It’s been a tumultuous few weeks in the run-up to this year’s Giro Donne, and at the time of writing, it looks as though the race will go ahead – but even this has been very much in doubt as recently as last week.
The turbulence behind the scenes stems from a dispute between current organisers Starlight and the Italian Federation, seemingly hinging on broadcasting costs. It’s not the first time there have been issues at the Italian Grand Tour, with it being downgraded from WWT status for a couple of editions following issues with televising the race in 2020. All being well with this year’s edition, the race should pass into the comparatively more capable hands of RCS, organisers of the men’s equivalent, as of 2024.
This year, the race features a full set of World Tour teams plus selected continental teams, and will take place over the space of ten days, with nine stages plus a rest day. The defending champion is Annemiek van Vleuten. The Dutch rider will attempt to defend her title, one she has won three times in her glittering career, at the final time of asking.
The race takes place from Friday 30th June to Sunday 9th July.
Stage 1 – Chianciano – Chianciano – Friday 30th June (4.4km, ITT)
A short time trial will kick off proceedings. Taking place within the region of Siena, the short course will not offer much advantage in terms of timings on the general classification, but will enable a strong time trialist to take the first maglia rosa.
Stage 2 – Bagno a Ripoli – Marradi, Saturday 1st July (102.1km, Hilly)
Remaining within Tuscany, the first full road stage will begin in Bagno a Ripoli, just east of the city of Florence, before travelling north, passing over the category 2 Passo della Colla as it heads to Marradi. The climb is severe enough to offer early opportunities to the climbers to contest the QOM jersey, as well as to potentially launch attacks that may split the bunch and make an early difference on general classification.
Stage 3 – Formigine – Modena, Sunday 2nd July (118.2km, Flat)
Heading north into the Emilia-Romagna region, stage 3 will take place around the city of Modena. A flat stage, there is just one categorised climb, the category 3 Villa Bianca-Marano, so the day is likely to end in a bunch sprint, unless a determined breakaway is able to stay away.
Stage 4 – Fidenza – Borgo Val di Taro, Monday 3rd July (134km, Flat)
A second stage within the Emilia-Romagna region, stage 4 is also a flat stage, and may present a second consecutive opportunity for the sprinters. It is the longest stage of this year’s race.
Stage 5 – Salassa – Ceres, Tuesday 4th July (103.3km, Hilly)
The race heads north and west towards the mountains for the most stringent challenge of the Giro Donne so far, on stage 5. The first climb of the day is the Passo del Lupo, a category 1 test that marks the Cima Coppi (the highest point of ascent) of the race. It will surely split the bunch and from there the race will be on, with two further climbs – both category 3 – at Vietti and Sant’Ignazio, before the riders arrive in Ceres. This stage is likely to shake up the general classification once again.
Stage 6 – Canelli – Canelli, Wednesday 5th July (104.4km, Hilly)
Remaining within the Piedmont region, stage 6 features a hilly circuit beginning and ending in the town of Canelli, and with three category 3 ascents en route it could be a day for the breakaway, unless the sprinters’ teams are able to take control of the race.
Stage 7 – Albenga – Alassio, Thursday 6th July (109.1km, Hilly)
Heading to the far north-west of Italy and enjoying the views along the Ligurian coast, stage 7 takes the pressure up a notch as the riders will face a series of climbs and a summit finish, heading into the rest day.
There are four categorised climbs altogether on a day that could see the peloton shatter and the GC battle really spring into life. First up a category 3, the Passo del Ginestro, followed by two category 2 ascents in Vioneto and Salita, and finally the first summit finish of the race into Alassio (category 3).
Rest day – Friday 7th July
Stage 8 – Nuoro – Sassari – Saturday 8th July (125.7km, Flat)
Following a rest day in which the race transitions to the island of Sardinia, the final weekend of the Giro Donne kicks off in Nuoro. It’s a flat stage with just one categorised climb at Romana-Ittiri (category 3), which should leave the way clear for the sprinters to have one last shot at a stage win.
Stage 9 – Sassari – Olbia – Sunday 9th July (126.8km, Hilly)
The final test of the Giro Donne and the day that will see the 2023 overall winner crowned, the day begins in the town of Sassari, where the previous day’s stage concluded, so the riders should be well-rested ahead of a day that includes a category 1 ascent at Osilo, and a category 3 climb on the way to the final finish line in Olbia.
Riders to Watch
There’s no doubt that despite the dominance of SD Worx, all eyes will be on defending champion Annemiek van Vleuten at this year’s Giro Donne. Though her compatriot Demi Vollering has proven to be tricky to beat so far this season, the veteran World champion knows how to peak for big occasions, and she will be determined to go out on top.
While at the time of writing, some line-ups for the race have yet to be confirmed, there’s no denying that whoever SD Worx bring to Italy, they will be the ones to watch. By far the most winning team of the season so far, the other teams will have to find innovative solutions if they hope to prevent another rout from the Dutch outfit. Demi Vollering will almost certainly lead the team, and with plenty of options for support, including an in-form Marlen Reusser, they will be a formidable force.
Lidl Trek bring a team packed with potential winners. In Elisa Longo Borghini and Lizzie Deignan they have a great deal of experience, and in Gaia Realini, a raw young talent who has proven she has what it takes to mix it with the best, and will be keen to show herself at her home race, in what will be her third appearance there.
Other big names to look out for at the race include Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) who has won a record 32 stages of the Giro and Mavi Garcia (Liv Racing TeqFind), who finished third in last year’s edition of the race.
Riders to watch (GC)
5-stars Demi Vollering
4-stars Annemiek van Vleuten
3-stars Gaia Realini
2-stars Marlen Reusser
1-star Elisa Longo Borghini
When – Saturday 17 – Tuesday 20 June
Where – Italy
What – 9-day Grand Tour
TV Coverage: Eurosport, GCN