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Eddy Merckx assists Fabian Cancellara with his yellow jersey.
Race to spend three days in Belgium
Liège has been officially confirmed by the ASO as the host of the 2012 Tour de France and the first three days of the race will take place in Belgium. Liège previously hosted the Grand Départ in 2004, when Fabian Cancellara powered to victory in the prologue.
With the London Olympics beginning in late July, the 2012 Tour will start a week earlier than usual, with the Liège prologue set to take place on Saturday June 30. The short time trial will see the riders tackle a course around the streets of Liège, beginning on Avenue Rogier and finishing on Boulevard d’Avroy.
The following day, the first road stage will see the riders leave Liège and head for Seraing, where Miguel Indurain took a time trial victory in 1995 and Erik Zabel grabbed a sprint victory in 2001. On the way out of Liège, the peloton will ride along the Boulevard de la Sauvenière, the former site of the finish of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Stage two will bring the peloton across Belgium, from Visé to Tournai, before the race enters France on stage three.
Liège has a long history of hosting the Tour de France, although 2012 is just the second time the city has been honoured with the Grand Départ. In 1956, André Darrigade won the first stage into Liège, although the race began in Reims. It was a similar situation in 1965, when Rik Van Looy took the win in Liège on day one after the Tour began across the German border in Köln.
Gino Bartali was the first stage winner in Liège, taking victory in 1948 en route to his second yellow jersey in Paris.