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Preview: Giro di Toscana - with Live Ticker

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14th – 19th September

The 2010 edition of the Giro di Toscana-Memorial Michela Fanini sets off today with the first of its six stages through the Tuscan countryside leading towards the spectacular finish on Sunday in the heart of historic (and cobbled) Florence. It’s the last race on the UCI international calendar before the Worlds, the last stage race of the season, and as the organisers try to include more of the short, sharp one-day race type climbs rather than the 30km uphill slogs of the Ardeche, it is usually seen as good preparation for the Worlds and tends to attract very strong fields.

This year the course is, bar a couple of very minor tweaks, the same as last year. Stage 1 is a short team time trial up and down the seafront at Viareggio which was livened up last year by winds, torrential rain, and a couple of riders forgetting that they were meant to be doing two laps. Stage 2 is a complicated series of loops around Porcari and Altopascia to the east of Lucca with a token couple of tiny categorised climbs. Stage 3 is a bit meatier looking, starting from Pontedera, a few miles south of Lucca, and ending with two climbs of Volterra, once famous for its Etruscan history, but now apparently better known for being home to, well think Andy Schleck without the goofy smile. Stage 4 is a short time trial on Friday evening up and down the centre of Campi Bisenzio, halfway between Florence and Quarrata. Stage 5 starts and finishes in Capannori, just east of Lucca and consists of four laps of a circuit with a small hill, followed by a final run out to the slightly harder climb of Valgiano. Last year this was the decisive stage when eventual winner Diane Ziliute escaped in a small group including among others Ina-Yoko Teutenberg and Charlotte Becker. Finally on Sunday comes stage 6, a series of laps around Quarrata followed by the ride to the heart of Florence.

Cicloweb have a rundown of the favourites, and if you understand Italian then the organisers have one of the best live-tickers in the business. I’ll add more as and when I find it.