Women’s Giro Dell’Emilia grows in stature amid COVID-19 race cancelations

The 1.pro race, normally held in early October, will see fierce competition from a hungry, fit peloton.

Photo: BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

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In 2020, riders are approaching every race like it could be their last, and it’s no different at the Giro dell’Emilia Internazionale Donne Elite, which is slated to run Tuesday, August 17.

The 1.pro category race, normally held in early October, begins in Bologna on Tuesday and offers the women’s peloton another chance to line up in a season that remains continually under threat by the coronavirus pandemic.

And this year the race has attracted a star-studded field. Defending champion Demi Vollering (Parkhotel Valkenburg) is in attendance, alongside two-time winner Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo).

Ruth Winder and Lizzie Deignan will join Longo Borghini from Trek-Segafredo; other riders to watch include Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb), Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope), Katarzyna Niewiadoma and Omer Shapira (both Canyon-SRAM), Arlenis Sierra (Astana), and Soraya Paladin (Alé BTC Ljubljana).

“I expect a much harder race this year, since everyone is in good shape and ready to race,” said Clara Koppenburg of Équipe Paule Ka.

Unfortunately, Koppenburg will not start on Tuesday. The team announced that it would withdraw its six riders from the race after seven bikes were stolen from its hotel in Bologna on Monday.

Several factors have combined to help the race attract arguably its strongest field in seven editions.

In May, the Italian Cycling Federation requested date changes, placing many of its lower-tier early fall races earlier on the calendar. Traditionally, some riders would skip the late-season Giro dell’Emilia as they headed into the off-season. With the revised season only underway since late July, Tuesday’s race could see the characteristics of a totally different peloton.

The Giro dell’Emilia Internazionale Donne is a 87.2 km race that begins and ends in Bologna.


And, for many teams, the race presents one final opportunity to race before the Women’s WorldTour resumes at the Grand Prix de Plouay on August 26.

The 87.2 km course is known for its exceptional lack of an elevation profile. The route finally begins to trend upward with seven kilometers to go, but the the infamous 2 km San Luca climb where the true test usually begins — and ends. In last year’s race, the final climb proved the decisive point of the day, with Vollering splintering away from the group on the climb’s final, steepest slopes.

So, what kind of rider does this race suit?

Someone who can rocket into a short, punchy climb like the San Luca.

The San Luca climb is just under 2 km with an average 11 percent grade.

“There are many scenarios of how the race will form,” Koppenburg said, “but I guess that most of the teams want to bring their best climber to the bottom of the hill in top condition. There might be a breakaway where we need to be careful who is inside and how big the gap can get since the last climb isn’t super long to close a big gap.”

Of course the race is missing more than a few strong riders. World champion Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) will not be in attendance; Dutch super team Boels-Dolmans has also opted not to race.

While the rash of COVID-19 cancelations in professional cycling may result in more eyes on races like the Giro dell’Emilia that don’t usually get much airplay, riders don’t see a result there as any different from a more prestigious contest.

“I think every race is raced at the best level a peloton can do,” Longo Borghini said. “Honestly I don’t really pay attention to the category of the race; while I’m racing, I’m just racing full-gas.”

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