The Giro Rosa is the longest and arguably most prestigious stage race within the women's pro cycling calendar.
A UCI Women's World Tour event this year, the race across Italy will feature 23 of the best women's teams and provide a springboard for riders to show off their very best pre-Rio form.
Renowned for being a hillfest of delight for those who enjoy climbing, the terrain will provide perfect preparation for those riders looking to race over climbs in the lead up to the Brazil Oympics. However, not all have chosen to go about their preparation this way - with some teams giving the event a miss this year.
The race begins today, with a short 2km Prologue - before the real endurance work kicks off...
Friday, July 1: Prologue: Gaiarine 2km
Saturday, July 2: Stage 1: Gaiarine – San Fior, 104km
Sunday, July 3: Stage 2: Tarcento – Montenars, 111.1km
Monday, July 4: Stage 3: Montagnana – Lendinara, 120km
Tuesday, July 5: Stage 4: Costa Volpino – Lovere, 98.5km
Wednesday, July 6: Stage 5: Grosio – Tirano, 77.5 km
Thursday, July 7: Stage 6: Andora – Alassio/Madonna della Guardia, 118.6km
Friday, July 8: Stage 7: Albisola Superiore – Varazze (individual TT), 21.9km
Saturday, July 9: Stage 8: Rescaldina – Legnano, 99.3km
Sunday, July 10: Stage 9: Verbania – Verbania, 104.8km
Most of the big guns will be present - with Italy of course being the most represented with 7 teams: Alè Cipollini, Aromitalia – Vaiano – Fondriest, Bepink, Inpa – Bianchi, Servetto – Footon – Alurecycling, S.C. Michela Fanini and Top Girls Fassa Bortolo.
The race has also attracted World Tour champions (thus far) Boels Dolmans, who have brought World Champion Lizzie Armitstead and WWT leader Megan Guarnier, with Amalie Dideriksen, Christine Majerus, Evelyn Stevens en Karol Ann Canuel.
Also on the start line will be Rabo-Liv, led by last year's winner Anna van der Breggen alongside Lucinda Brand, Shara Gillow, Thalita de Jong, Roxane Knetemann and Kasia Niewiadoma.
Two time winner and climbing expert Wiggle High5 rider Mara Abbott will also be back, supported by Giorgia Bronzini, Audrey Cordon-Ragot, Mayuko Hagiwara, Chloe Hosking, and Elisa Longo Borghini.
Liv-Plantur, Canyon//SRAM, Astana Women’s Team, Hitec-Products, Cylance Pro Cycling, Hagens Berman/Supermint, Lensworld Zannata, Lotto Soudal Ladies, Bizkaia-Durango, Lointek, BTC City Ljubljana, Poitou-Charentes.Futuroscope.86 and Xirayas de San Luis Team.
The number one goal is to wear the Pink jersey that goes to the leader of the General Classification.
However, there's more up for grabs. The sprint points leader will wear the Purple jersey, the QOM climber will wear Green, the best young rider will wear White and the Blue jersey is awarded to the best Italian rider.
Anticipation began to build yesterday with the Team Presentation, taking place in San Fior. Every rider was awarded with a delicate pink rose - a lovely touch, though we're expecting to see their more fierce sides over the coming days...
Prologue - 2km - Friday, July 1
The opening stage was a 2km time trial around the streets of Gaiarine.
The win went to Leah Kirchmann, of Liv Plantur, who completed the course in 2minutes23, ahead of Rabo Liv's Thalita de Jong one second behind, and team mate Anna van der Breggen in third.
That means Kirchmann enters today's 104km race from Gaiarine to San Fior in the Pink leader's jersey. Will she hold on to it?!
Stage One - 104km - Gaiarine – San Fior - Saturday, July 2
The first endurance stage of the Giro Rosa got underway today, and the win went to Italian Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle High5) - who told us at the Women's Tour the race was a major target for her and one that she'd been training at altitude for.
