Starting tomorrow, 20 teams will be competing in the only Women's Grand Tour race of the year, the Giro Rosa.  Nine stages long, the women will be racing nearly 600 miles (953km) starting north of Naples, then traveling north along the Adriatic Sea before the real battles begin along the northern mountain ranges of Italy.  

The event begins with two circuit races during Stages 1 and 2. The first big climb, Belmonte Castello, happens during Stage 3, followed by two days of coastal routes including several short, steep, punchy, climbs. Then the back-to-back climbing days begin. Unlike the men's Grand Tours, there is no procession in the final stage which means these women will be pushing it all the way through Stage 9 when the race concludes at the top of the Ghisallo climb.  An unrelenting ascent with long stretches of 10% grades, maxing out at 14%.

Favorites for this year include 2010/2013 winner Mara Abbot for UHC, 2011/2012 winner Marianne Vos for Rabo-Liv, 2011/2012 second place rider Emma Pooley for Lotto Belisol, and 2010 Stage 7 winner Evelyn Stevens for Specialized-Lululemon. Check out the full line up here, along with a breakdown of each stage.

[VeloFocus.com]