Muur van Geraardsbergen to feature in 2019 Tour de France Grand Depart

Team time trial to pass through Merckx's home town

According to a report on RTBF.be, the 2019 Tour de France Grand Depart from Brussels, Belgium will take riders over the famed Muur van Geraardsbergen, also known as the Kapelmuur or Mur de Grammont, the iconic ascent formerly positioned at the crux of the Tour of Flanders.

The mayor of Geraardsbergen lobbied hard to have the climb included in the stage, and had the backing of Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet in the bid.

The opening stages of the Tour de France are being held on July 6-7, 2019 in Belgium to honour the 50th anniversary of legend Eddy Merckx' first day in the yellow jersey. A five time Tour winner, Merckx holds the record for most stage wins (34), most days in the yellow jersey (96), and once swept all of the race's classifications in 1969.

The opening stage of around 180km will take riders over many of the roads that launched Merckx to fame, leaving the capital from the Place des Palais and visiting the Walloon provinces of Hainaut and Brabant and into Flanders. Although riders must tackle the steep, cobbled ascent in Gerardsbergen, there should be plenty of time to chase back on before an expected sprint finish along the Château de Laeken.

The second stage will be a team time trial from the Parc Royal and run through the area where Merckx grew up in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, sending riders out on a 50km test to the finish at the Atomium. The course will recreate the route that Merckx took with his victorious Faema squad in a similar test in his first Tour de France in 1969, where he claimed his first maillot jaune.

Brussels organisers expect a million spectators to line the route for the Grand Depart, where the Cannibal himself will appear after patching up a dispute with Tour de France organisers ASO.

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