(Well, Italy).

Yes folks, it's happening. The Tour de France team presentation last night signalled that we are officially ready to begin the 111th edition of the greatest cycling race of them all, and we are here to provide supplementary entertainment, information and analysis, or possibly just serve as a fellow cheerleader in text form. In short: let's GO!

If you haven't read it yet, do check out my team preview, featuring the major storylines for all 22 teams, plus a few suggestions for the next season of Netflix: Le Tour 2024: Team Preview, Unchained

And in the meantime, let me introduce you to the team and the features that we'll be bringing you daily to supplement the race. There will of course be daily recaps of the stage, but seeing as we haven't had any racing yet, we have for you instead a flavour of the atmosphere from La Grand Départ direct from Florence, your daily feature, focusing on this year's debutants, drinks and music to get your Tour party started, food and facts from the local area, an introduction to the art of cycling jerseys, and a stage 1 preview.

First up though, an interview segment coordinated by our very own Anna McEwen, where we'll get to know one of the riders of Le Tour through the medium of quick fire questions. Starting with MICHAEL MATTHEWS!!

by Anna McEwen

Il tour è Firenze, Firenze è il tour

by Lena Koch

Florence in June is full of Tourists walking along the Medici Palazzos, drinking some Aperol Spritz and regard the paintings of the old masters in the Uffizio with suitable awe. 

It’s hard to imagine the city getting even fuller with a whole Tour de France caravan plus fans and still be manageable. 

Cycling fans as a whole often bring their bikes with them. Usually that’s quite helpful when climbing up a pass halfway to cheer on your favourite rider. However, that and the small cobbled streets of Florence full of people staring anywhere but before their own to feet seem to be a bad mixture prone to chaos and accidents waiting to happen. 

And chaos there is. But it’s an orderly kind of chaos that nobody really understands yet works perfectly well. Travel guides will tell you that Florence is mostly car-free and has a lot of car reduced zones. While that might be true in theory it’s very different in reality. It feels like everybody and their mother has a car at least parked within the city. 

Florence is full of pedestrians, Vespas, cars, cyclists and even some kind of electronic golf cart. 

But the city is malleable. Where in one street there seem to be 200 people at once and it’s incredibly loud in the next it’s nearly eerily quiet and beyond a few bikes and an Enoteca there are just a few beautiful old buildings with gigantic doors. 

You can walk everywhere. And in the inner city there is not one street that isn’t breath-taking. And Florence’s splendour isn’t concentrated on Piazzo. The Medici’s wealth was so vast that it covered many square miles. Countless Piazzi and Piazalles have at least one statute or fountain if not a church or more on it. 

And the Tour Organisers ASO and the city of Florence saw that potential and worked a wonder with it. The Tour is simply within the whole city. 

Never overbearing. Never too large to be disrespectful to the historic city with its countless sights but rather a nice add-on. 

Every Piazza has a Tour de France pop up store. The whole city is decorated with small yellow and green flags and large banners. 

And instead of concentrating every event in one central place it’s spread out among the city. 

The Grand Départ itself starts from the Ippodromo and goes along Palazzo Vecchio and Ponto Vecchio. 

The presentation however isn’t in the City Centre but rather on Piazzale Michelangelo across the river Arno on a small hill.

The Tour has inserted itself incredibly well in this wonderfully chaotic city like a puzzle piece you didn’t know you were missing. 

And the Florentines are loving it. A small local bike store whose owner Ilaria decorated the whole store with yellow posters, garlands and banners. Ilaria herself is a big Jonas Vingegaard fan and hopes he has recovered well from his injuries. She left her store early yesterday to watch the presentation on Piazzale Michelangelo. 

When Alberto Bettiol rides by in his Italian champion jersey everybody is cheering and even some of the big and fancy designer stores have deigned to hang out yellow unfathomably costly dresses and bags. 

Il tour è Firenze, Firenze è il tour.

FEATURE: Debutant’s Ball

There are first-timers at the Tour every year – this year is no different – but the 2024 crop of newbies is really a cut above and could grab headlines throughout the Tour. With the highest number of debutants for since 2021, when there were the exact same number – 45 – this year also sees the highest profile first-timers since that year, coincidentally, the year that Jonas Vingegaard made his Tour de France debut.

Who’s up first?

It seems laughable that given how long he’s been around, Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) is riding his first Tour. He’s more than ready, at least in terms of pedigree, having already won a Grand Tour (La Vuelta 2022), even if he may not be completely happy with his condition, given crashes earlier in the season. His team are united behind him ready to take on the might of UAE Team Emirates, which itself brings two significant names on the debutant list: João Almeida and Juan Ayuso, two huge GC talents in their own right, and both tipped to potentially make the podium alongside their Slovenian teammate.

