Annemiek van Vleuten rides alone, in the red leaders jersey of La Vuelta Feminin, trying to retain her lead of the race.

Wheel Talk Newsletter: Can RCS give us the women’s Giro d’Italia the sport deserves?

Your weekly dose of women's cycling news and insight (plus some extras).

Annemiek van Vleuten during the final stage of the 2023 La Vuelta Feminin. Demi Vollering and Gaia Realini were up the road and Van Vleuten was trying to mitigate the damage and retain her lead overall.

Hello and thank you for opening the newest installment of the Wheel Talk Newsletter. Last week was a doozy; this week will be a bit lighter with some Women’s WorldTour sprinting in China, a world record getting broken, a lot of off-season fun had, and more.

In case you didn’t know, you can get this newsletter straight to your inbox! Sign up below ?

When Ellen van Dijk set her hour record in May 2022 we thought it would be set in stone for quite some time. The multi-time ITT World Champion was not only perfect for the job, but she also had the full force of Trek behind her to perfect equipment and make sure everything was dialed.

As it turned out, the record held for just over a year! In an incredible display of strength, Vittoria Bussi demolished Van Dijk’s record and became the first woman to pass the 50 km mark.

Van Dijk, who is a bit busy at the moment, took the defeat well.

Bussi already held the record previously. She first took it in 2018 with a distance of 48.007 km but was unseated by Joss Lowden in 2021 with a distance of 48.405 km. Van Dijk then claimed the record with a ride of 49.254 km.

Like a few men who have attempted the milestone, Bussi flew to Aguascalientes, Mexico for both attempts, helped along by a crowdfunding campaign.

“As a mathematician, I contribute to aerodynamic and technological studies, aiming to break the 50 km mark in the next attempt at the women’s UCI Hour Record,” she explained (Bussi has a PhD in Pure Mathematics from the University of Oxford).

A time trial specialist, Bussi’s best results on the road include a stage win at the 2021 Tour de Feminin in the Czech Republic, 10th in the World Championship ITT in 2020 in Imola, and fifth and eighth at the 2020 and 2021 Europeans, respectively. She is not currently linked to any road teams.

In another part of the world, the women’s peloton ticked down the days to the end of the season. The resurrected Tour of Chongming Island took place over the weekend, with three sprint stages won by Mylene de Zoete of Cetatizit-WNT, Hanna Tserakh of Li Ning Star Ladies, and Chiara Consonni of UAE Team ADQ. Consonni won the final stage and with it the overall; nine seconds behind her was stage 1 winner De Zoete and one second later Human Powered Health’s Daria Pikulik.

The 2023 WWT season wrapped up with the Tour of Guangxi on Tuesday, October 17th. Pikulik won from a bunch sprint ahead of Consonni and Mia Griffin of Israel-Premier Tech Roland.

?️ Wheel Talk Podcast ?️

This week on the Wheel Talk Podcast Matt de Neef, Loren, and I chatted about young riders and names you should know for the future. Got someone we missed? Let us know in the comments or on the Escape Collective discord! We love talking with you all over there.

Listen to the podcast anywhere podcasts are found!

? Let’s discuss ?

We need to talk about the Giro Donne.

Traditionally one of the most chaotic races on the calendar (not for good reasons), the pink jersey of the Giro Donne, formerly Giro Rosa, has long been the most coveted prize in women’s cycling. It has also always been the hilliest multi-day race and thus the only race the climber types can target. Unfortunately, the race never actually earned that prestige. Up to now, it’s never been tied to the men’s race in any way, but garnered a certain level of importance by having a similar name to the men’s race and borrowing the iconic pink leader’s jersey.

There have always been jokes about how the road book that contains profiles and race routes barely resembles what the stage actually looks like. Every year there is some kind of drama around poor organization, and until 2022 there was little to no (mostly no) live coverage. The race was even demoted from the WorldTour in 2021 because of its lack of mandatory coverage.

But that’s all supposed to change in 2024 as RCS, organizers for the men’s Giro d’Italia, take over the women’s event. At least, that’s what we hope. For the last three years, PMG Sport/Starlight has conducted the race with mixed results.

RCS has two women’s events already in Strade Bianche and the brand new UAE Tour that kicked off at the start of the 2023 season. Usually, the coverage of Strade Bianche leaves something to be desired and the prize purse for the women is…not good. So when it was announced that RCS would take on the women’s Giro it was greeted with mixed feelings. On the one hand, actually being associated with the men’s race could open some doors for the women’s peloton. It could mean a bit more stability and organization for the event. But it could also go the opposite way, with the women’s race becoming an afterthought or even an after-afterthought since RCS will also take on the U23 men’s “baby Giro” in 2024.

