The longest-running stage race on the calendar for the female peloton, the Giro d’Italia Donne (formerly known as the Giro Rosa) will take place from the 30th of June to the 10th of July 2022. Later than many teams hoped, the route and information for this year’s edition have finally been released, and if the promises made by the race organisers PMG Sport are true, it was an announcement worth waiting for.
The race will begin in Sardinia, an island in the heart of the mediterranean sea, with a 4.7km individual time trial. The two following stages skirt along the east coast, then the riders will have a rest day as they transfer to the mainland for the fourth stage of the race in Emilia Romagna. From then, the route will travel through Lombardy before the riders hit the Alps, then the Dolomites, with the Cima Coppi (highest point of the race) in this year’s route being the Passo Daone at 1,291m. With the general classification likely sewn up by this point, the race will finish in Padua with a stage for the sprinters.
Race winner Anna van der Breggen at the Giro Donne 2021 (Image: Sean Hardy)
While the organisers have created a spectacular route that caters for riders with a range of skillsets, the most exciting part of the announcement for those of us watching at home is PMG Sports’ commitment to two hours of live TV coverage per stage. In 2021, live pictures of the race were sporadic – we saw 10km of some stages and 30km of others, and the organisers failed to show any of the race’s final Queen Stage. Here’s hoping that, with the race’s return to WorldTour level in 2022, the promise of live coverage can be fulfilled.
Further increasing the race’s professionalism, PMG Sports announced that the Giro d’Italia Donne will have a total prize pool of €250,000, of which €50,000 will go to the overall winner of the race. This is five times the amount that was allocated for the event in 2021 and matches the prize money offerings from the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift this summer.
In last year’s event, Anna van der Breggen took the GC lead early on in the race and held it to the finish, but the Dutch rider won’t be starting this year after retiring at the end of 2021. So who will take on the title of new Giro d’Italia Donne champion?
The Giro Donne 2021 (Image: Sean Hardy)
A flat individual time trial kicks things off in the Giro d’Italia Donne. The riders will tackle a 4.7km course in Sardinia’s capital of Cagliari – which will decide the race’s first wearer of the pink jersey.
Learning from last year’s mistakes when an early mountain stage mostly decided the general classification results before it had really begun, stage two doesn’t present the riders with too many challenges. A rolling 117.3km stage from Villasimius to Tortolì will likely suit the breakaway specialists or puncheurs. Depending on the way it's raced, we could see a reduced bunch sprint for the line.
This stage is the first opportunity the pure sprinters have to take a win in the Giro d’Italia Donne 2022. The route heads along the coastline from the town of Dorgali and finishes in Olbia after the riders have covered 112.7km.
After a rest day which allows the riders to transfer back to the continent, the race continues in Emilia Romagna with a rolling stage. The route starts and ends in the town of Cesena, with three GPM (Gran Premio della Montagna) sprints along the 120.9km course.
Stage 5A second chance for the sprinters comes on stage 5, with a 123.4km route from Carpi to Reggio Emilia. It’s not a pan-flat day though, with the route touching the hills on the slopes of the Apennines, meaning the sprinter’s teams will need to be vigilant for any dangerous breakaways.The Giro Donne 2021 (Image: Sean Hardy)
As we pass the halfway point in the race, the Giro d’Italia Donne travels through the Lombardy region in the 6th and 7th stages, the first of which is a rolling stage of 114.7km. The riders begin on the shore of Lake Iseo in Sarnico and then go through Bergamo Alta before arriving in the city centre for the stage finish.
The most challenging point of the race so far comes in stage 7. It’s a 113.2km route that begins in Prevalle at an altitude of 190m. The riders will then enter the city of Brescia and climb up the Alps to the Passo del Maniva, which is over 1,600 metres above sea level. We will likely see the strongest climbers come to the fore here.
Following the tough parcours of stage 7, the riders have a slightly shorter stage the next day, taking on a 92.2km route in the province of Trento. The day’s rolling profile takes riders up the Adige river, with the route starting in the town of Roverto and finishing in Aldeno.
If it’s not already sewn up by this point, stage 9 could be the one that decides the overall winner of the Giro Donne in 2022. The route begins in San Michele all’Adige, on the eastern slopes of the Brenta Dolomites and covers a tough 112.8 km of climbing. The stage will pass this year’s Cima Coppi, Passo Daone at 1,291 metres before finishing in San Lorenzo Dorsino.
