Giro d’Italia Women 2024 preview: Route, predictions and contenders

With RCS taking over the race, will the Giro step up in 2024? 

The Giro d’Italia Women has faced myriad challenges in recent years and has struggled to keep up in a post-Tour de France Femmes world. The organisation of the race changed hands twice between 2020 and 2023 but now, under the banner of men’s Giro organisers, RCS, the race promises to step up to meet the level set by the Tour and La Vuelta

In its first iteration as an RCS-run race, the Giro is the final WorldTour stage race before the Olympic Games and Tour de France Femmes meaning that, while a few of the top contenders for those races are sitting the Giro out, those who are racing will be in top form. 

In their first year of running the race, RCS has put together a varied and challenging course that echoes the structure of the Tour de France Femmes in its steady ramping up towards a brutal final mountain weekend. Has the Giro finally stepped up its game?

Stage 1: Brescia - Brescia (15.8km) ITT 

Giro d'Italia Women 2024 stage one

Stage profile sourced via Giro d'Italia Women website

The race opens with a 15.8 km predominantly flat individual time trial. While the profile of the opening stage looks relatively straightforward, the final few kilometres are quite tricky. 

After setting off from the football stadium, the riders will pass Brescia’s castle before heading out of town and a section of pan-flat, straight roads interspersed with roundabouts before heading back towards the city. It is upon the return to Brescia that the route gets slightly more challenging and technical. After navigating the climb up towards the castle, the riders must find their way back down via a technical descent that includes a section of pavè once the descent has been taken care of. However, the remainder of the run-in to the line is largely uncomplicated and flat. 

While the parcours aren’t challenging enough to create significant GC gaps so early on, those who are hoping to challenge for the maglia rosa will need to be vigilant on the technical sections.

Stage 2: Sirmione - Volta Mantovana (110km) 

Giro d'Italia Women 2024 stage two

Stage profile sourced via Giro d'Italia Women website

Staying in the province of Brescia, the race travels to Sirmione at the southern edge of Lake Garda for the first road stage of the week. Hugging the lake’s shore for the first few kilometres the peloton will head inland along the open, straight roads towards Volta Mantovana where they will complete one lap of a 22.1km finishing circuit. 

It’s a flat day, with only 450 metres of elevation gain across the 110km and unless the wind presents a challenge for the riders, the only significant point of interest prior to the first passage of the finish line is an intermediate sprint with 43km to go. The finishing circuit has a few ups and downs around Cavriana but it is likely to culminate in a bunch sprint.

Stage 3: Sabbioneta - Toano (113km) 

Giro d'Italia Women 2024 stage three

Stage profile sourced via Giro d'Italia Women website

Stage three brings the first significant climbing challenge of the race and therefore, the potential for GC contenders to make a difference. They will need to wait, however, until near the end of the stage and the Toano climb, at the top of which the stage will culminate. 

It’s a stage that looks ripe for a breakaway to try and stay away if they are able to maintain a significant lead over the peloton before the start of the climb. However, those who are eyeing up the GC will likely want to use the 12.5km climb to make early inroads. At a steady gradient of just under 5%, it’s not the toughest climb in the race, but it reaches a peak gradient of 12% towards the top.

Stage 4: Imola - Urbino (134km) 

Giro d'Italia Women 2024 stage four

Stage profile sourced via Giro d'Italia Women website

Stage four is a race of two halves. Starting in Imola, host of the 2020 World Championships, the race follows the Via Emilia parallel to the River Santerno for almost 60km before turning off to begin the second half of the stage, which presents much more challenging terrain. Traversing the Romagna Apennines, the peloton will briefly pass through San Marino, where they will tackle a steep category-two climb. A few kilometres later comes the category three climb, Monte Osteriaccia, followed by a long descent before the steep, cobbled final climb up to Urbino and the finish line awaits.  

With wide, open roads at the start and their potential for crosswind chaos coupled with the lumpy latter end of the stage, this is a day that could catch a GC contender out.

Stage 5: Frontone - Foligno (108km) 

Giro d'Italia Women 2024 stage five

Stage profile sourced via Giro d'Italia Women website

The last chance for the sprinters before the final three days of climbing that round off the race. There’s very little to challenge the sprinters with just one marked climb of the day, the third category Morello climb after 12km of racing. Thereafter the profile rises and falls somewhat but with just 700 metres of elevation throughout the 108km stage.  

The run-in to the finish in the city centre of Foligno is a fast one, with a 90-degree corner coming 250 km to go. Positioning in the lead-up to that corner will be crucial for any sprinters hoping to claim a stage win.

Stage 6: San Benedetto del Tronto - Chieti (155km) 

Giro d'Italia Women 2024 stage six

Stage profile sourced via Giro d'Italia Women website

The first of a triptych of GC stages that round off the race and the longest stage of the Giro. Although this stage doesn’t feature one particular centre-piece mountain, the culmination of a relentless series of smaller, punchier climbs throughout the day build up to 2,000 metres across the 155km and will surely create an attritional race for the GC contenders. 

