The 2019 Tour de France arrives in Brussels – Gallery

It's 50 years since Eddy Merckx won the first of his five Tour de France titles, and the race organisation has responded accordingly by choosing Brussels for this year's Grand Départ to honour the Belgian's achievements.

It's the second time that Brussels has hosted the start of the race, with 1958 having been the first time, although twice before that the city had already hosted stages – in 1947 and 1949. Brussels then hosted a stage finish and an individual time trial the next day in 1979, with the latter won by another of the sport's greats, Bernard Hinault, en route to his second of what would become a Merckx-matching five Tours.

The race's last visit to the Belgian capital came in 2010, when stage 1 was won there by Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, although it wasn't enough to take the yellow jersey, which stayed on Fabio Cancellara's shoulders after the Swiss rider had won the prologue time trial in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, the day before.

Alongside the celebration of Merckx's achievements, 2019 also marks 100 years of the yellow jersey, which was first awarded to Eugène Christophe – he of broken-forks fame at the 1913 Tour – at the 1919 race. Whoever wins this year's opening stage in Brussels – likely a bunch sprint – will take this year's first maillot jaune.

With the race headquarters in the city opened on Wednesday, our Cyclingnews team is already on the ground and pumping out the stories that precede the 106th edition of the Tour, with many more to be written, both literally and out on the road over the next three weeks by the 176 riders that will take to the start line on Saturday.

Ahead of it all, enjoy these pictures of the build-up to La Grande Boucle as Brussels and Belgium celebrate their most famous cycling son.

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