerously unstable.

Considering how much I have railed against the TTT over the years, the format seems to be trying to appease me, or apologise to me for the number of races it has ruined, by throwing out some unexpected results which are to the benefit of favourite riders of mine. I think that was a result of the difficulty, because if you look at the groups that finished the race with their teams at the line, you might have suspected some of those dropped would ordinarily be better suited to being part of the TTT unit than those who made it to the line (Tiffany Cromwell, Amy Pieters, Sarah Roy, Pernille Mathiesen, Sheyla Gutiérrez all among late arrivals, although obviously crashes and mechanicals have to be accounted for), while a lot of the climbers stayed with their team units throughout even if not team leaders (e.g. Omer Shapira, Elise Chabbey, Pauliena Rooijakkers). The notable exception is Nikola Nosková who lost a fair chunk of time.

Either way, the outcome that I had feared - a significant gap in favour of Boels and Mitchelton leaving Annemiek and Anna already with an established advantage - failed to transpire. It's not that I have anything against watching a duel between the two, but because they are the favourites, I am more hopeful for a multi-faceted GC battle with them having a deficit to make up and more different riders in the fight. Now, for example, rather than seeing Annemiek answer Moolman-Pasio's attacks repeatedly, it's Ash that has the stronger GC position and Annemiek will need to be the aggressor, which is a situation we see far less frequently.

And also, if you look at the team leaders, this puts Kasia Niewiadoma and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig in the strongest positions, and of course I cannot be against that. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I yet again underrated the Bigla unit, they keep surprising people in TTTs by putting together results stronger than the sum of their parts, podiuming Vårgårda and so on, up until such point as it really ought not to be a surprise anymore; similarly Canyon shares its lineage with the old Specialized-Lululemon team which was so strong in the TTT a few years ago so while they had fallen away from that kind of level, they do know how to drill a strong team time trial unit, and with Hannah Barnes becoming ever more adaptable and durable, and Amialiusik showing a bit more of her real level after an injury-affected couple of years, they do have a pretty good team here all told.

Pleasingly the gap between Annemiek and Anna is only a few seconds, and Longo Borghini is at around the same time so the 2017 podium are all starting from positions of relative parity which would be similar to where you might expect them after a prologue, but both are around a minute back from Kasia. However, we do need to consider whether the difficulty of the TTT is a bad thing given we already have riders who would at least be hoping to be competitive with deficits approaching 3 minutes (Paladin +2'36" with Alé, Vollering +2'53" with Parkhotel) - that's all well and good if, like Nosková or Ratto you got dropped by your TTT unit, but those girls finished with the team. Merino losing 1'41" with her Movistar team is perhaps less surprising - the perennial problem for some TTTs is being bound by the speed of your leader, and Eider is never going to be somebody who is strong against the clock. The teams down at the back are the same ones who would be down the back ordinarily or in an ITT, even allowing for some bad luck like the Servetto team had - the smaller teams in the race, some of the national calendar Italian teams, Bizkaia-Durango and Cogeas bearing in mind the latter do not have Zabelinskaya, Pitel OR Neben in their Giro team (not that many will miss them, I'm sure). The absence of all three is somewhat unusual especially for races of this kind of profile, so possibly speaks to either them, like Sunweb, wanting to fill their boots in coterminous races while most people's leaders are at the Giro, or some kind of deal like when men's CCC (the old one, the Pro Conti one from Poland, not the ex-BMC team) got the Giro invite but weren't allowed to bring Rebellin. In Cogeas' place, Servetto have been the ones to dig under rocks to find riders you'd forgotten were still active, bringing Evgeniya Vysotska, now 43. She was a pretty good climber in her time, and can still do a reasonable job, but she's been drifting backward in the results sheet for a few years, finishing 13th in 2016 and 20th last year, and tends to race a very selective calendar. The other thing that I noticed about Servetto was that she's back... and better than ever... well, maybe not the last bit. But it's nice to see Fran back at least. She will almost certainly go down at this point as a complete one-hit wonder who never delivered on that early promise, but it's good for her to at least be riding and enjoying herself. She wasn't quite able to recreate that 2013 success in ensuing years but she was at least pretty competitive in 2014-15, but after a dismal start to 2016 and then a sudden pre-Giro withdrawal from the sport entirely due to personal reasons, she's only popped up occasionally; she took a part-time ride in 2017, rejoined her old Top Girls team for 2018 but DNFed her first race in February and broke her leg doing cyclocross, and now returns to the sport with the Giro d'Italia of all things, which seems somewhat optimistic, but we shall see. I'd love for the 'old' Fran Cauz to re-emerge in time, but it seems like it'll be a slow process after she was dropped early on in the TTT.

