Cycling News

On the scene in Florence for the Tour’s Grand Depart

On the scene in Florence for the Tour’s Grand Depart

The Tour de France is starting in Italy for the first time in its 120-year history, and I’m here to enjoy it for the first time in my never-you-mind-how-many-year history!

The schedule on Thursday was challenging, because the top-rider press conferences in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio continued until after the start of the teams’ presentation in Piazzale Michelangelo, a 30-minute (uphill) walk away. So, I only caught the first two pressers before heading up to Piazzale Michelangelo.

First was Alpecin’s Mathieu Van Der Poel and Jasper Philipsen, who wore fetching baby blue t-shirts and seemed relaxed and in good spirits.

Next was Remco Evenepoel, who wore a mask throughout, which seemed like a very sensible precaution given how rampant Covid is now in Europe (and in the peloton).

On my way out of Palazzo Vecchio, I encountered preparations for the riders’ briefing before the teams’ presentation. This gendarme took her job of guarding the bikes room very seriously (i.e., she wouldn’t let me in).

As the riders gathered for the briefing, Geraint Thomas and Jonas Vingegaard stopped for a chat.

After a hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo, I found that even staying downhill for the first two press conferences meant that there was no space left on the raised platform for photographers, so I improvised by standing on a plastic chair underneath the tv camera platform.

EF was the first team up, and newly crowned Italian national champion Alberto Bettiol got an ecstatic ovation.

EF’s other new national champion, Sean Quinn, rides off the stage:

The ceremony was conducted in both Italian and English, and Mark Cavendish, in response to a moderator’s question in English, impressed the crowd by answering in Italian.

Mathieu Van Der Poel:

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