When the route of the 2019 Tour de France was unveiled at the Palais des Congrès in Paris back in October, it was billed as 'the highest' for a number of years, with the 2000-metre altitude barrier to be broken on no fewer than seven occasions. Now, after the loss of Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin to crashes and injury, and with question marks over the form of 2018 champion Geraint Thomas, it is being talked of as 'the most open' in recent memory.
That may well, of course, prove to be folly, but the absence of the four-time winner and, to a lesser extent, last year's Giro d'Italia and Tour de France runner-up, would seem to open doors - not just to higher spots on the general classification, but also to a less predictable style of racing.
Such has been the holy grail for race director Christian Prudhomme, who has made no secret of his desire to break the stranglehold of Team Sky, about to embark on their first Tour as Team Ineos. The abundantly-resourced British squad have won six of the past seven Tours with a style that Prudhomme has referred to as 'catenaccio' - an Italian footballing term meaning a rigid and stifling defensive structure.
Prudhomme and his colleagues have restlessly tinkered with the parcours in recent years, shortening mountain stages, seeking steeper climbs, focusing more on the medium mountain ranges, favouring downhill finishes over summit finishes, and generally reducing the number of time trial kilometres. Nothing has had much of an impact, and thus not a great deal was expected of the latest flavour: high-altitude.
With no Froome or Dumoulin, however, the Tour is bereft of the two leading time triallists among the Gand Tour racers. While Froome has won mountain stages, his most recent Tour titles - 2016 and 2017 - were built against the clock and in fact featured net losses in the mountains. Dumoulin is positioned even further over on the rouleur-grimpeur Venn diagram. Geraint Thomas is the only remaining yellow jersey hopeful who can claim to be anything of a specialist. Behind him are a host of climbers of varying ability against the clock - some bad, some good, but none who would base their race strategy on time trials.
More importantly, Team Ineos are weakened. Of course, it's all relative, and with Egan Bernal they still have two very credible candidates, not to mention an embarrassment of riches in the domestique department. But the absence of one of the most successful Grand Tour riders in history does have an impact, and not just in terms of horsepower but also status. That's amplified by the doubts surrounding Thomas, who has had largely an anonymous season and recently crashed out of the Tour de Suisse, his final preparation race. Serious injury was quickly ruled out but he still missed four crucial days of racing and is in a position where he still needs to prove himself, especially since Bernal went on to win the Tour de Suisse.
The Froome-Thomas leadership issue was set to be one of the themes of the Tour, and it's still there, just the lead characters have changed. As for Bernal himself, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who'd bet against him winning the Tour one day, but despite his precociousness, he remains inexperienced, and 22-year-old Tour champions are few and far between.
Away from the Team Ineos duo, there's a long list of potential candidates but a distinct lack of convincing cases.
Besides Thomas, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) is the only other former Tour de France winner on the start line, but his task is complicated by the fatigue of the Giro d'Italia in his legs. It’s the same for Mikel Landa, whose Movistar co-leader Nairo Quintana’s career has stalled in the last couple of years. Jakob Fugslang (Astana) is one of the star riders of 2019 but has little pedigree over three weeks and, at 34, you have to ask why. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) is still on the rise and despite performances that suggest he’s ready to challenge this year, he abandoned the Dauphine with illness.
Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) has the potential but things have never come together for the Australian over three weeks and, after a rough season, it’s doubtful this is the year it does. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First), the 2017 runner-up, has been held back by injury and has only raced 19 days this year. Enric Mas (Deceuninck-QuickStep), last year’s Vuelta a Espana runner-up, is a Tour de France debutant and was disappointing at the Tour de Suisse. Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) is 32 and has never made the podium in a Grand Tour. Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) earns plaudits for his aggressive style but is very much an underdog.
And so it was that cycling hit the front page of L'Equipe, France's daily sport newspaper, on Tuesday, with a photo of Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot accompanied by the rallying cry: 'This year or never'.