Outside of these big hitters, which debutants could shine at the first time of asking?

Groupama-FDJ’s Lenny Martinez presumably arrives at the race without pressure – he was a last-minute addition to the team’s line-up following a strong showing so far this season, with five wins plus two youth jerseys, and could impress on stages, if he isn’t shackled to David Gaudu’s GC hopes. Indeed, the two work well together, so could surprise people if they can let go of the idea of pursuing GC middle ground.

Derek Gee (Israel-Premier Tech) took a big step forward at the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier in the month, taking a stage and finishing third on GC, but he will have a decision to make: to try his luck on GC, or go for stages. Either way he’ll be one to watch, alongside his teammate Stevie Williams, who himself has had a successful season so far with wins at the Tour Down Under and La Flèche Wallonne – keep an eye out for the Welshmn on summit finishes.

Brand new Belgian champion Arnaud de Lie will be hoping to make waves among a strong sprint field despite his relative youth, and Alpecin-Deceuninck’s U23 World Champion Axel Laurance could compete with De Lie on punchy sprint finishes on his debut, along with the new French champion Paul Lapeira (Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale).

Basically, scan down the list and you’ll see practically a who’s-who of the 2024 cycling season. Plenty of winners, plenty of major threats, and plenty of riders with a chance to have a major impact on the race on their first try. Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain-Victorious), Oier Lazkano (Movistar), Romain Grégoire (Groupama-FDJ), and Nico Denz (Red Bull-BORA-hansgrohe) are all riders who could feature on days that suit them.  

Even the oldest debutant, Alpecin-Deceuninck’s off-road specialist Gianni Vermeersch, shouldn’t be ruled out of making his presence felt at the race. He’s won once already this month, excels on gravel, and could be a sneaky outside bet for the Troyes gravel stage, particularly if a break can make it clear.

To summarise, watch out seasoned veterans: it could be one of the best years for the new kids on the French block yet.

Tour 1-1-1

by Mathieu Fraisse

Introducing 1 food, 1 local rider and 1 fact from each of our stage locations, let's kick off with the first of our Italian stages on La Grand Départ.

Stage 1 : Florence - Rimini

1 food : schiacciata alla fiorentina

This traditional pastry is usually available only during the Carnival period. Orange flavored and sprinkled with icing sugar. The final touch is sprinkling cacao powder on a stencil shaped like Florence’s coat of arms to make it appear on top of the cake.

Recipe here.

1 local rider : Alberto Bettiol

Born in Poggibonsi, Tuscany, 40 km from Florence, Bettiol is the local rider of the day. The new Italian champion and 2019 Flanders winner is a proud Tuscan man. Now 30-year-old, Alberto stayed close to his roots and lives in Castelfiorentino, only 30km away from Florence. Unfortunately the Tour de France peloton will not be crossing Bettiol’s land as it is heading east towards Rimini today but count on Alberto to shine on a stage that suits him pretty well!

1 fact : Punk rock song as a tribute to Pantani

Stage 1 is also a tribute to 1998 Tour de France winner Marco Pantani, as we will be crossing Cesena where he was born in 1970 and the stage finishing in Rimini where he died in 2004. 

French alternative rock band “Les Wampas” wrote a song called “Rimini”, about Pantani’s death and a tribute to his career, as the lead singer of the band was a fan of cycling (they also wrote a song about Laurent Jalabert) but most of all a huge fan of Il Pirata. 

Lyrics excerpt: 

Tu allais plus haut, Plus vite que les autres, J'espère que tu n'as pas raté le Paradis

You were going higher, faster than the other, I hope you didn’t miss heaven

Hors Couture

by Emma Bianchi

Yes, you read that right: Hors Couture. Made up as a mix of the words Hors Catégorie and Haute Couture, because what goes better with high mountains than high fashion? In this fun little segment of the Le Tour Dispatch, I will take a look at some of the jerseys we will be collectively staring at for hours on end over the next three weeks. What is the hidden meaning behind Visma – Lease a Bike’s 2024 TdF jersey? How does a colour theorist feel about the change of the green jersey? And where did all this blue come from?

From special edition kits, via those that have barely changed in 20 years, to the classification jerseys, we will be covering the fashion of the peloton – art critic style.

