Our 5 favorite storylines for the 2024 Tour de France

Get ready for one of the most unique editions of La Grand Boucle that we've ever seen

Between the Tour de France and the Olympics, France will be the center of the cycling universe for six straight weeks. And while the Tour is modifying its traditional schedule to accommodate the games, it is hardly taking a back seat. This year’s edition will begin in the streets of Florence, Italy, and fly past the famed wine windows into the maw of a Stage 4 mountain battle in the Alps. It only lays on the accelerator from there, all the way through the final meters of racing on Stage 21. 

Lidl-Trek is bringing a crack squad that will put them in contention to win every single day. Mads Pedersen will lead the team’s sprint ambitions coming off a strong classics campaign and a stage win at the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this month. Giulio Ciccone, last year’s King of the Mountains, is back to hunt mountain stage wins and more polka-dotted glory. Surrounding them is one of the deepest teams in the WorldTour. This squad has made teamwork its trademark all season

The action starts fast this Saturday with a 206-kilometer lung buster through the Tuscan hillside. Here are the storylines and riders you need to know to get ready.

The new team scheme Madone Gen 8 in all its glory.

Trek's brand new Madone is ready for the spotlight

The Madone Gen 8 merges the lightweight Émonda with the proven speed of the Gen 7 Madone’s IsoFlow design. The result is a bike that can do it all. It’s no secret that Lidl-Trek has already been racing on the new bike. In fact, Pedersen won the bike’s first ever WorldTour race, sprinting past Sam Bennett on Stage 1 of the Dauphiné

Read: How the Madone Gen 8 was design, tested, and brought to life

This thing is fast, whether it’s taking on vicious climbs or battling through crosswinds. And now after a few high-profile tune-up races, it’s ready to be shown off on the world’s biggest stage.

Mads Pedersen won the first ever WorldTour race on the Madone Gen 8 when he took Stage 1 of the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this month. | Photo by Dario Belingheri/Getty Images

Mads Pedersen and his leadout are firing on all cylinders

Pedersen and Lidl-Trek gave us a tease of their Tour potential on Stage 1 of the Dauphiné, executing a textbook leadout on the race’s only true sprint finish, putting Pedersen in the yellow jersey. 

The result confirmed the speed that Pedersen showed off in the spring, when he won Gent-Wevelgem ahead of Mathieu van der Poel and took third at Paris-Roubaix after a courageous chase

Pedersen will bring his Dauphiné leadout with him largely intact. Carlos Verona, Toms Skujins, and Ryan Gibbons are back. Pedersen’s final leadout man from the Dauphiné, Alex Kirsch, will miss the Tour due to injury, but Lidl-Trek will have veteran mega-engine Tim “The Tractor” Declercq, as well as Jasper Stuyven, who was added to the roster in place of an ailing Tao Geoghegan Hart, and recently aided Jonathan Milan’s ciclamino jersey-winning campaign at the Giro d’Italia. 

Pedersen has stage wins in all three Grand Tours, as well as a green jersey as the overall points winner of the Vuelta a España. The green jersey at the Tour is one of the most coveted prizes in cycling, but Pedersen has the legs, determination, and support to put up a serious fight.

Giulio Ciccone leading the way around the Arc de Triomphe in 2023.

Giulio Ciccone is back to hunt stages and defend the polka-dot jersey

Ciccone was forced to sit out the Giro d’Italia so that he could fully recover from early season surgery. The decision was an emotional blow, but there is a silver lining. The Italian climbing maestro will now have a chance to hunt stage wins and defend his King of the Mountains jersey at the Tour de France, and he appears to be rounding into form.

Ciccone was a fixture on the Dauphiné’s major climbs, finishing Top 5 on four of the race’s eight stages, including second on an Hors-Catégorie mountain top finish on Stage 6, in which he dueled eventual overall winner Primož Roglič in a sprint. With seven mountain stages in this year’s Tour, four of which finish on HC or Category 1 climbs, Cicco will have plenty of opportunities to flash his skills at high altitude. 

Expect to see Julien Bernard by his side. Bernard is coming off a second place finish at French nationals, and has been a savvy climbing lieutenant with Trek for nine years. On the right day, he also has the ability to go solo in the mountains. Together, Ciccone and Bernard can light up steep gradients with the best riders in the world.

Cicco at team presentation in Florence, ahead of a Tour that should start and end in sunshine. | Photo by Dario Belingheri/Getty Images

A very Nice finish

The Olympics will affect this year’s Tour in a number of ways, but most visibly will be the last stage of the Tour, when instead of a sprint on the fabled Champs-Élysées in Paris, the race will finish with a 33.7-kilometer time trial in Nice. 

For years, Stage 21 of the Tour has been a largely ceremonial affair, with riders keeping the pace light until the very end, when leadouts organized for one last bunch sprint. This year, however, the final stage has the potential to decide the yellow jersey. The stage is lengthy, and features a Category 2 climb on its route along the rocky French Riviera. 

Riders won’t be able to appreciate the scenery much in the throes of their heart-stopping efforts, but at least we can. The Promenade des Anglais, where the time trial finishes, is no less spectacular than the Champs-Élysées. Just swap the Eiffel Tour for some unadulterated sunshine and you’ll hardly know the difference.

Mads leading the way in the green jersey at the Critérium du Dauphiné. | Photo by Dario Belingheri/Getty Images

An unpredictable race

The Tour de France’s yellow jersey battle is always compelling just on its face: a race for time across three weeks and thousands of kilometers, through mountains and crosswinds and extreme weather (oh my). But this year, the pressure has been dialed up due to a particularly strong group of contenders and a quick turnaround from the Giro, which finished just a little more than one month ago. 

Normally, the Tour might start in July, but organizers wanted to make sure La Grande Boucle was wrapped up well ahead of the Olympics’ July 26 start date. That’s particularly difficult news for one man, Tadej Pogacar, who might be the overwhelming favorite to win if not for the fact that he just emptied his tanks to secure a Giro d’Italia victory. The Giro-Tour double is notoriously difficult to pull off, especially on less rest than usual.

Jasper Stuyven leads a veteran squad with eight Tour participations. | Photo: Zac Williams, @ZacWilliams

So who else could win it? Lots of people, though each with their own questions. Jonas Vingegaard is the defending champion, but he’s been battling injuries all year, and one of his top domestiques, Sepp Kuss, was recently forced to pull out of the race. Roglič just won the Dauphiné, but he has fallen short at the Tour before, even as the outright favorite. Remco Evenepoel is a World Champion and a Vuelta GC winner who is making his Tour debut, but he has also wrestled with his form this year in the wake of crashes.

Unfortunately for Lidl-Trek, Geoghegan Hart’s physical misfortune leaves the team without a clear GC contender. But the squad will be contributing plenty to the chaos, with the firepower to influence the proceedings at the pointy end of every stage. 

We’re in for a feast of great bike racing over the next month and a half. The depth of riders and stories in road cycling is at a level we’ve rarely seen. There’s nothing to do except dig in. Bon appétit.