France, as if it needed repeating, hasn't had a home winner of the Tour de France since Bernard Hinault in 1985, and the home paper - owned by the same company as the race itself - clearly feels this is a golden opportunity. Not that the two Frenchman are without fallibilities; after finishing third in 2014, Pinot seemingly buckled under the weight of expectation and has since sought success elsewhere, while Bardet was anointed the next great hope after podiums in 2016 and 2017, only for a subdued display last year to cause a recalibration of his prospects.
Still, that only adds to the sense that this is anyone’s game. Welcome to the 2019 Tour de France: up high and wide open.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2019 ROUTE
The 2019 Tour de France begins in Brussels, Belgium, on Saturday July 6, and finishes in Paris on Sunday July 28, having covered 3,640 kilometres across 21 stages.
There are, on paper, seven largely flat stages that will be considered clear-cut opportunities by the sprinters, plus a couple of possible extras on hillier terrain. As for the mountains, there are three stages - and two summit finishes - apiece in the Pyrenees and Alps, which appear in that order. The climbing, however, is not restricted to the country's two major mountain ranges; there are some gruelling-looking days in the medium mountain ranges of the Vosges and the Massif Central - notably on stage 6, which finishes atop the Planche des Belles Filles, and stage 9 to Saint-Etienne.
As for time trialling, there's not much of it to balance the climbing. There's just one individual time trial, which, at 27.2km, makes this the second-lightest edition in terms of ITT kilometres in the modern era. Even with the 27.6km stage 2 team time trial, there are fewer than 55 kilometres against the clock.
The Brussels Grand Départ honours the Belgian Eddy Merckx, wide considered the greatest cyclist of all time, whose first of five Tour de France titles came exactly half a century ago.
Stage 1, starting and finishing in the centre of the Belgian capital, passes Merckx's home town of Woluwé Saint-Pierre, and takes in two of the Tour of Flanders' most famous cobbled climbs, the Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg. They both come in the first half of the 194.5km route, and the largely flat terrain thereafter should ensure a sprinter pulls on the first maillot jaune of the 2019 Tour.
The battle for the overall title reaches a key juncture as early as stage 2, with a 27.6km team time trial in Brussels. It's an urban course but not very technical, with rolling roads that will disrupt the rhythm. Last year's early TTT was tight at the top, but AG2R-La Mondiale, Bahrain-Merida, and Jumbo-Visma all lost more than a minute to Team Sky, and similar fault-lines are expected to open again.
Stage 3 sees the race leave Belgium for France, and is an opportunity for the puncheurs rather than the sprinters. There are four minor climbs in the last 45km before an uphill sprint on an eight per cent gradient in Epernay, where the winner will be spraying bubbly from the local Champagne region. Stage 4 runs a similar distance of 213.5km from Reims to Nancy, where we're likely to see a bunch sprint, though the late climb of the Côte de Maron could throw the cat among the pigeons.
Stage 5 takes in the first testing hills of the 2019 Tour as the races heads into the Vosges region of north east France. The four climbs - two category 2 and two category 3 - shouldn't create any differences between the overall contenders but it's possible that a breakaway could stick or, failing that, a late attack before the run down into Colmar.
The mountains begin
Things intensify massively on stage 6, which stays in the Vosges and heads for the first summit finish of the race, at La Planche des Belles Filles. It's a climb that we've regularly seen in the first week in recent years, but it's often been the only real difficulty of the day and, as such, something of a ramp test. This time, riders will be far less fresh, having already scaled three category 1 ascents - and three more minor climbs - before they've even reached the foot of the final climb, which itself is made more difficult by the addition of 1000 metres or so of gravel roads that take the finish line to new heights. It's the Planche des Belles Filles, but not as you know it, and it's a hugely important juncture and tone-setter for the rest of the race.
Stage 7, the longest of the Tour at 230km, is a more straight-forward affair and seems certain to end in a bunch sprint, but it's just one day of climbing respite as stage 8 takes the race to the Massif Central. There are no fewer than seven categorised climbs on the relentlessly undulating roads from Mâcon to Saint-Étienne, all of them category 2 or 3. Stage 9 continues in the Massif Central with another hilly route that includes the early category 1 ascent of the steep Mur d'Aurec-sur-Loire and also a category 3 climb that tops out 13km from the line and will be seen as a lauchpad for stage hopefuls. The finish is in Bardet's hometown of Brioude, on Bastille Day - no pressure, Romain.
