Giro d’Italia Donne 2021: Route, predictions and contenders

New management, a return to 10 stages, and a promise of live coverage, is this a new leaf for the Giro Rosa — now the Giro d'Italia Donne?

Like a restaurant after receiving a one-star hygiene rating, the Giro Rosa is under new management. The race, which this year runs from Friday 2nd July to Sunday 11th July, was demoted from Women’s World Tour status last season due to a failure to provide live coverage and hopes were low for the future of the event.

Then, earlier this year, a website emerged titled ‘Giro d’Italia Donne’ which at one stage featured a digital booklet detailing how the new organisers, PMG Sport/Starlight, had grand ambitions for the race — including, returning to WWT status and live coverage. 

Five things to expect from the Giro d'Italia Donne

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Very little was revealed or made official until today, when the route was revealed in a live video presentation by the new organisers which detailed the start/finish towns of each stage as well as distance and key climbs. Part of the presentation and subsequent press release also reconfirmed the organisers’ commitment to live coverage:

“This year, for the first time in the history of the competition, the last kilometers of each stage and the finish line will be broadcast live at around 3 pm on PMG Sport's streaming platforms and social channels,” said a press release.  

The Giro d’Italia Donne 2021 route

So, what’s in store for the riders this year? 

Stage one: TTT Fossano - Cuneo 26.7km 

For the fifth year in a row the race will begin with a team time trial. Last year, Trek-Segafredo took the win ahead of Boels-Dolmans and Mitchelton-Scott and any team with a GC leader will need to get up there early to avoid any time gaps that might make all the difference later on. 

Stage two: Boves - Prato Nevoso 100km 

There’s no easing into this race. Stage two goes straight to the hills with a finish at the Prato Nevoso ski resort at 1,470m. GC riders will need to be on high alert all day, and anyone who might have lost time in the TTT will be looking to attack. 

Stage three: Casale Monferrato - Ovada 135km 

After traversing the hilly wine regions of Pidmonte, the Giro Rosa will finish in Ovada for the first time since 2018. This stage is backloaded with climbing but if punchier riders get through it might be their day.  

Stage four: Formazza - Cascate del Toce ITT 11 Km 

The final foray in Piedmont for the race is an individual uphill time trial finishing atop the climb to the Cascate del Toce waterfall which will also be the Cima Coppi of this year’s race at 1,714m. The actual finish line is in Riale — the highest town in Piedmont after the riders have climbed over 500m in just 11km. 

Stage five: Milano - Carugate 120km 

New region time as the race enters Lombardy for a flat stage where the sprinters will be breathing a sigh of relief after the previous day’s mountain time trial. Starting in Milan’s Piazza Affari and parading around the city to Duomo, Della Scala, San Babila and Loreto before heading to the northeastern outskirts of the capital. The race then covers four circuits of 26km before finishing in Carugate. 

 

Stage six: Colico - Colico 155km 

The longest stage of the race is one big 155km lap around Lake Como that — despite starting and finishing in the same town — frustratingly does not join up to cover the entire circumference. It’s a long and hilly day out that looks like a day for the rouleurs — or even a breakaway. 

Stage seven: Soprazzocco di Gavardo - Puegnago del Garda 109.6km 

You wait ages for a punchy stage with a lake and then two come along at once — this time it’s Lake Garda that the race heads towards (but not around, this time) where they complete five laps of a finishing circuit. 

Stage eight: San Vendemiano - Mortegliano 129.4km 

Stage eight is a kind-of-point-to-point stage that starts in the Prosecco region. Nobody will be popping the bubbles, however, until they’ve covered the rolling roads to Mortegliano and then a finishing circuit. 

Stage nine: Tavagnacco - Matajur 122.6km 

Stage nine shares similar characteristics with stage 15 of the men’s Giro insofar as it heads towards the border with Slovenia in the Julian Alps. There’s not a huge amount of climbing in this race — despite the mountain ITT and a few hilltop finishes —  which is exemplified by the fact that stage nine has the greatest amount of elevation of the entire race at 1,124 which —  not exactly huge in comparison to some stages of the Giro d’Italia. Still, the first-category final climb to Matajur is a tough one with some steep gradients and could provide a last-minute launch pad for GC contenders to attack each other.

Stage ten: Capriva del Friuli - Cormons 113km

It will be hard for any GC contenders to make much of a difference on the final stage. Another punchy course on a circuit featuring three ascents of a third category climb. With a flat run-in off a descent to the finish it will be one for the fast-finishers who have something left of their climbing legs.  

Contenders

Now that we have some idea of what the route might look like it’s possible to hone in on who might contest the GC. 

Firstly, a few notable absences, including Annemiek van Vleuten, who looked to have the race in the bag last year before a crash on stage seven forced her to abandon. The European Champion had named the Giro d’Italia Donne as a target race this season but made a decision to focus on preparing for the Tokyo Olympic Games instead.

Elsewhere, Canyon//SRAM's Kasia Niewiadoma, who might have gone one better this season after finishing second to van der Breggen in 2020, has also opted to sit the race out in order to focus on the Olympic Games. 

The absence of Niewiadoma creates an opening for last year's young rider classification winner and 5th overall, Mikayla Harvey, to take leadership of Canyon//SRAM. Harvey has had an impressively consistent season so far whilst also putting in some key teamwork throughout. The young Kiwi is a talented climber and will be one to watch on the uphill finishes and hilly ITT. 

Defending champion Anna van der Breggen is going to be hard to beat. The World Champion took the GC in 2020 after Annemiek van Vleuten crashed out of the race and broke her wrist. But van der Breggen was already hot on her compatriot’s heels and with the current world time trial title under her belt she will be unlikely to lose much time in either of the two stages against the clock. 

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig made off with the best climber’s jersey in 2020 but will be wanting to improve on her fourth overall having ridden consistently throughout the race but was somewhat let down by an average TTT performance from FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine. Will getting her first WorldTour win at Burgos at the end of May have given her a confidence boost to go further this time?

Trek-Segafredo’s double trouble of Elisa Longo Borghini and Lizzie Deignan will be back in action in time for the Giro d’Italia Donne. Deignan suffered from illness throughout the early part of the season but returned to take the overall at the 2.Pro Tour de Suisse Women. The pair will both be racing in Italy and, if they are at their best, they are a force to be reckoned with.

For stage wins, look no further than Marianne Vos, who will be seeking to add to her tally of 28 Giro Rosa victories. French national champion Evita Muzik could be going into the race in a double-leadership role with Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, but after taking a stage win on the final day of the race last year she will likely be looking to start where she left off.

For sprints, it's hard to look past the duo of DSM's Lorena Wiebes and Movistar's Emma Norsgaard, however if Elisa Balsamo takes to the startline we could see her fast finish power her to victory too. 

Cover photo: F.Ossola/PMG Sports.