One small disclaimer before we get going: I am in no way a fashion expert. I am an artist and a colour theorist, and a very passionate fan of the movie “The Devil Wears Prada”. While this segment will be analysing colours, symbols, and placement of names and logos, it will also be an exercise in over-interpreting and having fun with it. Take as serious fashion advice at your own risk ��

Welcome to the Weekend!

by Stine Momo Agerbæk

Yep, it’s me, your nerdy neighbourhood peloton-party planner committee captain, back for another round at the 2024 Le Tour de France. This year I will stick to giving you, our dear WriteBikeRepeat readers, some fitting and festive drink recommendations and some matching tunes each Friday of the race and maybe a little treat for the finale of the race…

So without further ado, let’s get this particular party started as well!

Dans Mon Bidon

We’re starting in Florence this year, Firenze if you don’t anglicise it. And we’re starting from the top shelf, alcohol content-wise at least. The scene for the Grand Départ is a wonderful opportunity for me to open the party with what’s probably my favourite “no frills” cocktail: the classic bittersweet and potent mix of equal parts Gin, Sweet Vermouth and the bright red bitter Campari.

The Negroni (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Negroni is sometimes called the signature aperitivo of Firenze and was, according to bartender lore and at least some history books, invented in the very spot we start the race, Firenze in 1919, at the Caffè Casoni (now called Caffè Giacosa). The Tour is The Tour as they say, and Campari is Campari (but can be substituted for other similar sweet bitters if you want to), but you can get creative with your gin and vermouth choice. I have a soft spot for the Italian brands Ginato and Malfy and since the latter feels more “south Italian holiday town” than North Italian metropol, Ginato wins with its very 60's vintage look and fun fruity gin versions. For your Vermouth, and since it is the Tour de France we’re about to start, I’d probably go French with Dolin or something. Stir with ice in a lowball glass until the outside of the glass forms condensation from the cold. The ice is as crucial for this drink as it will be for the overheating riders Saturday. Garnish with an orange peel or slice, and enjoy a drink as intense and exciting as the first two stages of the race.

If Negroni is too strong for your needs, you have several options: you can obviously mix either one of the three types of liquor with tonic or sparkling water with lemon. If you mix Campari, Vermouth and gin or sparkling water you get a cocktail called Americano instead. Drink that if Sean Quinn, Neilson Powless or Matteo Jorgenson shows themselves strong over the weekend. All variations can also be mixed with Prosecco/Cremant, if you do it with the Negroni, we’re back at last summer’s TikTok-Trendy Negroni Sbagliato, which may feel a bit dated now, but still is tasty nonetheless.

If you’re instead looking for something non-alcoholic, which in light of the current North Italian heatwave, that is honestly both recommended and really refreshing, I have recently reunited with a classic from my barista past: Espresso Tonic. During the Danish 2018 summer heatwave I worked part time in a Cycling Café which showed Tour de France as I made espresso upon americano upon cappuccino (even after 11am, as Danish sportive cyclists clearly have no Italian coffee manners) and tried to follow Geraint Thomas’ route to victory. So this drink is for the Welshman, who probably both needs something to wake him up and cool him down while racing around with a bunch of 20-somethings in the Italian countryside like it is May all over again.

Espresso tonic (image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The drink is simple: take a fresh espresso, pour it into a highball glass with ice cubes, add a tonic you like, maybe a slice of lemon or grapefruit. Enjoy! If the espresso is well-made, the tonic will turn the crema into a delightful foamy layer on top. Or you can pour the coffee gently into the tonic instead and get a cool two-toned, layered drink instead… Though I recommend that you mix it before drinking then. It’s bittersweet (kinda like how it feels when the much hyped big-4 battle is marred by crashes in the run-in to the big French fight, I guess?), cold and caffeinated, what’s not to love?

As for the tonic and for other refreshment needs, the Saturday stage ends in Rimini, which incidentally is the hometown for my very favourite Italian soft drink brand: Galvanina !I love a good Italian limonata soda no matter the brand, but if you occasionally want to avoid the acrid taste of Nestle owned brands, the smaller, organic and sustainable brand Galvanina and its gorgeous glass bottles is there for you.They do both classics like tonic, cola, limonata and ginger beer, as well as more niche options like Cedrata (called Cedrate or Citron in English, an oversized lumpy bitter/tart citrus fruit mostly used for its rind in baking) and Chinotto, made from a bittersweet Italian orange type, and a soda which is kind of like a soft drink version of the Negroni, which brings us right back to the beginning!

Check out Galvanina here. (No, I’m not saying that because I’m sponsored, though I wouldn’t say no if they offered… I just genuinely love their sodas/mixers, plus they tend to be conveniently available in a surprising array of Danish stores as well).