Whoever's in yellow will have a tough time controlling these two stages in the Massif Central, so it looks like fertile ground for a breakaway, while GC skirmishes cannot be ruled out.
Stage 10 caps a long first week with a long course (217.5km) from Saint-Flour to Albi that features yet more rugged terrain. It may well be a day for the sprinters, but their teams will have their work cut out. After well-earned rest day in Albi on the Tuesday, stage 11 sees the race resume and inch closer to the Pyrenees. The day after the rest day can throw up its mysterious pitfalls but this is short (167km) and flat and is an almost nailed-on bunch sprint.
Stage 12 takes the race from Toulouse into the Pyrenees in the very south of France. It's an appetiser of sorts, as the route is flat for 130km before the combination of the Col de Peyresourde - from the harder side - and the Hourquette d'Ancizan (both category 1) precede the run down to the spa town of Bagnères-de-Bigorre. They represent the first high mountains of the 2019 Tour, and the first climbs above 1500 metres, and therefore an important juncture for the GC riders, but the 30km run down to the finish is likely to soften any gaps. The Ancizan-Bigorre combination was last used in 2013, where Dan Martin and Jakob Fuglsang - two contenders this year - escaped towards the top of the climb before holding off the rest of the GC group by 20 seconds.
The big Pyrenean stages are made to wait by the stage 13 time trial in Pau, the Tour's most visited town. It's still a massive day for the GC riders, though, as the rolling 27.2km course will shape the GC and dictate the tactics in the following mountains. It's a relatively short ITT but we've seen in recent years that, despite ASO's best efforts, even when TT kilometres are limited, they have just as much of an impact as the mountain stages.
Into thin air
Stage 14, at 117.5km, continues the trend of short mountain stages and finishes at the summit of the mighty Col du Tourmalet, the first hors-catégorie ascent of the race and the first puncture of the 2000-metre altitude barrier.
The riders will first scale the category 1 Col du Soulor at the mid-point before the approach to the Tourmalet, which is tackled from the west and measures 19km at an average of 7.4 per cent, with a particularly nasty final 3km. The Tourmalet featured 12 months ago, but the last time it was used as a summit finish was 2010 and the memorable duel between Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, though that was from the easier western side.
Stage 15 features three category 1 climbs in the final 60km and borrows from the stage to Foix on 2017 won by Warren Barguil. The Port de Lers is followed by the devilishly steep Mur de Peguère, and though the stage descends into Foix like two years ago, it doesn't stop there, instead heading for another tough climb and a new summit finish at Prat d'Albis 11.8km at 6.9 per cent with a particularly difficult first half.
That concludes the Pyrenean chapter and, after a second and final rest day in Nîmes, it's over to the Alps. The transition is made to wait by a flat 177km stage 16 that starts and finishes in Nîmes and is a surefire bunch sprint unless the the wind is particularly strong. Stage 17 does indeed take the riders towards the Alps, with two categorised climbs but a considerable amount of uphill on the 200km route to Gap, where the late climb of the Col de la Sentinelle could tee up a reduced group sprint.
Stage 18 begins the Alpine triptych that will bring the race to a climax. Three major climbs, all peaking above 2000m, line the 208km path from Embrun to Valloire, with the category 1 Col de Vars preceding the hors-catégorie Col d'Izoard and Col du Galibier, two of the most dramatic cols in the Tour's locker.
The Col d'Izoard, 14.1 at 7.3 per cent, is a brute, especially the final 3km above the famous Casse d'Déserte moonscape, and while the Col du Galibier officially measures 23km at a modest 5.1 per cent, it's really about the tough final 9km that follow the slog up the Col du Lautaret. No summit finish here, but the hair-raising descent to Valloire doesn't represent much opportunity for dropped riders to work their way back.