One note of concern is that RCS was the only organization to even bid for the 2024 Giro Donne. So it wasn’t that they were the keenest to host the race; they were the only ones who threw their hat in the ring.

So upon learning RCS would run the race, it was impossible to be excited or worried because there is really no telling which way things could go. The UAE Tour was pretty good and at least coverage of Strade Bianche has improved in the last two years. It’s something we will only have an opinion on once the race rolls around.

But when the race teased the 2024 route release with the men’s in early October a ripple of excitement escaped the women’s cycling bubble. In years past the route would remain a mystery sometimes with only weeks to go to the race. Had the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift’s timely unveiling of the route rubbed off on other organizers?? If so, it would be a sign of good things to come, maybe (over the years I’ve learned you can’t get excited about these things).

The presentation rolled around, the men’s route was ceremoniously revealed and … the women’s? Postponed, to be revealed “soon.” Classic stuff.

Instead, the race organizers dropped this touching video to spur emotion and inspiration, or something.

They also announced a name change. Instead of Giro Donne, or Giro Rosa, the race will henceforth be known as Giro d’Italia Women and will be only eight stages, instead of the usual 10, sometimes nine. Interestingly, the race will take place a week after its usual calendar slot. It remains to be seen what difference that makes as the event will still overlap the men’s Tour de France, a situation that eclipses the women’s Giro almost completely. But maybe overlapping with the Tour’s second week instead of the first, there will be a little less Tour mania during the Giro d’Italia Women (sigh, hangs head in doubt).

It’s worth noting that due to the Paris Olympics, the women’s Tour de France will take place a few weeks later next year, from August 12-18.

We are perched on the edge of an unknown future for the women’s Giro. Can RCS give the women the race they’ve always deserved, and back up the hype the race has always received yet never earned? It’s definitely possible, but do we dare to hope?

? The joys of social media ?

Off-season! When professional athletes can let their hair down, throw back a beer or two, and permit their bike to collect some dust. For some teams, it still means travel, like for Lidl-Trek who had three of their women at the Waterloo World Cup cyclocross event in the US over the weekend.

Elynor Bäckstedt, Brodie Chapman, and Ilaria Sanguineti joined three of the Lidl-Trek men’s team to cheer on their teammate Thibau Nys as he won his first elite men’s World Cup race, in Trek’s backyard. In the leadup to the event, they visited a costume shop and donned some looks to compete in the “legends” races.

Seeing cyclists party is fascinating, like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs or a teacher outside of school.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Elynor Backstedt-Calvert (@elynor_backstedt)

?️ A picture worth a couple words ?️

In my “cycling photos” folder I have a collection of not only striking, beautiful photos but also funny photos or anything that piques my interest …

What is Marianne Vos being shown in this one, for example? That is quite the reaction … wrong answers only (in the comments).

Jumbo-Visma's PR team shows Marianne Vos an undisclosed image on her phone and Vos looks confused and curious about what is on the screen.
Marianne Vos pictured during the 2023 Giro d’Italia Donne

? Your weekly dose of Taylor Swift ?

Taylor Swift made a surprise cameo on SNL on Saturday to introduce her friend Ice Spice, who was the music guest for the first episode post-writers strike. Ice Spice featured on a remix of Karma that was released a few months after the original version of Midnights, Swift’s 10th studio album.

The two made waves, not only for the music video that accompanied the remix but also because Ice Spice is the first female hip-hop artist Swift has featured on one of her songs, despite Swift’s long-running relationship with Nikki Minaj.

It was not Swift’s first appearance on SNL. She has graced the stage as a musical guest four times, the first in 2009 to perform Love Story and Forever & Always. In 2017 she joined Tiffany Haddish (which spurred an iconic moment for the Reputation Stadium Tour) to perform …Ready For It? and Call It What You Want It. Next up was 2019, hosted by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Swift performed two songs from her Lover album including the title track and False God (an underrated banger).

The last time she officially appeared as a musical guest was in 2021 after she released Red (Taylor’s Version) where she performed All Too Well (10 Minute Version). I could go on and on about that performance itself (the outfit. the leaves. all of it!) but what really stands out is her 2009 appearance on SNL where she was both the host and the musical guest. She performed You Belong with Me and Untouchable but she also got to flex her acting chops … one skit was particularly relatable:

? Until next time! ?

Thank you so much for reading this instalment of the Wheel Talk Newsletter! If you love it, maybe share it with your friends. Or perhaps consider joining Escape Collective as a member. Our members make it possible for us to do what we do, and we can’t say thank you enough.

This time next week the season will be done, and we can all take a few deep breaths. It’s been a wild one!

What did you think of this story?