The Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile (known as the Giro Rosa) has been one the women’s most prestigious stage races for nearly three decades. This year 24 teams from around the world raced the Giro Rosa.
It finished this past Sunday, July 10. The women started on July 6 and over 10 days raced 980 km across Northern Italy. It was one of the toughest routes in its 29-year history, with the racers climbing one of the most iconic Italian climbs in professional cycling – Monte Zoncolan.
The organizers of 2018 editions of the Giro Rosa and Giro d’Italia collaborated to bring both pelotons up the steepest and toughest side of the ascent, from Ovaro, which is just over 10 km with an average grade of 12 per cent, with sections as steep as 22 per cent. In May’s Giro d’Italia, Chris Froome (Team Sky) won.
Giro Rosa defending champion Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels Dolmans skipped the race to start racing the World Cup mountain bike circuit. She had competed in the Giro Rosa 10 times and won it twice. Her absence resulted in a wide open fight for the maglia rosa. There were six different stage winners in 10 stages and six different GC leaders.
Here’s how the race played out:
- Stage 1, 15.5 km: Team Sunweb won the opening 15.5 km team time trial in 18:25 putting Ellen van Dijk (Ned) in the maglia rosa leader’s jersey. Mitchelton-Scott finished just one second back and Boels Dolmans Cycling Team took third 12 seconds behind the winner.
- Stage 2, 120.4 km: Kirsten Wild (Ned) Wiggle High5 won the sprint in 3:22:00. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Team Sunweb picked up points in the intermediate sprint and took the pink jersey. The race remained close with 24 riders within 30 seconds on the GC.
- Stage 3, 132 km: Jolien D’hoore (Bel) Team Michelton-Scott won the sprint in 3:15:47. Sunweb’s Leah Kirchmann (Can) moved into the overall lead after picking up bonus seconds on the day. 13 riders were still with 30 seconds of the pink jersey.
- Stage 4, 109 km: D’hoore again won the sprint in 2:42:25 and Kirchmann riding safely in the peloton finished fifth and defended the leader’s jersey. The GC remained tightly bunched.
- Stage 5, 117.7 km Ruth Winder (USA) won the stage in 3:01:06 She and two other riders attacked from the peloton just after the category 2 climb that crested 32 km from the finish. Winder also took the maglia rosa from her teammate Leah Kirchmann. Her win in the breakaway put all the other GC contenders over a minute back.
- Stage 6, 114.1 km: Amanda Spratt (Aus) Michelton-Scott attacked half way up the 14 km climb to win the mountain top finish by 29 seconds in 2:57:49. She took the race lead with her closest rival, Winder, 30 seconds back and three more racers less than a minute behind.
- Stage 7, 15 km uphill individual time trial: Annemiek Van Vleuten (Ned) Michelton-Scott won in 46:06, nearly two and a half minutes ahead of second place and moved her into the overall race lead by 2:53 ahead of stage 6 winner and overnight leader Amanda Spratt, also Mitchelton-Scott, and 2:54 ahead of Moolman-Pasio.
- Stage 8 121.6 km: Marianne Vos (Ned) WaosDeals won the sprint ahead of two breakaway companions in 3:06:38. Van Vleuten kept the leader’s jersey.
- Stage 9 104.7 km: Annemiek van Vleuten demonstrated that she was the strongest rider in Giro Rosa by far, with a solo win in stage 9 that finished atop the Monte Zoncolan. She extended her GC lead to an insurmountable 3:35.
- Stage 10 102.3 km: Annemiek van Vleuten won with an attack in the last kilometer of the category 1 climb 10 km from the finish. She didn’t take any excessive risks on the technical descent and then raced all out to the finish the Giro Rosa 4:12 ahead of second place.
How Pros Recover
Nutrition and hydration.
Riders start drinking and eating as soon as the race is over they don’t wait until they are back at the hotel. Racing that hard they can’t drink enough to stay hydrated — although this doesn’t interfere with the sprints! A racer drinks about 1.5 times her weight loss. E.g., if she has lost one kilogram (2 lbs) she’ll drink 1.5 liters (3 pints) of a hydration drink including simple sugars. She also starts eating carbs along with some protein.
Getting enough good sleep is the most important factor in recovery. Poor sleep negatively affects endurance exercise and increases the perceived exertion. Team Sky riders bring their own pillows!
Riding at low intensity increases the blood flow and the removal of waste products. On a rest day in a grand tour the racers go out for a ride. However, findings differ on the actual effect of an active recovery ride on performance the next day. Active recovery does reduce muscle soreness and there are no known detrimental effects.
A post-race massage is almost universal in both the women’s and men’s pelotons. Research shows that active recovery, i.e., a post-race cool down is more effective than massage and massage is more effective than passive recovery. The primary benefit of massage probably is making the rider feel better psychologically rather than improving physical performance.
Cold water immersion.
Substantial research shows that after cooling down on the bike, immersion for 10 to 15 minutes in water at 10 – 15C (50 – 59F) aids recovery. If the water is warmer, 15 – 20C (59 – 68F), slightly longer immersion is recommended. Although hot tub or sauna feels good it doesn’t benefit recovery and may actually impede recovery because so much water is lost through sweat.
Compression garments are supposed to improve return blood flow and reduce swelling, inflammation and muscle soreness. Limited research indicates that they are beneficial when worn for at least 60 minutes after racing or training.
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Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.