Giro di Toscana - Memorial Michela Fanini

For all the women's trade teams the season comes to an end this week with the six day long Giro di Toscana, founded by Italian cycling stalwart (and curling tongs enthusiast extraordinaire) Brunello Fanini to commemorate his daughter. Right now everyone is mindful of the Worlds at the end of the month, so the parcours is intelligently designed with just enough climbing to stretch the legs, but not so much that it scares people off. Last year the top three were Judith Arndt, Trixi Worrack and Marianne Vos, and previous podiums are just as impressive. You can't fluke a win here.

So who's there this year? Well the only notable absences are Cervelo, Lotto Belisol and the Brits. As is often the case the people at Cicloweb are ahead of even the organisers in making a start list available. Judith Ardt and Mara Abbott lead an oddly shortened Columbia team that also seems to have young Aussie sprinter Chloe Hosking riding as a stagiaire (what gives with all the shrunken Columbia teams recently - are they really broke?). The Michela Fanini team has their three stars, Monia Baccaille, Tatiana Guderzo and Brazilian Rosanne Kirch, Bigla the familiar Nicole Brandli - Noemi Cantele double, the USA have national champ Meredith Miller, sprinter Shelley Olds, new discovery Evelyn Stevens and really-should-blog-more Megan Guarnier. Plus sometime DS Liza Rachetto is putting down her megaphone and riding for Ivano Fanini's System Data squad (the one with the Golden Arches on the jersey but not in the team name - go figure), along with the impressive recent arrival from Australia, Kirsty Broun. Beyond the multiple threat teams are lots of the familiar star-plus-support squads, including Fabiana Luperini's Selle Italia, Marianne Vos' DBS and Svetlana Bubnenkova's Fenixs (complete, I hope, with the leopard-spot team cars they brought to the Giro).

The race takes place over the roads of Florence, Pisa and Lucca, so should actually be something of a home race to a lot of the girls. Not just to the Italians either, as both US and Australian development squads have their European HQs nearby. So there are fewer excuses. Two of the stages are time trials, one in teams, but the total distance for the two is under 10k, so the strong teams won't be able to get an unbeatable lead, although Luperini fears that even a gain of 20 seconds will be hard to take back. Stage 1 on Tuesday evening is 4.5 k along the seafront at Viareggio (so if you've seen Liz Hatch's tan, now you can see where she got it), and Stage 4 on Friday is 5.5k alone. Both those start at 19:00 local time. Stage 2 and stage 6 are ones for the sprinters, with just a couple of token GPM humps early on in stage 2 to enable the jersey to be handed out. The race proper is likely to be decided on stage 3 and stage 5. Stage 3 climbs up to Volterra twice, the second time for a hilltop finish, although 10k at about 4.5% each time (my estimate from the profiles) probably won't be enough for the real climbers to get far away. Far better for them is what looks like 2k at over 10% on Stage 5, but the better descenders will have a 10k run-in to the finish line to catch up again. What a well designed course it seems to be.

I've not heard of any video coverage, but the organisers are planning to run a live ticker every day, and as that appears to be partly sponsored by Vodaphone then they won't want to be embarrassed by "out of signal range" messages. Results should appear here (although Cicloweb will probably get them first, and you can find a lot more if you ca navigate through the Italian only main site.