 The final 6km climb from Chieti towards the main city is steep towards the bottom but flattens out towards the top where the riders then have yet more cobbles to contend with. 

Stage 7: Lanciano - Blockhaus (120km) 

Giro d'Italia Women 2024 stage seven

Stage profile sourced via Giro d'Italia Women website

The queen stage. The penultimate stage of the race is the hardest by far featuring two first-category climbs which are actually two parts of the same climb; Passo Lanciano and then, after a second loop, continuing to the top of the iconic Blockhaus where the stage culminates. 

 The climbing starts more-or-less from the gun and does not relent for the rest of the 120km stage. The riders will hit the bottom of Passo Lanciano after 60km of racing but GC contenders who make it over the first ascent of the Passo Lanciano – with its gradients of up to 14% – still have a second ascent to contend with followed by the additional 4.5km to the Blockhaus summit. 

Stage 8: Pescara - L'Aquila (117km) 

Giro d'Italia Women 2024 stage eight

Stage profile sourced via Giro d'Italia Women website

The top of Blockhaus may definitively decide the GC, but if the gaps are close enough then things could still change on the final stage. The third stage in a row which includes climbing pretty much from the gun, the team of whoever finds themselves in the pink jersey at the start of the stage will want to keep the race under tight control lest their GC competition go on the attack. The climbing reaches a crescendo at the top of the Castel Del Monte after around 67km of racing but it’s not all downhill to the finish. Any rider who finds themselves with a gap over the top of the first category climb has a chance of maintaining their lead over the procession of ups and downs towards the final uphill drag into L’Aquila. 

Contenders

The proximity of the race to the Olympic Games and the Tour de France Femmes means that a few of the usual would-be GC favourites are opting to skip the Giro in favour of altitude training camps to prepare for both events. One such rider is Tour de France Femmes defending champion, Demi Vollering, who would be licking her lips at the profiles of the final weekend of this race. Despite the absence of the likes of Vollering and polka-dot jersey winner Kasia Niewiadoma, however, the start list for the Giro is still brimming with talent.

One such talented rider is Lidl-Trek’s Elisa Longo Borghini who is in the form of her life this season and will want to get her hands on the pink jersey at her home Grand Tour. Lidl-Trek have a second Italian GC potential up their sleeve with Gaia Realini, for whom the queen stage looks very much suited. Both are coming off the back of a strong Tour de Suisse which saw Longo Borghini take third on GC and Realini seventh. 

Image by SWPix.com

Another rider who impressed at the recent Tour de Suisse is Canyon//SRAM’s Neve Bradbury. The Australian climber teamed up with Kasia Niewiadoma in a two-up move wherein the pair reached the line together with Bradbury claiming her first WorldTour victory. The 22-year-old moved her way up to second on GC behind Demi Vollering after that stage and put up a strong defence to maintain that position until the end. She may be without Niewiadoma at this race but Bradbury has a strong squad behind her including reliable domestique Elise Chabbey and Antonia Niedermaier, who won a stage at this race in 2023.

On the subject of Antipodean talent, EF Education-Cannondale’s Kiwi climber, Kim Cadzow, has proven her considerable talent on multiple occasions and will be hoping to unleash it on stages seven and eight. Still relatively new to the sport, Cadzow has risen rapidly through the ranks and shown that she isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with riders like Annemiek van Vleuten and Demi Vollering. She may not be the favourite for the maglia rosa but she could very well make it onto the GC podium.  

SD Worx-Protime have yet to disclose their definitive team for the race, but with world champion, Lotte Kopecky, skipping the Tour due to her Olympic track commitments she is likely to make an appearance. Kopecky recently won the Tour of Britain Women as well as double Belgian national titles and famously put down the climbing performance of her life on the Tourmalet at last year’s Tour. But is this parcours too hard for the Belgian, who will be focusing on a flat road race and track events in the weeks to come? If the team fields Niamh Fisher Black then this is a terrain that looks very well suited to the Kiwi climber who placed top-10 in last year’s Giro. 

Image by Getty Images

Elsewhere, Team dsm-firmenich PostNL’s Juliette Labous showed her climbing form this year as she placed fourth at Vuelta and fifth at the Tour de Suisse and will be in top shape before heading to the Olympics to represent France. Likewise, Fenix-Deceuninck’s Pauliena Rooijakkers will undoubtedly be a factor as well as her fellow Dutchwoman and multidisciplinary star Fem van Empel of Visma-Lease a Bike.  

For the sprints, look out for UAE Team ADQ’s Chiara Consonni as well as Lidl-Trek’s Elisa Balsamo, who makes her return to racing for the first time since a nasty crash at Vuelta a Burgos. 

Prediction

A motivated and in-form Elisa Longo Borghini is very hard to beat, especially with the support of an incredibly strong Lidl-Trek squad.   

*Cover image by Getty

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