Tour de France 2024 stage one preview - an explosive opener

The Tour takes a leaf out of the Giro's book and begins the 111th edition with an up and down stage in Emilia-Romagna

Date: Saturday June 29, 2024
Distance: 206km
Start location: Florence
Finish location: Rimini
Start time: 12:00 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:34 CET

For the first time in its 121-year history, the Tour de France will begin in Italy. Though foreign Grand Départs in nearby European countries have become increasingly common over the years, as the nation that hosts the main rival Grand Tour to the Tour, an invitation has never been sent out to Italy. Until now.

For the 2024 Tour, the organisers have made the humbling choice to hand over the spotlight to Italy, and have chosen one of the nation’s most beautiful and historic cities: Florence. Few, if any, places have had as much impact on the world as Renaissance-era Florence, which was the origin of everything from the architecture of Brunelleschi and art of Giotto and Botticelli, to the scientific advances of Galileo and political theory of Machiavelli. 

Even much of what makes up something as apparently quintessentially French as the nation’s fine dining and cuisine, which the Tour loves to show off each year, was introduced by a Florentine. Catherine de’ Medici exerted great influence on the French crown during the 16th century after marrying and having three children with King Henry II, and she revolutionised dining culture into the kind of ritualised, sophisticated practice we now associate with French cuisine, as well as popularising modern favourite treats crêpes and macarons.

For the route of opening stage, the organisers also seem to have drawn ideas from the Italians, with the kind of hilly parcours you’d more associate with an early stage of the Giro d'Italia than the Tour. In fact, the total of seven climbs the riders tackle in the opening stage travelling through Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna on their way to the coastal finish at Rimini is more than during any other stage of this whole Tour, and the total elevation gain of 3,600m is as much as the first Alpine stage later this week. These climbs are hills rather than mountains, with the steepest (the 7.6% Côte de Barbotto and 7.7% Côte de San Leo) not lasting longer than 6km, and the longest (the 12.5km Col de Valico Tre Faggi and 10.5km Côte de Carnaio) offset by shallow gradients, and therefore, are better suited to puncheurs rather than pure climbers. But there are enough of them to make this a GC day, and for any favourites feeling confident and bold enough to apply pressure on others — especially those with doubts about their form and fitness, hoping to ride their way into the race.

The first wearer of the yellow jersey could therefore be one of the top overall favourites, while the first rider to don the polka-dot jersey could be a long-term contender to win the King of the Mountains classification. With so many summits to be tackled, there are lots of points on offer, and therefore a great opportunity for a rider to seize an early lead in that classification. In recent editions there has been a notable decline in interest in getting into the day’s break during the early stages of the Tour, with some days passing with one and sometimes even no riders going up the road, but with such an incentive today we can expect a much more competitive fight to get up the road. 

Tour de France 2024 stage one preview

Route profile sourced via ASO 


Given every rider has fresh legs and as much energy as they'll ever have during this Tour, plus the sheer gruelling nature of this stage, there is a distinct air of unpredictability about stage one. 

On the one hand, there is every possibility we see action from some of the general classification favourites. After his exploits in the Giro d'Italia opener, you wouldn't put it past Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) to hit out on the final climb, and at the very least pull away a select group he could subsequently beat in a sprint.

His compatriot Primož Roglič (Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe) may have something to say about that if the situation occurs, likewise boasting a strong sprint among the GC contenders. As does Remco Evenepoel (Soudal–Quick-Step) who, like Pogačar, often can't resist an opportunity for an early victory.

Then again, there are plenty of punchy climbers on the start list who could contend the victory in Rimini, with little to lose in attacking given their lack of GC incentive. Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) could be well suited to the shorter nature of these climbs, as could the likes of Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ), Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-Victorious), Rui Costa and Neilson Powless (both EF Education-EasyPost), Magnus Cort (Uno-X Mobility) and Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny).

On the other hand, with 26km to ride between the top of the final climb and the finish, there remains a chance for some of the heavier, punchy riders of the peloton. World champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) springs to mind given his scintillating form this year, as do Michael Matthews (Jayco-Alula) and new Italian champion Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost), while the form of Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) remains an unknown following his recovery from severe injuries.

Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) could stand a chance if things don't kick-off to severely on the climbs, but it seems very unlikely any of the purer sprinters will make it over this many climbs to contest the win.

Stage one winner prediction 

This is an exceptionally difficult stage to predict, but we think Mathieu van der Poel will be good enough to conquer the climbing here and beat a remaining group in a sprint finish to claim the first yellow jersey of the Tour.


Shop now