In second was Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans), who takes ownership of the Pink Jersey. As the current leader of the UCI WWT she'll no doubt be keen to retain it and further her lead - and having worn the jersey for six days last year it wouldn't be unimaginable.
In third was Rasa Leleivyte (Aromitalia-Vaiano), Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv) was fourth and Claudia Lichtenberg (Lotto-Soudal) was fifth.
Success on the classified climbs puts Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) in the Green climbers jersey, whilst Bronizini takes hold of the Blue Italian jersey from Canyon//SRAM's Barbara Guarischi. Rabo Liv's Kasia Niewiadoma has the Best Young Rider jersey.
The Giro is renowned for throwing in tough terrain that the riders aren't always expecting. Though this stage did end in a win for a sprinter - it's notable it went to a sprinter who is known for her climbing prowess, too - and Tiffany Cromwell of Canyon//SRAM confirmed that the route hadn't been quite as advertised...
— Tiffany Jane (@tiffanycromwell) July 2, 2016
If you're after a slightly more scientific comparison...
— Amalie Dideriksen (@AmalieDiderikse) July 2, 2016
Our mini rant
We can't really help but feel that it's
deeply disappointing infuriating that the biggest stage race in the women's calendar clashes with the Tour de France.
We're super excited to see, hear, and watch the best women in the world race over mountainous terrain for the honour of wearing the Pink jersey. Yet every way we turn online we find news and information on what the men are doing over in that there France.
However, it's not supremely easy to actually watch the race. There are some options - which Sarah Connolly has very eloquently made easier to understand in her post here. We were hoping for highlights videos on the Giro You Tube Channel or UCI You Tube Channel - but so far it's all looking a bit behind the times.
Rant over. Please show your support for this race.
Thankfully, VeloFocus were on hand - as always in the women's calendar - to take some amazing pictures...
Stage 2 - 111km - Tarcento – Montenars - Sunday, July 3
The Pink Jersey changed shoulders after today's stage, but stayed within the Boels-Dolmans team ranks.
Evelyn Stevens took victory at the end of the day, finishing 24 seconds ahead of her team mate, Megan Guarnier who wore Pink after coming second on Stage One.
The key move of the day came from Mia Radotic (BTC City Ljubljana) and Anna Trevisi (Ale Cipollini), who broke away early on and stayed at a distance from the peloton until there was just 50km to go. However, they were caught and at 75km German Time Trial Champion Trixi Worrack (Canyon//SRAM) - who seems to have recovered phenomenally after having a kidney removed earlier this season - launched her own attack.
Worrack was caught, before a smaller group broke away from the peloton with less than 15kilometres to go. After a slog up the final climb, it was Stevens who sealed the victory.
Behind Stevens was Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5), Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv) in third, with Mara Abbott (Wiggle-High5) fourth and Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) fifth.
Stage 3 - 120km - Montagnana to Lendinara - Monday, July 4
Wiggle High5 showed their colours for the second time in this Giro, this time with Chloe Hosking taking the win - a result that had been the plan for the team from the start.
The race came down to a bunch sprint in Lendinara - exactly as expected, and it was Hosking who threw her bike to the line first taking a convincing win ahead of the competition.
Wow, @WiggleHigh5 completely in control! I asked La Bronzini this morning what the day's plan was & she responded 'We win with Chloe today!'
— Rochelle Gilmore (@RochelleGilmore) July 4, 2016
In second was Marta Bastianelli (Alé Cipollini) with stage one winner Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-High5) third ahead of Roxane Fournier (PC Futuroscope) and Barbara Guarischi (Canyon//SRAM).
The GC leadership remains largely unchanged, with Evelyn Stevens (Boels Dolmans) still in the Pink leader's jersey, with team mate Megan Guarnier in the Points jersey. Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv) wears the Young Rider jersey whilst Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) is in the climber's jersey and Best Italian Jersey.
TOP 3 GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 3:
1. Evelyn Stevens (Boels Dolmans) 8:19’25"
2. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv) +3"
3. Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) +16"
Well - this is getting rather long! Check out the action from stage four, here.
See it here.