The 2019 Tour de France Grand Départ will feature a trip up the Muur van Geraardsbergen on stage 1 and a team time trial on stage 2, organisers ASO have announced.
Next year’s edition of La Grande Boucle will start in Brussels for the second time in the race's history. It will be the fifth time that Belgium has hosted the Grand Départ.
The Brussels start will mark two major anniversaries: 100 years of the iconic race leader's yellow jersey, and 50 years since Brussels local Eddy Merckx won the first of his five Tour de France titles. Merckx is due to attend the Grand Départ after resolving a dispute between himself and ASO about the Tour of Oman.
At a special presentation in Brussels, ASO confirmed that stage 1 of the 2019 Tour de France will bring together the Flemish and Walloon sides of Belgium as it loops out from the capital, down to Charleroi, and back up.
In an event that is set to mark several iconic moments of Tour de France history, it seems fitting that the route includes what is arguably Belgium’s most iconic climb.
The Muur van Geraardsbergen - or Mur de Grammont - comes in the early kilometres of stage 1. It is unlikely to have a major impact on the day’s result but will be a visually spectacular moment. It is followed by the Bosberg but that's where the climbing ends, and it’s likely that the stage will end in a bunch sprint, giving the fast men a rare opportunity to put themselves into the yellow jersey.
The 192-kilometre stage will also pass through Sint-Pieters-Woluwe, where Merckx grew up and earned his first yellow jersey after his Faema squad won the team time trial in 1969. He would lose the jersey the next day but would take it back before the week was up when he won stage 6, keeping it all the way to Paris.
Stage 2 will be an opportunity for the general classification riders to make a mark on the overall standings with a team time trial around the centre of the city. The 28-kilometre route appears relatively sweeping but there will be some technical challenges with a number of sharp turns at the start and finish.
The course will take in some of the best-known sites in Brussels, setting off from the Palais Royal and finishing by the Brussels Atomium.
The rest of the route will be announced in a ceremony in Paris later this year. The 2019 Tour de France will begin on Saturday, July 6.