Axel May with AFP
09:05, December 22, 2022
The end of an “incongruity”. The tour of France will depart from Italy in 2024 for the first time in its more than century-old history, departing from Florence for a 111th edition definitely not like the others with a final arrival in Nice.
“The Tour has started from all the countries bordering France. It has even started six times from the Netherlands, which has no common border with France. But it has never yet started from Italy. There has a kind of incongruity that will disappear”, explains Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour de France who is in Italy until Friday to present this 26th Grand departure from abroad, the third consecutive after Copenhagen in 2022 and Bilbao in 2023.
“It’s a dream for us”
Former rider, Davide Cassani is involved in the Italian candidacy for 2024. “With the president of Emilia-Romagna, we made the Grand Départ of the Tour of Italy three years ago. Afterwards, I asked him “What more can we do? We can organize the Grand Départ of the Tour de France. The president said to me: but it’s difficult!”
Davide Cassani replied: “Yes, it’s almost impossible. Almost. Because the Tour de France never left Italy.” And to add: “We worked with Emilia-Romagna, with Florence, to realize our dream. Because it is a dream for us”.
Three stages in Italy
In total, there will be three stages in Italy to launch the 2024 edition which, due to the Olympic Games in Paris, will end exceptionally in Nice with, as the organizers had already announced, a final individual time trial on the 21 July, five days before the start of the Olympics in the capital.
The first stage, on June 29, will connect Florence to Rimini – “a mid-mountain or even mountain stage with an elevation gain of 3,700 meters”, according to Prudhomme. The second, cut out for punchers, will leave from Cesenatico and will end on a final circuit in Bologna via Imola where Julian Alaphilippe won his first world champion title in 2020. The third, promised to sprinters, will go from Plaisance to Torino. The fourth stage should also take off in Italy and then arrive in France.
“Florence deserted but so beautiful”
“Leaving abroad, not only do I assume it but I claim it. The French security forces will be in enormous demand in 2024, so a big departure from abroad can help”, insists Prudhomme. For the Tour, it is also an opportunity to celebrate Italian cycling, so rich, as 2024 marks the centenary of the first Italian victory in the Grand Boucle, that of Ottavio Bottecchia in 1924.
“At kilometer zero after Florence, we will pass in front of the Gino Bartali museum (double winner of the Tour de France in 1938 and 1948). We will also pass in front of the place where Fausto Coppi rests. There will be a stage start in Cesenatico where Marco Pantani is buried. There is an obvious link with the legend of Italian cycling and its champions”, underlines the director of the Tour.
70 years after the first departure from abroad
This Grand Départ from Italy, 70 years after the first launch from abroad (Amsterdam in 1954), therefore repairs a fairly inexplicable anomaly for two neighboring countries so passionate about cycling. The deal came close to closing several times but, for various reasons, was always delayed.
“At the end of March 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, Matteo Renzi, the former mayor of Florence and ex-president of the Council, texted me a photo of his city with this word: “Florence empty, deserted but so beautiful. I haven’t forgotten my Grand Départ dreams. After the pandemic, let’s see”. It restarted the thing”, says Prudhomme, impatient to see the runners finally survey the “open-air museum of Florence, the shores of the Adriatic and the crossing of the Apennines”.