This year’s Giro Rosa, a 10-day women’s cycling race across Italy, which is considered the toughest race for women in the UCI calendar, will see the first ever participation of Slovenia’s first professional women’s cycling team. Members of team BTC City Ljubljana have qualified for this prominent race, in which only the top 18 teams in the world are allowed to compete, for the first time in 25 years and after three years of vying for an invitation. Their participation is testimony to the fact that the team is bringing in great results and represents the high end of women’s professional cycling worldwide.

Team BTC City Ljubljana will be represented by the following cyclists, who will compete in the Giro Rosa from July 4 to July 13: Eugenija Bujak, Martina Ritter, Elena Valentini, Mia Radotić, Polona Batagelj, Špela Kern, Urša Pintar and Anja Rugelj. All cyclists, except Polona Batagelj, who has already competed in the Giro twice, will participate in the race for the first time. The girls’ expectations vary, while the team’s coach and sports director Gorazd Penko remains realistic: “Bearing in mind my extensive racing experience, I harbour no great expectations regarding overall placements. For a good overall result, you need to deliver a flawless performance every day for 10 days straight. Given that such a long race is a first for all the girls except Polona, they can’t be sure what to expect. When the race is over, we’ll see which of the girls can even cope with such lengthy exertion. I’ll be happy if half the team manages to complete all the stages and if the team as a whole doesn’t place among the last. As far as individual stages go, I would like to see one of our cyclists place among the top ten. It’s going to be hard, but not impossible.” 

Jože Mermal, the team’s godfather and the President of the BTC Management Board, which also lends the team its name, is very proud and content that the girls have qualified for the biggest professional cycling race in the world: “Team BTC City Ljubljana is strong and active internationally. Its success contributes to the recognisability of our beautiful country, the city of Ljubljana and, last but not least, BTC City. Surprisingly, word of our team has spread all over the world in less than half a year, which we can be extremely proud of, while the team’s many successes also signal new opportunities for the general development of cycling in Slovenia, so that this sport may grow in numbers, become even more popular and reach even higher levels of quality.”

The mayor of the City Municipality of Ljubljana, Zoran Janković, also thinks that the participation of Ljubljana’s professional women’s cycling team in the prominent cycling race Giro Rosa is important for the city of Ljubljana, because it places Slovenia’s capital on the map of women’s professional cycling. He says that “it confirms that Ljubljana is truly a city of cyclists, where professionals and amateurs alike, as well as all those who choose the bicycle simply to go about their daily routine, can find their way. The sustainable, green and healthy development, where urban life and nature preservation find a harmonious co-existence and which Ljubljana steadily pursues, is already showing exceptional results, which are also visible beyond our borders – for example in Ljubljana being named the 2016 European Green Capital a couple of days ago in Copenhagen.” The mayor wished team BTC City Ljubljana a successful race and expressed hope that it may reach the goals they have set: “We will all cheer for our cyclists and I’m sure that this is but the beginning of a great story that the team will continue to write as the future unfolds.”

Given the reputation and type of the race, as well as the competition, the Giro Rosa will be a hard nut to crack for all the girls, bringing with it all the trials and tribulations of a stage race. One of the most difficult stages of this year’s Giro, stage 6, which will take place on July 10 in the commune of San Fior in Veneto, is routed closest to the Slovenian border. Stages 8 and 9 (the final stage) are also incredibly demanding.

The race will start in the south of Italy, in Caserta. As per custom, the race will begin with a 2.05 km long prologue, which won’t have any great bearing on the final ranking of the cyclists. The programme of the stage race is as follows:

  • Stage 1: Santa Maria a Vico – Santa Maria a Vico, 95 km;
  • Stage 2: Frattamaggiore – Frattamaggiore, 120 km;
  • Stage 3: Caserta – San Donato val di Comino,125 km;
  • Stage 4: Alba Adriatica – Jesi, 118 km;
  • Stage 5: Jesi – Cesenatico,118 km;
  • Stage 6: Gaiarine – San Fior, 112 km;
  • Stage 7: Aprica – Chiavenna, 92 km;
  • Stage 8: Verbania – Varzo San Domenico, 90 km;
  • Stage 9: Trezzo sul Adda – Magreglio, 80 km.

The girls will have the full support of their coach and the accompanying team consisting of Rado Kocjančič from KD Rog, Matic Žehelj and Sara Bogomolec from the BTC Company, and director of the team Maja Oven. Igor Bertoncelj and Sašo Rupnik will make sure that all the bikes run smoothly and the masseuse Simona Uršič will take care that the girls are kept in an excellent physical condition.

Statements of our cyclists before competing in the Giro Rosa:

Polona Batagelj: “I’m very happy to be able to partake in the Giro once again, because I know how hard it is to get invited to such a race. That’s precisely why I want our team to make as good an impression as possible. The way the team is put together enables us to get good individual stage results as well as a decent overall placement. I will strive to contribute as much as I can with my good fitness, help towards others and the experience I’ve gathered in the course of my previous three Giro races.”

Eugenija Bujak: “I don’t know what kind of tactic our coach has chosen, but I believe that the team can achieve some good results. My aims are high, but I honestly don’t know what to expect. This is the first time that I will compete in the Giro Rosa. I do find it encouraging that I’ve had more road races this season, although my favourite cycling grounds are the mountains. If any of the girls needs my help as the race unfolds, I will do all in my power to help her. I’m also sure that we’ll have a good time racing in the Giro Rosa and our great coach Gorazd Penko is one of the reasons why.

Additional information:

Maja Oven, Director of team BTC City Ljubljana and Director of the BTC Market Communications and Public Relations Sector