After a gruelling ten days of racing, the grand finale of the Giro d’Italia Donne will take place in Veneto. This stage is one for the sprinters, covering 90.8km from Abano Terme and finishing in Padua. The route travels through the Euganean Hills before reaching the finish line where the final pink jersey of the race will be awarded to the overall winner.
As always, the Giro d’Italia Donne is a race well-suited to the strongest climbers in the women’s peloton. It only takes a glance at last year’s results, where Team SD Worx’s climbing contingent of Anna van der Breggen, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Demi Vollering took a clean sweep of the podium, to see this event favours mountain goats.Demi Vollering at the Giro Donne 2021 (Image: Sean Hardy)
With the Giro’s position in the calendar – it finishes just 14 days before the Tour de France Femmes begins – it may be that riders such as Vollering only opt to complete one of the major Tours. So we will have to wait and see the official start list to understand who will be aiming to defend Van der Breggen’s title for SD Worx. If Vollering and Moolman-Pasio choose to start the race, they will head in as big favourites. If not, the Dutch squad may rely on their younger riders such as Niamh Fisher-Black (winner of the young rider’s classification in the WorldTour in 2021) and Anna Shackley to step up to the challenge.
Elisa Longo-Borghini at the Giro Donne 2021 (Image: Sean Hardy)
Trek-Segafredo has already confirmed that the home favourite of Elisa Longo-Borghini will start the Giro in 2022. The Italian champion will be doing the Giro-Tour double, attempting to ride both events this season. She’s well suited to the hilly terrain of the Giro Donne and will hope to perform in her home country, as will the World Champion and the team’s sprinter, Elisa Balsamo. Longo-Borghini will be supported by American rider Leah Thomas who finished 16th in the general classification of the Giro last year.
The American team aren’t the only outfit sending riders to both major tours this year. FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope confirmed in an early season press conference that its riders Cecile Uttrup Ludwig, Grace Brown, Marta Cavalli and Évita Muzic will likely attempt both races. Uttrup Ludwig and Cavalli are strong contenders for the overall win, with the latter finishing 6th in the race last year.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Image: Getty)
Annemiek van Vleuten of Movistar skipped the Giro d’Italia Donne last year to focus on preparation for the Olympic Games, but she’ll be back in 2022 and goes into the race as the hot favourite. It will be interesting to see who can hang on to the Dutch woman in the high mountains, and other teams will be forced to think hard about how to beat her. With the Movistar squad slightly weaker when it comes to climbing than teams such as SD Worx, it could be a case of trying to outnumber Van Vleuten in the mountains.
Other major Women’s WorldTour teams are yet to confirm who will lead them into the Giro d’Italia Donne 2022, so we can only take an educated guess on the riders who will be competing. For Canyon//SRAM racing, Kasia Niewiadoma could be the protected rider. The 27-year-old finished second in the Giro in 2020 and is well-suited to the mountainous terrain of the race. Her teammate Mikayla Harvey won the youth classification in 2020 too, so the two riders could be a force to be reckoned with in the hills.Marianne Vos at the Giro Donne 2021 (Image: Sean Hardy)
Team Jumbo-Visma could bring Marianne Vos, who will likely try to add to her 30 Giro Donne stage wins rather than targeting the overall classification. She could have strong support in the form of Riejanne Markus and Anna Henderson. Juliette Labous of DSM could be the Dutch team's best bet for the overall, but the French rider may target the Tour later in the month instead. The team's rider Liane Lippert could also contest both the overall and stage wins.
Juliette Labous at the Giro Donne 2021 (Image: Sean Hardy)
Mavi Garcia of UAE Team ADQ excels in the mountains and will be looking for a strong finishing position in the general classification. The team’s Italian sprinter, Marta Bastianelli, will also be the big favourite for the flat, fast stages. Experienced climber Amanda Spratt of Team BikeExchange-Jayco will also want to make herself known in the hillier stages.
As an outside bet, Joscelin Lowden of Team Uno-X could do well in the Giro d’Italia Donne this year. The British rider can climb impressively and will also be suited to the opening individual time trial. Italian team Valcar Travel and Service will hope to get stage wins in front of a home crowd, and this could be with their sprinter Chiara Consonni.
It’s hard to look past Annemiek van Vleuten for the overall general classification win at this year’s Giro d’Italia Donne. The Olympic ITT champion has shown imperious form so far this season, winning Omloop het Nieuwsblad and finishing second in Strade Bianche. While SD Worx will do their best to challenge the Movistar rider for the win, we can’t see how the Dutch team will drop Van Vleuten in the mountains.
Cover image: Sean Hardy