Gallery: A brutal and beautiful Italian Grand Départ

In many ways it is hard to believe that the Tour de France has never started in Italy, but the race organisers more than made up for it this year

The Grand Départ of this year’s Tour de France was years in the making. Now, however, the race's time in Italy is coming to a close. But it will not be forgotten anytime soon and will go down as one of the most memorable Tour de France starts ever.

It is hard to believe that the Tour has never started in Italy until now. But the race organisers more than made up for it this year with the spectacular backdrop of the renaissance city of Florence. From the riders climbing the podium on the Piazzale Michelangelo for the official team presentation, to the moment they rolled over the Ponte Vecchio on their way out of town on stage one, the city offered one of the most spectacular stages for a bicycle race ever, and placing the bar very high for the upcoming stage starts.

The riders wasted little time turning up the heat in the already sweltering temperatures. The French got off to one of their best Tour starts in modern memory with back-to-back wins with Romain Bardet and Kevin Vauquelin. Eritrea’s Binaim Girmay raised his arms at the line in Turin, giving his country its first-ever stage win in the Tour.

Meanwhile, the Italian fans, the esteemed tifosi, lined the roadside throughout the three-day affair. Although at times they seemed to take on a French accent, town after town was decorated in yellow instead of the Giro d’Italia pink.

And while the Tour returns to home soil on stage four with a mountainous stage to Valloire, this year’s Tour send-off will remain in our memory for years to come.

Take a look at some of our favourite images from this year's Grand Départ.

Two-time defending champion Jonas Vingegaard waves to the fans at the team presentation while the city of Florence and its famed Duomo offered one of the most striking backdrops ever.

The Tour de France director's car leads the riders through the Piazza del Duomo as they wind their way through the city. 

Bravo Romain! Everyone here at the Tour was happy for Romain Bardet, who stormed to victory on stage one and captured the first yellow jersey of this year's race. The Frenchman announced this would be his last Tour de France, and while he has finished both second and third in the race, he never wore the yellow jersey, even for a day. 

Stage two of this year's race rolled past the old port in the seaside town of Cesenatico, home to Marco Pantani. 

 Even the devil saluted Marco Pantani in the stage start in Cesenatico.

The pack rolled along miles and miles of beaches early in stage two as the race cycled up the Adriatic Coast. Thousands of vacationers took a break from the sea and sun to greet the Tour de France as it passed by.

The peloton makes its way through Ravenna, once a major city in the Byzantine Empire.

Only 23, Frenchman Kéven Vauquelin scored his first stage win in the Tour with an impressive solo win into Bologne.

Already in yellow, if only for a day, Tadej Pogačar more than demonstrated that he is ready to return to the top step of the podium this year.

The yellow jersey relaxed in the pack as they roll through Stradella early on stage three.

Italian schoolgirls were only too happy to get a break from class to see the Tour de France pass by.

Fausto Coppi fans await the race as it approaches Tortona, the town where he died in 1960.

Biniam Girmay was overjoyed to score the first Tour victory for his native Eritrea. With victories in Ghent-Wevelgem as well as the Giro d'Italia, Girmay is steadily building an impressive collection of victories.

Tadej Pogačar made it clear that he did not particularly want to keep the yellow jersey so early in the race, and Ecuador's Richard Carapaz was only too happy to take it over. Turin has been good to Carapaz, for it was here where he also grabbed the pink jersey in the Giro d'Italia. Now the only question is just how long he can keep it. 

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