This year's edition features an uphill time trial and an ascent of Monte Zoncolan on the penultimate stage

The Giro Rosa is the longest stage race the women’s peloton has to contend with and this year’s edition looks set to bring us ten days of thrilling racing.

The Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile – more colloquially the Giro Rosa – begins on Friday July 6, kicking off with a team time trial in Verbania, Northern Italy.

The race then progresses towards the slopes of Monte Zoncolan – where the world watched in May as Chris Froome (Team Sky) attacked to take what at the time seemed like a compensatory stage win.

The women will crest the Italian Alpe on the penultimate stage, making the 10 kilometres at just under 12 per cent gradient a pivotal stretch in the battle for the General Classification.

Giro Rosa 2018 route

The Giro Rosa of 2018 features a selection of fairly flat looking days to start off with, followed by a backloaded catalogue of climbs during the latter half of the race.

However, judging by rider comments around the stage five time trial of 2017 which looked ‘flat’ in the race handbook but mysteriously contained climbs of over 20 per cent, we’ll have to wait until the race really kicks off to be sure.

Giro Rosa stage one: Verbania to Verbania, 15.5km TTT, Friday July 7

Giro Rosa 2018 stage one

Giro Rosa 2018 stage one

Giro Rosa 2018 stage one

Giro Rosa 2018 stage one

The opening 15.5 km team time trial looks innocent enough, travelling along the shores of Lago Maggiore, in Northern Italy before a loop around Verbania.

With the likes of UCI Women’s World Tour topping teams such as Boels-Dolmans, Canyon-SRAM, Cervelo-Bigla and UCI World Champions TTT squad Team Sunweb set to ride, there’s everything to play for.

Giro Rosa 2018 stage two: Ovada to Ovada, 120.39km, Saturday July 7

Giro Rosa 2018 stage two

Giro Rosa 2018 stage two

Giro Rosa 2018 stage two

Giro Rosa 2018 stage two

The second stage covers two laps, returning to the start/finish town of Ovada at the 54km point.

It’s a hilly day, with a 6km climb perhaps making a selection just 2km in. The undulations continue throughout, with some short punchy power-hills thrown in for good measure.

However, at the 25km to go mark, the profile flattens out, giving way to a fast and flat finish. If a breakaway does go early, they’ll have to fight to stay out front in this closing section.

Giro Rosa 2018 stage three: Corbetta to Corbetta, 132km, Sunday July 8

Giro Rosa 2018 stage three

Giro Rosa 2018 stage three

Giro Rosa 2018 stage three

Giro Rosa 2018 stage three

Road stages don’t come much flatter than this.

The eight lap dash around Corbetta will almost certainly result in a bunch sprint, following eight chances to take a good look at the finish line, one every 16.5km with three intermediate sprints.

Giro Rosa 2018 stage four: Piacenza – Piacenza, 109km, Monday July 9

Giro Rosa 2018 stage four

Giro Rosa 2018 stage four

Giro Rosa 2018 stage four

Giro Rosa 2018 stage four

Another fairly flat day, at 109km, with a climb intercepting the route at the midway point. It’s a 3.4km ascent with an average gradient of 6.5 per cent, so not likely to cause major splits.

Giro Rosa 2018 stage five: Omegna – Omegna, 122km, Tuesday July 10

Giro Rosa 2018 stage five

Giro Rosa 2018 stage five

Giro Rosa 2018 stage five

Giro Rosa 2018 stage five

Whoever was putting the pink borders on the route profiles had a day off today, but there’s no such luck for the riders who face 122km over two loops.

Loop one covers the perimeter of Lago d’Orta with a 4.6km climb (3.6 per cent) from the finish. After that, it’s all pretty flat, until riders reach the slopes of Monte Rosa, at around 80 kilometres for a 3.8km climb at 8.8 per cent.

Once the riders crest the climb, there’s 34.8km to the finish, with one more significant climbs before a 16km descent and 11km of flat run-in to the line.