Stage 19 takes the race to its highest point, the 2,770m Col de l'Iseran, before a summit finish at the ski resort of Tignes. There are barely any flat roads - instead, we have three minor climbs on the slog towards the Iseran, whose altitude perhaps poses more of a threat than its terrain: 12.9km at 7.5 per cent. After a long downhill section, it's back up to 2000m for the 7.4km (at 7 per cent) climb to Tignes, which tops out 1.5km from the line.
Tignes might be the best place to attack, given stage 20, the final test of the Tour, finishes with a long slog of a summit finish. It's another short stage (130km), and the early ascent of the category 1 Cormet de Roseland will ensure an explosive start, but while the final ascent to the ski station of Val Thorens is jaw-droppingly long at 33.4km, its average gradient is just 5.5 per cent, with a few flatter sections and nothing really over 7.5 per cent. It's suited to a strong collective, and it'll take a brave soul to lay it on the line, especially if Team Ineos are in yellow. That said, the length and altitude (2365m) of Val Thorens, and the 4500m of elevation gain on the stage as a whole, make it a big final showdown.
Stage 21 is the traditional final-day procession into Paris on the final Sunday, in which the maillot jaune will sip champagne and pose for photos before they hit the capital and start racing up and down the famous Champs Elysées. A sprinter - perhaps the durable sort who has weathered the mountains - will take the spoils in the most famous sprint in cycling before the overall winner is crowned in the podium ceremony in front of the Arc de Triomphe.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2019 TEAMS
AG2R La Mondiale (WorldTour)
Who?: French team run by Vincent Lavenu, created in 1992 and based in the Alps.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 18
Main man: Romain Bardet announced himself as the next great French hope with podium finishes in 2016 and 2017. Likes climbing and altitude, hates time trialling, so he's unlikely to get a better shot.
Arkea-Samsic (Professional Continental)
Who? Second-division French team based in Brittany, formerly known as Bretange-various things and Fortuneo-Oscaro.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 0
Main man: German sprinter André Greipel has 11 Tour stages to his name but is yet to get up to speed at Arkea. Likewise Warren Barguil, who will go for stages and the polka-dots but needs a dramatic turn in form.
Who? Kazakh team managed by ex-pro Alexandre Vinokourov and formerly home to Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong and Vincenzo Nibali.
Tour titles: 2
Stage wins: 12
Main man: Jakob Fuglsang – The 34-year-old Dane doesn’t have great pedigree when it comes to three-week races but has had a stellar season so far.
Who? Relatively new team established in 2017 with funding from the Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa and the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 0
Main man: Vincenzo Nibali, winner of all three Grand Tours, says he’ll focus on stage wins after riding the Giro d’Italia but we don't believe him. Watch out, too, for world time trial champion Rohan Dennis, who surpassed expectations with second overall at the Tour de Suisse.
Who? German team, formerly known as NetApp, who stepped up to WorldTour level and bigger and better things with the signing of Peter Sagan in 2017.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 5
Main man: Three-time world champion Peter Sagan will be involved in bunch sprints, punchy finishes, and even breakaways. Give him the green jersey now. Don't forget Emmanuel Buchmann, the softly spoken 26-year-old German who's had a fine season and could fly under the radar into the GC fight.
CCC Team (WT)
Who? Essentially the bones of the old BMC Racing set-up that, following the death of owner Andy Rihs, was saved by a merger with Polish squad CCC, albeit having already lost much of their roster.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 6
Main man: Greg Van Avermaet is the talisman of the team and will lead the charge for stage wins.
Who? Long-running French team who dropped to the second-division ranks in 2010 and haven't won a stage since.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 10
Main man: Christophe Laporte has usurped Nacer Bouhanni as lead sprinter and could figure in the second and third weeks. Otherwise, it's breakaways, and lots of them.
Who? Patrick Lefevere's Belgian super team, who may be limited when it comes to GC but are prolific everywhere else.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 36
Main man: Enric Mas, the 24-year-old who was runner-up in last year’s Vuelta, leads the GC charge on his Tour debut. Otherwise, it's a team set up for stage wins, chiefly through sprinter Elia Viviani and the effervescent Julian Alaphilippe, who won two stages and the polka-dots last year.
