Starting the 2024 Tour de France in Florence will fix an “incongruity” and celebrate Italian cycling, race director Christian Prudhomme told AFP on Wednesday as he confirmed the first-ever Italian Grand Depart.
The 2024 Tour will start with three stages in Italy and, because of the Paris Olympics, will end in Nice, the first time since 1905 that it will not reach its climax on the streets of the capital.
“The Tour has started from all the countries bordering France,” said Prudhomme who is in Italy until Friday to present the 26th Grand Depart from outside French borders, the third in a row after Copenhagen in 2022 and Bilbao in 2023.
“It has even started six times from the Netherlands, which has no common border with France. But it has never started from Italy.
“It’s an incongruity that will disappear.”
The first stage, on June 29, which Prudhomme describes as “a mid-mountain, or even mountain stage, with an elevation gain of 3,700 metres”, takes the peloton from Florence over the Apennine mountains to Rimini on the Adriatic coast.
The second, cut out for the punchers, will start from the port town of Cesenatico, the hometown and resting place of 1998 winner Marco Pantani, and will go via Imola to Bologna.
The third is a sprinters’ stage from Piacenza to Turin. The fourth stage will also start in Italy before finishing in France.
The Florence start will also be an opportunity to celebrate Italian cycling with 2024 marking the centenary of Ottavio Bottecchia’s victory in the 1924 edition, the first by an Italian.
The first stage will pass the Gino Bartali museum, dedicated to the Tour winner of 1938 and 1948. It will also pass the resting place of another two-time champion Fausto Coppi.
“There is an obvious link with the legend of Italian cycling and its champions,” said Prudhomme.
This Italian curtain raiser for the Tour comes 70 years after the first outside France in Amsterdam in 1954, and follows years of negotiations between the neighbouring countries so passionate about cycling.
The idea was reignited when former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi texted Prudhomme a photo of his city at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in March 2020.
“In the midst of a pandemic, Matteo Renzi, the former mayor of Florence, texted me a photo of his city with this word: ‘Florence empty, deserted but so beautiful. I haven’t forgotten my dreams of the Grand Depart. After the pandemic, let’s see’.
“It restarted the thing,” said Prudhomme impatient to see the riders finally survey the “open-air museum of Florence, the banks of the Adriatic and the crossing of the Apennines”.
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