Onto today, we have the stage around Viù with the gradual uphill finish - somewhere between the sprinters and puncheuses. Some interesting racing in prospect because obviously we have some more sizable gaps than we might have imagined, and some teams we might have thought would be controlling the race - Trek, Boels - actually needing their leaders to make up some time. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio will also be highly motivated, as the South African's husband's family originates from a town near Viù that they pass through, so she tweeted that the Pasio family will be on the roadside for her. And of the GC candidates, she is perhaps the one that will enjoy a finish like this most, as she does have a reasonable sprint weapon, which the likes of Niewiadoma, Longo Borghini and Ludwig do not have, so bonus seconds could come into play too. I have a sneaking suspicion we might see somebody like Lucinda Brand take this though - Sunweb are a little way behind Trek, Boels and Mitchelton and with Lippert and Rivera not here, Brand would seem to have sole leadership. She likes this kind of uphill-but-not-really-uphill kind of finish and this is the kind of terrain that she favours - although she would probably like a bit more of a descent to lead into it, as she's an absolute demon descender and could perhaps gain a little bit of time that way.

The interesting thing is likely to now be Canyon defending, and how they choose to do it. Kasia had said in the pre-race article about the favourites on the main page that she has come to the realization that we've discussed before, that she is more one for the medium length kind of mountains, she said Ardennes-wise, but she's been strong over sort of País Vasco/Lombardia type climbs too in the past (e.g. when she won Emakumeen Bira and the Giro del Trentino), and has suffered more on the real long passes - but does the replacement of Gavia with Torre di Fraele thus make this more feasible for her, does she want to try to defend throughout (or at least the team do so, as if they keep the bunch together today, obviously countback comes into it and she may therefore pass the jersey to a teammate, most likely Barnes) by controlling the race, or try to call other teams' bluff by allowing some secondary contenders into the mix?

Non-serious question: Is there an evil, bike-race hating spirit haunting Passo Gavia?


Team Sunweb
Lucinda Brand
Pfeiffer Georgi
Leah Kirchmann
Juliette Labous
Floortje Mackaij
Julia Soek
And you probably noticed already, but Georgi got sick before the start, and was replaced by Mathiesen.
Stage 2 profile:

Sofie de Vuyst will wear green tomorrow, winning the GPM at the summit. Romy Kasper and Kelly van den Steen have built up an advantage on the descent and serve as the break of the day, with an advantage of over two minutes.
So it looks like we have a slight uphill to the line of around 1km @ 5% in Viù, and that has enabled a somewhat unusual sprint in terms of the names up there. Firstly, of course, there are only a few out and out sprinters in the field, and secondly, it's the kind of finish that favours a lighter sprinter, one whose strength is more about acceleration than top end power. As such, the Kirsten Wilds of this world were not contesting the win, and with bonus seconds and yesterday's TTT gaps in mind, a lot of GC contenders had an interest in trying to make the finish hard and try to win some seconds back.

There were some gaps, and there was a - very - obvious winner, and strangely enough not somebody I mentioned in the pre-stage discussion. Mainly because I'm an idiot, but partly because mentioning her as a stage contender is beyond obvious anyway. That woman is, of course, Marianne Vos. The three-time former winner of the race launched away in the last kilometre to win the sprint ahead of defending champion Annemiek van Vleuten and my pre-stage tip, Lucinda Brand, who in turn got a bit of a gap on the rest of the sprint, so we'll have to see what time gaps are granted for the GC, as Annemiek starts the work to draw closer to the head of the field. A lot of key names are up there, and also crucially it seems that Niewiadoma was the top finisher for Canyon-SRAM so will continue in the maglia rosa. Soraya Paladin, who was always going to be a useful wildcard for a stage like this, finished 5th, which earned her stage honours in the all-important "best non-Dutch rider" classification.