If the sweltering 35+ degrees of Saturday ends up happening, I may go rogue myself and experiment with a scoop of snow white, ice cold, tart-sweet sorbetto di limone in either of the drink suggestions above. I don’t know what the result of this will be, just as I have literally no idea what the results of the first two stages will be, but I reckon it could be pretty fun and tasty, just like the racing hopefully will be. Feel free to copy me, but I take no responsibility for anything here… I’m literally just the bartender. ;-)

That’s it folks, that’s the bar menu for the first part of this year’s Tour de France. Enjoy and remember to drink responsibly (if alcoholic!) and enough (non-alcoholic!). Oh! And drink some water in between the alcohol and coffee! Please! Don’t bonk in the heat from dehydration!

Alors on Danse

by DJ Momo

So, after the Giro this year, I have to admit I felt a bit meh about the whole song-recap thing, as the slight (ahem) repetitiveness of the winners and storylines became tough to tackle in the more radio show styled type of playlist construction… So this time it’ll be different. (Famous last words, I know!)

Since I’ll only do this segment once a week, I figured it could be fun to lean fully into that Friday feeling instead and give you all a more dancefloor oriented selection of songs. This Tour’s playlist will aim to provide some hopefully recognisable themes and vibes from the racing ahead or behind us via music - and it may even give you some kind of reason to move your body a little after a long day on the couch watching men in lycra suffer on the roads…

As this is the preview/get-hype set, I won’t give a lot of specific context for the 22 tracks included for now. The number mirrors the number of teams in the race, but it’s not intended as “a song per team”, at least not for me. But in the absence of actual liner notes here, you get to do your own interpretations of what the various songs may refer to. If you have some profound realisations over it, please share, I’d love to hear about it!

This race has had a tendency to be unpredictable and silly in recent years - and so has the DJ, so you can expect the playlist to reflect that occasionally. And yes, don’t worry, there WILL be musical jabs at the current favourite kit colour of the men’s peloton at some point during this race… I will say this though; while Spotify is not exactly primed for conveying a smooth mix between songs, I will approach the Friday mixes in a way where the songs would fit into a coherent mix if I were actually doing a live gig, y’know? The bpm matching is gonna be a little hand-wavy and the actual beats will almost never line up properly on Spotify, but the platform is chosen for ease and access here. However a quick trick to make it a little less choppy, is to go into your settings in the app, choose the Playback menu, choose “gapless playback”)  and set the crossfade to somewhere towards the higher half-end of the slider (12 sec is max, I normally use around the 8ish sec mark). It’s a shallow replacement for a real mix, but so far WBR aren’t in the bootleg business, and we’re working with what we’ve got here. Kinda like Visma and their TdF team, eh? (Too soon? Yeah, too soon, right?)

Other than that, I wish everyone a great Tour de France, see you on the digital dancefloor. And to the boys in the peloton? Well, I love you, but for this Tour, I’ve chosen Disco!

Stage 1 Preview

So, it's Le Tour Eve, and before we leave you to hang up your cycling socks by the fire and leave out a baguette and some brie for Christian Prodhomme, it's time to look ahead to tomorrow's stage. We'll give you a brief run-down of what to expect each day, along with a handful of predictions from our team - who will take home the glory in the WBR prediction league at the end of the race? Write down your predictions too and let us know how you get on.

Stage 1 Profile, courtesy of the Tour de France website

And lo, what a mighty beast to behold, stage 1 from Florence to Rimini is one of the toughest opening stages we've seen in many a year, and it's going to throw the race wide open from the off. With five categorised climbs, and a UAE Team Emirates side who've promised they won't be hanging around to get the GC party started, it is set to be an explosive one.

So who's in line for this type of stage? I'll tell you who isn't: World Champion Mathieu van der Poel. The Dutchman may protest too much, but has suggested it will be too tough for him, on a day which alienates sprinters and will test the puncheurs to their limits. Of course, if Pogacar chooses to fire out of the starting blocks the rest of the GC teams will have to go with him, so it's hard to predict the actual outcome of the stage, but if not Pogacar, someone like Alberto Bettiol or his EF Education-EasyPost teammate Marijn van den Berg would be good bets for the win. But it's Maxim van Gils who is my dark horse to take the stage 1 victory and wear the first yellow jersey, for his team Lotto-Dstny.

PREDICTIONS: Sam - Mads Pedersen; Mathieu - Alberto Bettiol; Stine - Paul Lapeira / Magnus Cort; Lena - Primoz Roglič; Katy - Maxim van Gils

Join us tomorrow as we round up all the action from stage 1! And if you know of anyone who you think would enjoy these emails, please send them the information below.

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