With the huge imbalance in coverage you could be forgiven for thinking that there's only one major bike race going on this September. The push for parity in the cycling world is picking up, thanks to efforts from groups like The Internationalles (check them out if you haven't already), but women's cycling still falls far behind the male variety at this point. As such you might not know that the Giro Rosa starts today, or even what the Giro Rosa even is.
An announcement of a long awaited and much needed women's Tour de France, set for 2022, was very welcome, but it's a long way off and details are pretty slim, so we wait for more information. But that aside, for the next 9 days the best female bike riders in the world will be battling out in Italy to take the win, and this must be celebrated. Sadly, you won't be able to watch it live (because who wants to watch women's cycling, right?), but more on that later.
Check out our guide to the 2020 Giro Rosa below. If we've missed anything, or you don't agree, then please let us know in the comments or on social media (@dirtywknd).
What is the Giro Rosa?
The Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile (Giro Rosa) is the only women's Grand Tour on the calendar. It's a ten day stage race through Italy, reduced to nine for 2020 because of Covid. It is the only women's race on the calendar over 7 days, and based on the strength of the field alone, is something you should absolutely be paying attention to.
The race began in 1988 as the Giro Donne, but was rebranded as the Giro Rosa in 2013. Fabiana Luperini currently holds the record for the most number of wins (five, across a hugely impressive thirteen year period), but the recent editions have been dominated by Annemiek van Vleuten. Can the Dutch Wonder Woman go for three in a row this year?
What does the route look like?
Not as tough as previous years, looking at the climbs alone. The big, long 'Hollywood' climbs like the Stelvio have been left out, but with four of the nine stages being summit finishes, there will still be fireworks going off all over the road. The bulk of the race takes place in the middle of Italy this year, as opposed to in the high mountains of the north.
Starting with a pan flat Team time Trial today (Friday 11th Sept), the following stages pretty much all contain a decent chunk of climbing, so there isn't a lot for the sprinters to play with. For us that's great, no long boring stages to watch one TV. Oh yeah, we can't watch it on TV!
Stages to look out for include day four, covering 170km from Assisi to Tivoli. The reason this is an important stage is because it's not only the longest in the race, but the longest stage in any women's race, ever. It's 10km longer than the UCI's 'recommended length of stage for a women's race (the fact that this is even a thing is so infuriating), but it's good to see the organisers are pushing the limits. I've also been to Tivoli and it's really nice!
Stage two also contains super on trend and oh so popular gravel roads. Well, they are in Tuscany, so it would be rude to not take in some white roads. Van Vleuten's utter dominance of Strade Bianchi a few months ago should stand her in good stead to get into the lead here. Will anyone be able to topple her after that?
The other two biggies are the final two stages, eight and nine. Back to back hill top finishes are really going to shake the race up at this very late stage, which will be great to follow (have to keep refraining from writing 'watch'). The winner could very well be decided on the very last climb of the very last stage, which will be super exciting to... follow on Twitter :(
Who are the main contenders?
Women's Cycling has been dominated by just one person in recent years, two time Giro Rosa (and everything else) winner Annemiek van Vleuten, and it would take a brave fan to bet against her making it a threepeat. She has an amazing ability to dominate a race and, when it comes to the final stage (a lumpy circuit) can easily pull the pin and solo away to overall victory.
She's been incredibly strong this year already, winning her first 5 races, the European Champs and lighting up La Course on a route that didn't suit her. She'll be ably supported by Amanda Spratt and a strong Mitchelton-Scott team, but will the fact that she's leaving for Movistar at the end of the year play any part? Or will she go all out to deliver one more big win for her team? You'd have to imagine it's the latter.
Buuut, the route doesn't suit her as much this year, with fewer long climbs for her to assert her dominance. Some have also argued that she looked 'almost human' at recent races, so it is going to be very interesting to see if her rivals can take advantage of any weaknesses in the armour (if there are any).
The biggest challenger to AVV has got to be Elisa Longo Borghini, who ran her so close at the European Champs. She's absolutely flying at the moment, serving up Lizzie Deignan's La Course victory with some great tactics and has the home advantage. The route also may suit her a bit more than AVV, with some smaller punchier climbs.
Her team Trek Segafredo are also firing right now, but the question about team leadership could be the only thorn in the Italian's side. Is she number one, or are the team also backing an in form Lizzie D? You'd imagine (hope) that it's now Longo Borghini's turn to lead, which means having Lizzy as a domestique, which would be huge for her chances.
The list of other contenders who could take the win is incredibly long, showing the strength in depth of the women's peloton right now. Two time winner Anna van der Breggen leads Boels Dolmans, an in form Kasia Niewiadoma heads up for Canyon-SRAM and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio of CCC-Liv returns from a nasty injury. Her team mate Marriane Vos can also never be counted out, but the question is whether she'll be going for stage wins or the overall. Either way, the field is stacked, so expect a very tight top ten, and an absolute battle to get on the podium.
Keep an eye on GB's Lizzie Banks getting her hands in the air. Second to Lizzie at GP Plouay show she's in fine form, and I would love to see her add to last year's stage win. Also look out for Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig. She's such an exciting rider, and hopefully wins a stage or two, mostly for the post race interviews (below). She's on a new team and loves to mix things up.
Who is going to win?
Your guess is as good as mine, but based on the form of the main contenders and the route, I would think that the top three will be AVV, Longo Borghini and van der Breggen. In what order though, I just couldn't say!
Going out on a limb, with Deignan riding in full support, I'd have to pick Longo Borghini to take the overall win.
The World Championships?
This being 2020 of course, nothing is normal, and the Giro Rosa this year falls right before the World Championships, also held in Italy. This will definitely have an effect, as some riders will be targeting the rainbow bands. Riders like Vos and Deignen will likely be riding the Giro Rosa as final training before the Worlds, targeting stage wins and supporting team mates.
How can I watch it?
Now onto the really sore point - you can't. Not live anyway, as non one seems to be broadcasting the live feed. Why this is I don't know (too expensive?), but if you do know then please comment below. It's embarrassing that such an exciting race will not be televised, and a massive blow to the promotion of women's cycling. Something that is so badly needed right now.
There will be highlights each day on Eurosport and on the GCN Race Pass, so we'll get an hour of the best bits, but to follow live you'll have to jump on Twitter. Cycling News will also have updates on their women's page, so it will be worth checking in there to stay plugged in.
We'll also be trying to put out regular updates on our Twitter feed, so make sure to check in there and join the conversation.
Giro Rosa Fantasy?
If you're so inclined, we'd love you to join our Giro Rosa Velogames fantasy league. It's a great way to play along with the race, and try and outperform your club mates from your sofa. Head to the Velogames website and create your team, then join the Dirty Wknd mini league (League Code: 481355810).
Watch highlights with friends
We will be running a ride from our south west clubhouse, The Dynamo, next Saturday, finishing up in front of the Giro Rosa final stage highlights. If you want to come and ride a good route with good people, finishing up with an exciting stage (and pizza of course), then come and join us. Full details here.