Giro d'Italia
stage races

The Giro Donne. World's biggest stage race under pressure

3min reading time   by Dries De Zaeytijd on 30 June 2022
Even more than the Month of Mary, May is known as the period when the Giro is held every year. In 2022, this Tour of Italy will already have reached its 105th edition. The women also contest their Giro every year, albeit a month later. The Giro Donne has been the most important stage race for women for decades. However, the new Tour de France Femmes can change this.

In 1984, women's cycling is at a turning point. That summer, the Tour de France Féminin takes place for the first time. Between 30 June and 22 July, 18 stages are ridden on the same route as the 'men's tour', although in a shorter version. Less than a week later, female cyclists are admitted to the Olympic Games for the first time. American Connie Carpenter is the first woman ever to win Olympic gold in the road race. Does this open the way for women athletes? Not quite yet.

In their own country, many women still have to fight to be able to race. A professional status is still out of the question. Five years after the first edition of the Tour de France Féminin, a new stage race is launched in 1988: the Giro Donne. The Italian Maria Canins proves to be the best in her own country. Between 1995 and 1998, the Italian Fabiana Luperini wins the Giro Donne four times in a row. After the Tour Féminin bleeds to death at the beginning of the 21st century, the Giro Rosa becomes one of the most prestigious stage races for women.

Quid nunc Giro Donne?

The Italian Tour will only have real competition when the Tour Féminin is reanimated. In 2014, the (already) powerful cycling organiser ASO launches 'La Course by le Tour de France' - in short La Course. A clear sign that women's cycling is gradually being taken more seriously. Although La Course can hardly be called a real 'Tour' back then. The riders have to content themselves with a race on the Champs-Elysées, a few hours before the men's finish. Anyway, La Course opens the door to a new Tour de France.

And the Giro Donne? At that time, it is dominated by Dutch figureheads such as Marianne Vos, who advocates a renewed Tour Féminin, Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten. The Giro Rosa struggled with its status for a while, but in 2022 it will come out with a considerable amount of prize money and a renewed status at the highest level. With the launch of the first edition of the Tour de France Femmes - a week or so after the end of the Giro Donne - the Italian stage race will have to adapt if it wants to continue competing with its French counterpart. A new place on the - fairly crowded - cycling calendar for women could be a solution.

Giro d'Italia Femminile

The Giro d'Italia Femminile is an annual elite women's road bicycle racing stage race. It was rebranded from 2013-2020 as the Giro Rosa, having been branded the Giro Donne until 2012 and again in 2021. It is considered the most prestigious stage race in women's road cycling.
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