Giro Rosa 2018 stage six: Sovico – Gerola Alta, 114km, Wednesday July 11

Giro Rosa 2018 stage six:

Giro Rosa 2018 stage six

Giro Rosa 2018 stage six:

Giro Rosa 2018 stage six

The jewel in the crown of stage six is undeniably its summit finish.

After setting off from Sovico, around 30km from Milan, riders travel north wards the Dolomite mountains, but affairs stay fairly flat as they pass Lago di Annone and Lago Maggiore.

However, it’s unlikely anyone will be lulled into a false sense of security, in the knowledge that what follows is a 15 kilometre slog to the finish flag, with an average of 5.4 per cent.

Giro Rosa 2018 stage seven: Lanzada – Campo Moro, 15km TT, Thursday July 12

Giro Rosa 2018 stage seven

Giro Rosa 2018 stage seven

Giro Rosa 2018 stage seven

Giro Rosa 2018 stage seven

This year’s time trial is at least very clearly labelled as one for the mountain goats among the peloton.

At 15km, it might be close in distance to the opening TTT, but the profile is worlds apart.

The overall gradient is 6.7 per cent, but there’s ramps entering the double digits. The final 2.5km is a false flat, with a 100 metre drop into the finish.

Giro Rosa 2018 stage eight: San Giorgio di Perlena – Breganze, 121.6km, Friday July 13

Giro Rosa 2018 stage eight

Giro Rosa 2018 stage eight

Giro Rosa 2018 stage eight

Giro Rosa 2018 stage eight

The neutral flag goes down in Breganze, the same town which hosts the finish line.

The route takes in a selection of loops, with three intermediate climbs, the last one coming with just under 10km left to the line. Though the peloton could split apart here, it’s likely GC contenders will want to save their legs for the next day.

Giro Rosa 2018 stage nine: Tricesimo – Monte Zoncolan, 104.7km, Saturday July 14

Giro Rosa 2018 stage nine

Giro Rosa 2018 stage nine

Giro Rosa 2018 stage nine

Giro Rosa 2018 stage nine

Without a doubt the Queen stage, the penultimate day of racing has been devised to leave the GC battle hanging right to the end.

The finish line is on top of Monte Zoncolan, a 10.1km climb with an average gradient of 11.9 per cent.

The race has visited the monster before, but in the 1997 Giro Rosa it didn’t go all the way to the top and riders ascended from Sutrio – the easier side.

The road to the mountain is fairly flat, with the pivotal ascent coming at 94.6km, in Ovaro. The early slopes, at 9.1 per cent, are the easier bits, they increase to 15.4 per cent for 4km in the middle.

Giro Rosa 2018 stage ten: Friuli – Friuli, 120.3km, Sunday July 15

Giro Rosa 2018 stage ten

Giro Rosa 2018 stage ten

Giro Rosa 2018 stage ten

Giro Rosa 2018 stage ten

It’s not over until Cividale del Friuli.

The tenth and final stage of the Giro Rosa 2018 starts and finishes close to the Italian-Slovenian border, covering 120.3km with the pivotal moment being a 6km climb at 7.1 per cent which is followed by a 10.6km charge for the line.

Giro Rosa 2018 contenders

Van der Breggen takes home the trophy at the end of the 2017 Giro Rosa

Anna van der Breggen takes home the trophy at the end of the 2017 Giro Rosa. Image: Owen Rogers

The headline news is that defending champion, Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) will not take to the start line this year. The current Olympic champion, who has two Giro Rosa wins to her name (2015 and 2017) is instead choosing to tackle the World Cup mountain bike circuit.

Of course, Boels-Dolmans still has its eyes firmly on the Italian stage race and 2016 winner Megan Guarnier is due to race, fresh from her convincing win at May’s Tour de Yorkshire, where she attacked her breakaway companions on the slopes of the final climb.

Megan Guarnier at the Giro Rosa 2016. Image: Owen Rogers

Looking to topple the team’s success is World time trial champion, Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott).

