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Women's Cycling Faulkner in leader's pink jersey after first stage of women's tour of Italy, the Giro Donne, in Cagliari

THE 33rd edition of cycling’s women’s tour of Italy, the Giro Donne, started today with a short individual time trial on roads around sunny but windy Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, won by Kristen Faulkner.

The US rider was joined on the podium by BikeExchange team mate Georgia Baker of Australia in second place and world road race champion Elisa Balsamo of Italy in third.

It’s a 10-stage race this year, through five regions of Italy — Sardinia, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto — amounting to just over 1,000km (620-odd miles) of racing.
 
A prize fund of €250,000 (£215,000) that includes €50,000 to the overall winner of the leader’s jersey, the maglia rosa, together with a return to World Tour status because of TV coverage, has attracted a top-class field of 144 riders, even though some teams are keeping their powder dry for the upcoming women’s Tour de France.

The race has been dominated by Dutch riders for past decade or so: Marianne Vos won in 2011, 2012 and 2014; Annemiek van Vleuten won in 2018 and 2019; while Anna van der Breggen was champion in 2015, 2017, 2020 and 2021.

But with Van der Breggen having retired and Vos and Van Vleuten nearing the end of their illustrious careers, perhaps the maglia rosa will go elsewhere this year, or even stay in Italy. 
 
As expected, there is a strong Italian contingent — 48 riders — spread across the top teams, all eager to impress on home roads: Balsamo has told the press she intends to leave her mark on the race, former world champ Marta Bastianelli and young talent Marta Cavalli will be contenders and evergreen Elisa Longo Borghini, winner of this season’s Paris-Roubaix one-dayer and the recent British Women’s Tour is in flying form.
 
 But the representation is diverse, with competitors from 32 nations altogether, including a government-backed team from Colombia that includes youngsters Lina Marcela Hernandez and Elizabeth Castano.
 
Despite the presence of such old hands as Van Vleuten, Spain’s Mavi Garcia and  Australia’s Sarah Roy, the Giro’s median rider age is less than 25 and there are more than 50 competitors starting the race for the first time. As in the men’s grand tours, one thing’s for certain: the youngsters are taking over.

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