A week out from the start of the 2023 Giro Donne and it was impossible to say whether one of the biggest races of the year for the women’s peloton would be going ahead.
The first rumblings of trouble could be heard when race organisers Starlight failed to roll out the route for all nine stages of the race in an orderly manner. News of the Giro Donne changing hands to RCS, the organizers of the men’s Giro d’Italia, in 2024 was received with mixed reviews, but with the way things are going it can’t get much worse for the Italian “Grand Tour”. With a week to go before the longest stage race on the women’s calendar, it wasn’t looking good for anyone who had designed their season around targeting the pink jersey in 2023.
On Friday, Starlight called an emergency meeting with the Italian Cycling Committee, apparently to ask for help covering the costs of the required 90 minutes of television coverage a day. The sum Starlight asked for was in the realm of €730,000, not exactly something FCI can find stuffed in the couch cushions.
One of the many reasons the television coverage is important has to do with the deal with RCS. The organizers are only keen to take over the women’s event if it’s part of the WorldTour calendar, but in order to remain on the UCI’s list of top-tier races the race is required to show at least 90 minutes of each stage live. The Giro Donne was already demoted once from the WorldTour calendar after they failed to live up to the expectation of a WorldTour event in 2020. After Starlight took control of the race they regained entry into the WWT for the 2022 edition.
Should the UCI see fit to remove the Giro Donne from the WorldTour in 2024, the deal with RCS could fall through, meaning the race could be cancelled for good.
Starlight and Roberto Ruini seem to be suffering from a strong case of senioritis. It was announced in February of 2023 that RCS would take control of the race, along with the men’s Under 23 Giro, but the decision was made when no one else put their hands up to organize the event, and as the federation owns the Giro Donne it’s on them to make sure everything is up to par.
Starlight has already quietly let slip a massive reduction in prize money, from €50,000 for the race winner to only €2,000. The race’s social media has been silent since July 12, 2022, and the route announcement for the 2023 edition went completely off the radar, with only a Google link posted to the website and no announcements whatsoever.
The countdown is on for the race start in Chianciano but without any live coverage, Starlight claims the race might be cancelled outright. The question remains whether the race will go ahead with or without the UCI’s mandatory coverage and whether that will impact the deal with RCS. Surely should the race take place without live pictures the UCI would think twice before demoting it, given the significance of the RCS takeover for women’s cycling.
At this point use one hand to cross your fingers and the other to hold your head for the riders who spent months preparing to fight for the iconic pink jersey.
Update: On Friday afternoon, Starlight, the current Giro Donne organizers, made an agreement with the Italian cycling federation that will make sure the race provides the UCI’s minimum television coverage. The FCI will assume responsibility for the live pictures and the saga of will-it-won’t-it seems to finally come to an end. The Giro Donne will take place, and we’ll get to watch all nine stages starting June 30th.
What did you think of this story?