British stars Pooley, Cooke, Armitstead and Laws line up for Giro Donne
Women race escape group, British road race National Championships 2012
Emma Pooley, Nicole Cooke, Lizzie Armitstead and newly-crowned British road race champion Sharon Laws are among a strong British contingent lining up for the 2012 Giro Donne - the women's Tour of Italy - on Friday.
Pooley finished runner-up last year to overall winner Marianne Vos of the Netherlands. AA Drink-leontien.nl leader Pooley is backed by a strong team this year including fellow Brits Laws, Armitstead and Lucy Martin in the tough nine-day race.
Pooley won the Emakumeen Saria one-day race and a stage of the Emakumeen Bira in Spain earlier in June. The rider from Wandsworth won stage eight of last year's race, and took the mountains classification in 2010.
Reigning Olympic road race champion Cooke (Faren Honda) is the only British rider to have won the presitigous Italian race - the Welshwoman took the overall title in 2004. Cooke won stage five of the Giro Donne last season.
The remaining British representative is under-23 Brit national champion Katie Colclough (Specialized-Lululemon). Colclough won a stage of Gracia-Orlova in April.
Cooke, Pooley, Armitstead and Martin have been selected to represent Great Britain in the women's road events at the London 2012 Olympic Games, starting on July 27.
The 2012 Giro Donne starts with a 139.1km road stage from Napoli to Terracina on Friday (June 29). The following day, the riders navigate a twisty 7.2km individual time trial circuit around Rome and then it's straight into a mountains stage on Sunday, followed by a tough day up the towering peak of Montecatini Alto on Monday. The race concludes in Bergamo on Saturday, July 7.
Giro Donne 2012: Stages
Stage 1 - Friday June 29 - Napoli to Terracina, 139.1km
Stage 2 - Saturday June 30 - Rome to Rome, 7.2km
Stage 3 - Sunday July 1 - Vernio to Castiglione dei Pepoli, 124km
Stage 4 - Monday July 2 - Montecatini Terme to Montecatini Alto, 98km
Stage 5 - Tuesday July 3 - Polesella to Molinella, 118.7km
Stage 6 - Wednesday July 4 - Modena to Salsomaggiore, 122.2km
Stage 7 - Thursday July 5 - Voghera to Castagnola delle Lanze, 129.1km
Stage 8 - Friday July 6 - Mornago to Lonate Pozzolo, 116.2km
Stage 9 - Saturday July 7 - Sarnico to Bergamo, 106.9km
Giro Donne: Last year's top ten overall
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit in 25-42-40
2. Emma Pooley (GBr) Garmin-Cervelo at 3-16
3. Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC Highroad at 8-15
4. Tatiana Guderzo (Ita) MCipollini-Giambenini at 9-09
5. Tatiana Antoshina (Rus) Gauss at 12-46
6. Ruth Corset (Aus) Bizkaia-Durango at 12-58
7. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products-UCK at 14-15
8. Sylwia Kapusta (Pol) Gauss at 14-26
9. Shara Gillow (Aus) Bizkaia-Durango at 15-48
10. Mara Abbott (USA) Diadora-Pasta Zara at 16-29
17. Sharon Laws (GBr) Garmin-Cervelo at 26-00
29. Nicole Cooke (GBr) MCipollini-Giambenini at 47-54
Giro Donne: Recent winners
2011: Marianne Vos (Ned)
2010: Mara Abbott (USA)
2009: Claudia Hausler (Ger)
2008: Fabiana Luperini (Ita)
2007: Edita Pucinskaite (Ltu)
2006: Edita Pucinskaite (Ltu)
2005: Nicole Brandli (Swi)
2004: Nicole Cooke (GBr)
2003: Nicole Brandli (Swi)
2002: Svetlana Bubnenkova (Rus)
Giro Donne official website