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The 2019 Tour de France arrives in Brussels – Gallery

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People pass by a message painted on the ground reading "Are you r'Eddy?" to mark the 50th anniversary of the first victory in a Tour of Belgian legend Eddy Merckx

People pass by a message painted on the ground reading "Are you r'Eddy?" to mark the 50th anniversary of the first victory in a Tour of Belgian legend Eddy Merckx (Image credit: Getty Images)
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A building decorated with the logo of Brussels Grand Depart 2019

A building decorated with the logo of Brussels Grand Depart 2019 (Image credit: Getty Images)
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The window shop of a chocolate shop decorated with the flag of the Tour de France and die cast racing cyclists figures in Brussels, three days prior to the start of the 106th edition of the Tour de France

The window shop of a chocolate shop decorated with the flag of the Tour de France and die cast racing cyclists figures in Brussels, three days prior to the start of the 106th edition of the Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Remco Evenepoel at the Children's Press Conference in Brussels

Remco Evenepoel at the Children's Press Conference in Brussels (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Brussels mayor Philippe Close and Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme officially open the Grand depart

Brussels mayor Philippe Close and Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme officially open the Grand depart (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Passersby walk past special decorations in relation with the departure of the Tour De France cycling race which starts from Brussels

Passersby walk past special decorations in relation with the departure of the Tour De France cycling race which starts from Brussels (Image credit: Getty Images)
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A poster of Brussels Grand Depart 2019 with the Atomium in background in Brussels,

A poster of Brussels Grand Depart 2019 with the Atomium in background in Brussels, (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Greg Van Avermaet at the Children's Tour de France press conference in Brussels

Greg Van Avermaet at the Children's Tour de France press conference in Brussels (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The opening press centre for the 2019 Tour de France

The opening press centre for the 2019 Tour de France (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx's first Tour de France win is a major feature of the 2019 Grand Depart in Brussels

The 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx's first Tour de France win is a major feature of the 2019 Grand Depart in Brussels (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx's first Tour de France win is a major feature of the 2019 Grand Depart in Brussels

The 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx's first Tour de France win is a major feature of the 2019 Grand Depart in Brussels (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Brussel mayor Philippe Close and Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme officially open the Grand Depart

Brussel mayor Philippe Close and Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme officially open the Grand Depart (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Remco Evenepoel, Greg Van Avermaet and Maxime Monfort at the Children's press conference in Brussels

Remco Evenepoel, Greg Van Avermaet and Maxime Monfort at the Children's press conference in Brussels (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Remco Evenepoel, Greg Van Avermaet and Maxime Monfort with Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme

Remco Evenepoel, Greg Van Avermaet and Maxime Monfort with Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Remco Evenepoel, Greg Van Avermaet and Maxime Monfort at the Children's Press Conference in Brussels

Remco Evenepoel, Greg Van Avermaet and Maxime Monfort at the Children's Press Conference in Brussels (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Remco Evenepoel, Greg Van Avermaet and Maxime Monfort

Remco Evenepoel, Greg Van Avermaet and Maxime Monfort (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Passersby walk near the Grand-Place - Grote Markt in Brussels on June 28, 2019 past an arcade made with bikes painted in yellow

Passersby walk near the Grand-Place - Grote Markt in Brussels on June 28, 2019 past an arcade made with bikes painted in yellow (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Tinsels with bicycle wheels hanging in a street with a giant Yellow Jersey hanging on a facade in Brussels centre

Tinsels with bicycle wheels hanging in a street with a giant Yellow Jersey hanging on a facade in Brussels centre (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Riders take part in the 'BK Yellow Ride' world record attempt for 'most yellow jerseys riders', on June 30, 2019 in Gent, ahead of the 'Grand Depart' start of the Tour de France cycling race in Brussels.

Riders take part in the 'BK Yellow Ride' world record attempt for 'most yellow jerseys riders', on June 30, 2019 in Gent, ahead of the 'Grand Depart' start of the Tour de France cycling race in Brussels. (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Fans take photos of a van decorated with the route of the Tour de France 2019

Fans take photos of a van decorated with the route of the Tour de France 2019 (Image credit: Getty Images)
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A woman passes by a bicycle wheel decorated for the 50 years anniversary of the first victory of Belgian legend Eddy Merckx in Brussels

A woman passes by a bicycle wheel decorated for the 50 years anniversary of the first victory of Belgian legend Eddy Merckx in Brussels (Image credit: Getty Images)
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A flag with the Tour de France logo hanging at the Grand-Place - Grote Markt Square in Brussels

A flag with the Tour de France logo hanging at the Grand-Place - Grote Markt Square in Brussels (Image credit: Getty Images)
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A waiter wearing a yellow Tshirt depicting Belgian legend Eddy Merckx carries food on a terrace of the Grand-Place - Grote Markt Square in Brussels

A waiter wearing a yellow Tshirt depicting Belgian legend Eddy Merckx carries food on a terrace of the Grand-Place - Grote Markt Square in Brussels (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Tinsels with bicycle wheels hanging in a street in Brussels centre

Tinsels with bicycle wheels hanging in a street in Brussels centre (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Tinsels with bicycle wheels hanging in a street with a giant Yellow Jersey hanging on a facade in Brussels centre

Tinsels with bicycle wheels hanging in a street with a giant Yellow Jersey hanging on a facade in Brussels centre (Image credit: Getty Images)
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People pass by a giant Yellow Jersey hanging on a facade on July 3, 2019 in Brussels centre, three days prior to the start of the 106th edition of the Tour de France

People pass by a giant Yellow Jersey hanging on a facade on July 3, 2019 in Brussels centre, three days prior to the start of the 106th edition of the Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images)
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The Brussels stock exchange building Beurs-Bourse with its columns wrapped with the colours of the 2019 Tour de France jerseys

The Brussels stock exchange building Beurs-Bourse with its columns wrapped with the colours of the 2019 Tour de France jerseys (Image credit: Getty Images)
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Tony Martin relaxes ahead of the 2019 Tour de France

Tony Martin relaxes ahead of the 2019 Tour de France (Image credit: Getty Images)

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.