Team Dimension Data (WT)
Who? Formerly known as MTN-Qhubeka, they landed a number of breakthrough moments for African cycling, and moved up to the WorldTour with the signing of Mark Cavendish in 2016.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 7
Main man: Mark Cavendish has won 30 stages in his career, four shy of Eddy Merckx’s record, but the British sprinter comes into the race drastically short on form after a long battle with Epstein Barr virus. Louis Meintjes has finished top 10 overall in the past but has been hampered by injuries this year.
EF Education First (WT)
Who? American team, run by Jonathan Vaughters, that started out as Slipstream Sports in 2007, merged with Cannondale in 2014, and was saved in 2017 by EF, who now have them doing adventure rides as well as pro races.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 8
Main man: Rigoberto Urán finished second in 2017 but crashes derailed the Colombian last year and has had a far-from-smooth season so far. In Michael Woods and Alberto Bettiol, they also have possibilities for a stage win.
Who? Marc Madiot's team, whose partnership with French state lottery company FDJ is the longest-running sponsorship in the sport, stretching back to 1997.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 12
Main man: Thibaut Pinot finished third in 2014 but the mercurial Frenchman then hit a wall. After avoiding the Tour in the past couple of years and finding success elsewhere, he’s back on home turf for another crack at victory. FDJ have put sprinter Arnaud Démare on the Giro-Vuelta programme, so it's all about Pinot in July.
Team Ineos (WT)
Who? British team set up in 2010 and managed by Dave Brailsford, flexing their financial muscle to build a star-studded squad that has won six of the past seven Tours. Was Sky, now Ineos.
Tour titles: 6
Stage wins: 17
Main man: No Froome should have cleared up the leadership issue, but Geraint Thomas' early exit from the Tour de Suisse means he still has to prove himself, not least because Egan Bernal went on to win and already looks a Tour contender in his own right. The race will revolve around them and their incredibly strong team.
Who? Dutch team with roots in the 1980s but probably best known as Rabobank between 1996 and 2012, at which point doping revelations led to bank to cease its sponsorship.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 53
Main man: Steven Kruijswijk finished fifth last year and will try and crack the podium, while in Dylan Groenewegen the team also possess the world's leading sprinter.
Who? Russian team who are now registered in Switzerland in a bid to be more open and international.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 7
Main man: No more Marcel Kittel, meaning no real chance of sprint wins, so it's up to Ilnur Zakarin to go for a win in the mountains or maybe even - after his exertions at the Giro - ride for GC.
Lotto Soudal (WT)
Who? Well-established Belgian team run by Marc Sergeant and long sponsored by the Belgian lottery. Like QuickStep, success has come in Classics and sprints, rather than Grand Tour GC.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 34
Main man: Caleb Ewan finally makes his Tour de France debut and will the Australian will deploy his low-profile style in the bunch sprints. Tiesj Benoot, Tim Wellens, and Thomas De Gendt will hunt stage wins elsewhere, though there’s a very sneaking suspicion Benoot could do well on GC.
Who? Australian team set up in 2012 and funded by businessman Gerry Ryan. Started out as a bunch of stage hunters and team time triallists but have now morphed into a proper GC team.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 3
Star rider: His twin brother Simon is already a Grand Tour winner and, after a disappointing Tour de France 12 months ago, Adam Yates has shown the kind of form in 2019 that suggests he can compete for the title.
Movistar Team (WT)
Who? An institution in cycling, the Spanish squad dates back to 1980. Previously been known as Reynolds, Banesto, and Caisse d'Epargne, they won five Tours with Miguel Indurain in the 1990s.
Tour titles: 7
Stage wins: 33
Main man: Take your pick. Two-time podium finisher Nairo Quintana says he’s the leader, Mikel Landa says he’s also the leader, and then there’s the world champion Alejandro Valverde, who just won Route d'Occitanie after two months out.
