A number of stars from the peloton travelled to the Paris Palais des Congrès on Thursday to witness Christian Prudhomme unveil the route for the 2019 Tour de France.
After a few minutes to digest, they disappeared behind the stage to offer up their initial reactions to the parcours.
The 2019 Tour de France route offers up plenty of mountains, with five summit finishes and plenty of cols that surpass the 2000-metre altitude barrier. After an early exchange on the 20 per cent dirt road at the very top of La Planche des Belles Filles, the riders will take on three tough mountain stages in the Pyrenees before three more in the Alps at the very end of the race.
There are just 55km of time trialling on the route, with a 27km team time trial on stage 2 followed by a 27km individual time trial in Pau on stage 13. On paper, there are seven stages for the sprinters, including the opening day in Brussels - where the first yellow jersey is up for grabs - and the final day in Paris on the Champs Elysées.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) - third in 2018
"It’s a tough route - like all Tours de France - but what really stood out for me was the multiple finishes over 2000 metres, and that’s really going to stand this route apart from previous editions."
Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) - second in 2018
"It’s a very tough route. Of course, more individual time trial kilometres would have been better, so it’s not an ideal course for me, but that was also the case this year. There’s a lot of high climbing and an emphasis on the second half of the Tour, with the Pyrenees and the Alps to be decisive."
Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) - best young rider in 2018
"There are quite a few long stages, with several over 200 kilometres, and there are quite a few stages with difficult finishes, too. There are lots of mountains all over the route. Even the so-called transition stages are long and contain pitfalls, so you have to remain vigilant, and avoid having a jours sans, because you will pay.
"It's a route that will see many changes in the general classification. With the finish at Val Thorens the day before the Champs Elysées, we could have changes right up to the last moment."
Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) - two time stage winner in 2018
"There are a lot of flat stages, and seven sprint chances. That’s enough for me. Especially in that first stage, I want to be good and win immediately. You will actually get the yellow jersey and it is a great honour if you can wear it. Of course the yellow is a very big goal." (To NOS)
Thierry Gouvenou (Tour de France route designer)
"This year we have not really started looking for special things. We mainly present a strong block around the mountains. There is more climbing, with fewer hors-catégorie cols of and fewer time trial kilometres. [Tom] Dumoulin does not need a time trial to win a Tour. He has already proven that he is also a strong climber." (Belga)
Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ)
"It is a hilly course with few moments of relaxation. We'll juggle for three weeks between the small and the big ring."