The 2019 Tour de France will celebrate the legendary career of Belgian Eddy Merckx 50 years after his first Tour victory when the Grand Depart is held in Brussels on July 6. The race also celebrates the 100th year of the iconic maillot jaune – which Merckx wore for a total of 96 days, more than any other rider in history.
The route features 30 categorised climbs, five mountains finishes and only 54 kilometres of time trialling that are split between one team time trial and one individual time trial.
The 2019 Tour de France starts Saturday, July 6th, on the Grote Markt in Brussels. The second Grand Départ ever in the Belgian capital is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx’s first victory on La Grande Boucle.
The route takes in summit finishes at the partly unpaved La Planche des Belles Filles, Tourmalet and the unprecedented Prat d’Albis before the race ends on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on July 28th.
In its first week, La Grande Boucle takes in a summit finish on the steep and partly unpaved La Planche des Belles Filles, while the Pyrenees are included in the second week and the Alps in the final week. The route is tailor-made for climbers
The 1st stage of the 2019 Tour de France begins on the central square of Brussels, called Grand Place or Grote Markt. The race heads for the Wall of Geraardsbergen and Bosberg – both Flemish Classics hallmarks – to turn back to Brussels via Charleroi, Villers-la-Ville and Sint-Pieters-Woluwe. It’s a special moment when La Grande Boucle moves through Sint-Pieters-Woluwe, as Eddy Merckx spent his youth here. In 1969, the Cannibal also took his first maillot jaune in the place where he spent his early years.
The 2nd stage is a gently undulating team time trial of 28 kilometres. The teams roll down the start ramp near the Royal Palace, while the finish is near the Atomium. The boulevards in Brussels are wide and straight, so top speeds are to be expected.
The 3rd stage starts in the fortified Wallonian town of Binche and concludes with a punchy finale in the Champagne region in the north of France. A race from Reims to Nancy is included on the fourth day of action and the 5th stage travels from Saint-Dié-des-Vosges to Colmar.
The 6th stage runs to a summit finish at La Planche des Belles Filles. The steep climb was included in La Grande Boucles of 2017 (Fabio Aru victory), 2014 (Vincenzo Nibali), and 2012 (Chris Froome). The ascent used to amount to 5.9 kilometres with an average slope of 8,5%, but the upcoming Tour de France is supposed to feature an extra section of approximately 1 kilometre on gravel road. The final kick up to the finish line is 100 metres on tarmac again (allegedly because it is too steep for gravel). This section begins with a stretch of 24%, which is the steepest ramp of the whole climb.
Stage 7 runs to Chalon-sur-Saône, while stage 8 is a hilly race to Saint-Étienne. Brioude hosts the arrival of the 9th stage. Romain Bardet was born in Brioude and the finale of this stage will be challenging. Stage 10 travels from Saint-Flour to Albi before the first rest day.
The Tour de France features the Pyrenees in its second week, but before tackling the high mountains stage 11 travels from Albi to a likely sprint finish in Toulouse. Following climbs up the Col de Peyresourde and La Hourquette, a downhill finish in Bagnères-de-Bigorre is included in the 12th stage. The 13th stage is a rolling ITT of 27 kilometres in Pau.
The last two days in the Pyrenees are sure to turn the overall classification upside down. Stage 14 is only 117 kilometres and features a summit finish at the Col du Tourmalet after a 19.4 kilometres climb at 7.4%, while stage 15 travels to a an arrival in the mountains above Foix. The race takes in the Port de Lers, Mur de Péguère and ends at the Prat d’Albis after a 11.8 kilometres climb at 6.9% with its steepest kilometre an astonishing 14.5% (average!).
Via Nîmes (stage 16) and Gap (stage 17) La Grande Boucle continues to the Alps. Stage 18 takes in intermediate climbs up the Col de Vars, Col d’Izoard and Col du Galibier before a flying descent to the line in Valloire.
Stage 19 finishes uphill in ski resort Tignes, while the mega long Col de l’Iseran will be the penultimate climb. The riders tackle the 32.9 kilometes to the summit of the Iseran around halfway. The average gradient is 4.2%, yet the last 3 kilometres are marked by double digit ramps. Following a descent to Val d’Isère the route rises to Lake Chevril – 7.4 kilometres at 7% – before the last 2 kilometres to Tignes are a false flat.
At 131 kilometres and featuring 4,450 vertical metres, stage 20 is set to act as the climax in the fight for the yellow jersey. At 2,300 metres, Val Thorens is Europe’s highest ski resort and it has hosted only one Tour de France finish. In 1994, Colombian Nelson Rodriguez climbed to victory on the hors catégorie slopes.
As ever, the 2019 Tour de France finishes on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The 21st stage will set off in Rambouillet.
Tour de France 2019 stages
|1||6-7||Brussels – Brussels||194.5 km||flat|
|2||7-7||Brussels – Brussels||27.6 km||TTT|
|3||8-7||Binche – Épernay||215 km||hills|
|4||9-7||Reims – Nancy||213.5 km||flat|
|5||10-7||Saint-Dié-des-Vosges – Colmar||175.5 km||hills|
|6||11-7||Mulhouse – La Planche des Belle Filles||160.5 km||mountains|
|7||12-7||Belfort – Chalon-sur-Saône||230 km||flat|
|8||13-7||Mâcon – Saint-Étienne||200 km||hills|
|9||14-7||Saint-Étienne – Brioude||170.5 km||hills|
|10||15-7||Saint-Flour – Albi||217.5 km||flat|
|11||17-7||Albi – Toulouse||167 km||flat|
|12||18-7||Toulouse – Bagnères-de-Bigorre||209.5 km||mountains|
|13||19-7||Pau – Pau||27.2 km||ITT|
|14||20-7||Tarbes – Tourmalet||117.5 km||mountains|
|15||21-7||Limoux – Foix||185 km||mountains|
|16||23-7||Nîmes – Nîmes||177 km||flat|
|17||24-7||Pont du Gard – Gap||200 km||flat|
|18||25-7||Embrun – Valloire||208 km||mountains|
|19||26-7||Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – Tignes||126.5 km||mountains|
|20||27-7||Albertville – Val Thorens||130 km||mountains|
|21||28-7||Rambouillet – Paris||128 km||flat|
By Dan Marsh