Stage result:
1 Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) NED 2'15'56
2 Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) NED +st
3 Lucinda Brand (Sunweb) NED +st
4 Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) NED +st
5 Soraya Paladin (Alé-Cipollini) ITA +st
6 Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +st
7 Ane Santesteban González (WNT-Rotor) ESP +st
8 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) POL +st
9 Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) ITA +st
10 Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg) NED +st

It was originally reported that Vollering was 8th and Magnaldi 10th, so not sure if that was just mistaking the pink Valkenburg jersey for the maglia rosa or vice versa, or an issue with Kasia's transponder. It seems that officially no time gaps have been awarded at the front down to 18th place, which from the stills of the finish seems a bit harsh on Marianne, but then the same could have been said on at least two occasions at the Women's Tour. Magnaldi, Moolman-Pasio, Cille and Guderzo are therefore happily housed on no time loss, despite being outside the top 10. Juliette Labous inherits the maglia bianca, as Mikayla Harvey of Bigla, who had been wearing the jersey, lost a minute.

Of riders who finished behind the split, Eider Merino is the first of note - in fact she's the one that left the split in front of her, and loses 12 seconds as a result. Katie Hall, Wiles, Ensing, Jasinska, Kennedy, Gillow, Nosková and Shapira were all in this group also, with Amialiusik tailing a few seconds off it along with Hanna Nilsson. Just under 50 finished within the minute in a selective-ish sprint stage, you had riders like Cromwell, Markus, Mackaij and Barnes at just over a minute, and a largish group at just under two minutes. There were quite a few riders who shipped 8 minutes and it's hard to tell if some of them are struggling for form, may have had incidents or may just be sandbagging if they have no aims of their own - Chantal Blaak, for example, Lizzie Banks, Pauliena Rooijakkers, Sarah Roy and Alexis Ryan, for example. There's also a couple like Trixi Worrack and Ana Maria Covrig, who we know are likely to be getting into breaks in the second half of the race. Perhaps most notable was 16 minutes of time lost by Katrine Aalerud; having been top 10 on the Zoncolan last year, this suggests she may have had a fall or been sick or something. Fran Cauz was 19 minutes back, while Movistar have already reported that Gloria Rodríguez crashed heavily on the descent of the Colle del Lis, and so she came in last of all along with teammate Sheyla Gutiérrez who had problems of her own yesterday and was tasked with riding with her to ensure they stayed inside the time cut.

This leaves the GC as follows:
1 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) POL 2'47'37
2 Omer Shapira (Canyon-SRAM) ISR +12"
3 Alena Amialiusik (Canyon-SRAM) BLR +19"
4 Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Bigla) DEN +24"
5 Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) NED +35"
6 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (CCC-Liv) RSA +45"
7 Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) NED +47"
8 Leah Thomas (Bigla) USA +47"
9 Elise Chabbey (Bigla) SUI +47"
10 Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) AUS +53"
Re-watching it, Vos in Viù should be the women's equivalent of Valverde in Plumelec in 2008. Just so authoritative.

Today's stage could potentially be more of the same, with a flat stage around the Po floodplain ending with a gradual uphill rise into the foothills near Oropa. Seems suitable to Marianne once more.

yaco said:
I suspect there may be some time gaps in GC at the end of today's stage - I suspect if one or two teams drill the final climb then it will put some in trouble.
Do you mean if they "put the hammer down!"? :D

Seems like an interesting enough start to the race. As LS said, the TTT doesn't seem to have hurt the GC battle overall.
Bujak trying to solo this one, she has 90 seconds on the bunch. A bit surprised, but she's been more intent on breakaways this season than previously. I thought this finish might have been one she'd like, actually.

Edit: actually, her move is being neutralized. Tayler Wiles is now giving it a go with 10km remaining trying to replicate her success from the Emakumeen Bira.

Very interesting finale. A couple of ramps steeper than anticipated, and it's pretty narrow. There'll be some serious fighting for position on the smoother tracks, like racing in the Plattenwege of the old Eastern bloc races. I thought the finish would be at the car park at Piazza Polivalente, but evidently not, the diversion is there but the riders are finishing in the old town.




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