Van Vleuten finished third overall last year, having won the stage five time trial. She’s not only successful in solo events, though, she proved she can shine in the mountains at the 2017 La Course, taking the overall win after distancing Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans) by 43 seconds on the stage one ascent of the Col d’Izoard.

Also in contention is Wiggle High5’s Elisa Longo Borghini. The 2017 Italian National time trial and road race champion finished second overall at the Giro Rosa last year.

Longo Borghini leads the Wiggle High5 squad in 2018, too. However, she’s not had the best spring and early summer, her best result being third place at Strade Bianche. The team has reportedly been under stress this year, but Longo Borghini cites illness and allergies as the factors behind her struggling form.

“I’m looking forward to the Giro, but I’m going there with my mind really free. I’m just going with the flow, because I just don’t want to stress about the GC, especially after such a hard first part of the season,” she’s said.

Other riders to keep a close eye on are Marianne Vos (Waowdels Pro Cycling), who hasn’t been in her best form since injuries plagued her in 2015, but who does have three Giro Rosa GC titles to her name – in 2011, 2012 and 2014. Vos won the points competition at the 2018 Women’s Tour and still holds on to the European champion jersey from her victory in 2017.

For Canyon-SRAM, there’s 2017 Women’s Tour winner Kasia Niewiadoma – who broke away on the opening stage to build up a 1 minute 42 second advantage that was never closed.

Giro Rosa 2018 live TV

The Giro Rosa is notoriously hard to watch live.

Unfortunately, it clashes with the Tour de France which somewhat dwarfs it. The official partner in Italy is RAI – but that’s not much help to UK fans.

Thankfully, the UCI YouTube channel provides highlights coverage and you can also access steaming via the PMG Sport YouTube channel who list their coverage here.

You can also catch 30 to 45-minute recaps on Eurosport 1 – each showing will be aired the day after it takes place:

Stage one: Eurosport 1, Saturday July 7, 20:30-21:15
Stage two: Eurosport 1, Sunday July 8, 20:30-21:15
Stage three: Eurosport 1, Monday July 9, 20:30-21:15
Stage four: Eurosport 1, Tuesday July 10, 20:30-21:00
Stage five: Eurosport 1, Wednesday July 11, 20:30-21:00
Stage six: Eurosport 1, Thursday July 12, 20:30-21:00
Stage seven: Eurosport 1, Friday July 13, 20:30-21:20
Stage seven (again): Eurosport 1, Saturday July 14, 8:45-9:15
Stage eight: Eurosport 1, Saturday July 14, 20:30-21:00
Stage nine: Eurosport 1, Sunday July 15, 20:30-21:00
Stage ten: Eurosport 1, Monday July 16, 18:30-19:00

Of course, you can also keep up with the action via Twitter, following the hashtag 

Giro Rosa 2018 teams

Twenty-four teams will take to the start line, including Boels Dolmans – who won the last two additions with Megan Guarnier (2016) and Anna van der Breggen (2017).

Boels Dolmans Cycling Team (NED)
Mitchelton-Scott (Aus)
Team Sunweb (Ned)
Cervelo Bigla Pro Cycling Team (Den)
Canyon-SRAM (Ger)
Wiggle High5 (Gbr)
Waowdeals Pro Cycling Team (Ned)
Ale-Cipollini (Ita)
Cylance Pro Cycling (USA)
FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope (Fra)
BTC City Ljubljana (Slo)
Movistar Team Women (Esp)
Astana Women’s Team (Ita)
Team Virtu Cycling (Den)
Valcar PBM (Ita)
BePink (Ita)
Trek-Drops (Gbr)
Aromitalia-Vaiano (Ita)
Servetto-Stradalli-Alurecycling (Ita)
SC Michela Fanini (Ita)
Bizkaia Durango-Euskadi Murias (Esp)
Eurotarget-Bianchi-Vitasana (Ita)
Top Girls-Fassa Bortolo (Ita)
Conceria Zabri-Fanini-Guerciotti (Alb)