Team Sunweb (WT)
Who? German-registered team, formerly sponsored by Argos, Shimano, and Giant, but still with a very Dutch feel, and a rigidly structured scientific approach
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 16
Main man: No Tom Dumoulin throws the Dutch team way off balance. Wilco Kelderman could try his hand at GC, but if Michael Matthews finds his sprinting legs and gets some team support he could go for stage wins and the green jersey.
Total-Direct Energie (PC)
Who? Jean-René Bernaudeau's French team that began in 2000 and which, through various guises as Bonjours, Bouygues, Brioches, and Europcar, was home to French stars Thomas Voeckler and Sylvain Chavanel. They've operated at Pro Continental level for a number of years now but are eyeing a return to the big time thanks to investment from oil giant Total.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 10
Main man: Niki Terpstra is the big name on the team sheet but 26-year-old Frenchman Lilian Calmejane, who won a stage on his debut on 2017, should thrive in the medium mountains.
Who? American team with an increasing Italian influence, which started out as Leopard Trek with the Schleck brothers in 2011.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 5
Main man: Richie Porte has never done himself justice over three weeks and his 2019 form makes it difficult to see him putting that right. No John Degenkolb means Trek are fully committed.
UAE Team Emirates (WT)
Who? Abu Dhabi-funded team that essentially rose from the ashes of the old Lampre set-up
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 14
Main man: Top 10 in the past three Tours, Dan Martin, an ever-dependable source of attacks, will be hoping his bad luck clears off and clears the way to the podium. Colombian Fernando Gaviria, who won two stages last year, is struggling with a knee injury so it's up to Alexander Kristoff to lead the sprints.
Who? Second-division outfit from Belgium who have become fixtures at the Tour.
Tour titles: 0
Stage wins: 0
Main man: Guillaume Martin, the French climber/philosophy graduate, has the potential and could crack the top 10. Expect to see a lot of the others in breakaways.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2019 JERSEYS
Worn by the leader of the general classification, so the rider with the lowest net time. The maillot jaune is awarded to the overall race leader after each stage and the rider who takes it to Paris is crowned Tour de France champion. This year the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the yellow jersey, which came about because the newspaper that ran the race, L'Auto, was printed on yellow paper.
The classification is based on the time taken to complete the whole course, but there are bonus seconds on offer to encourage attacking racing. Bonuses of 10, 6, 4 seconds are awarded on the finish line to the top three riders on each stage, excluding time trials. In a new twist, this year will see further bonus seconds on offer on the top of certain climbs. There are bonuses of 8, 5, 2 seconds for the first three riders to these points, on stages: 3, 6, 8, 9, 12, 15, 18, 19.
All riders must finish within the time limit - a certain percentage (ranging from 3 to 20 per cent depending on the stage and average speed) of the stage winner's time each day in order to continue in the race. This is a perennial problem for sprinters when it comes to the high mountains.
Worn by the leader of the points classification. Points are awarded at stage finishes and intermediate sprints (one per road stage), and while the sprinters are the main candidates, it's the more versatile among them - the ones who can compete on a variety of terrain and also get into breakaways - who have the best chance. Peter Sagan is one such rider and has won green in six of the past seven Tours - that's every one he's finished.
Points are awarded to the first 15 riders at stage finishes or intermediate sprints, with different allocations depending on the nature of the stage.
Stages 1, 4, 7, 11, 16, 17, 21 (flat): 50-30-20-18-16-14-12-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2
Stages 3, 5, 8, 9, 10, 12 (rolling/medium mountain): 30-25-22-19-17-15-13-11-9-7-6-5-4-3-2
Stages 6, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20: (high mountain and ITT): 20-17-15-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1
Intermediate sprints (one per road stage): 20-17-15-13-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1
Worn by the leader of the mountains classification, or the 'king of the mountains'. Mountains points are on offer at the top of every classified climb, ranging from the hardest - 'hors catégorie' to the easiest - category 4.
Hors catégorie: 20-15-12-10-8-6-4-2
Category 1: 10-8-6-4-2-1
Category 2: 5-3-2-1
Category 3: 2-1
Category 4: 1
Worn by the the leader of the youth classification. A 'young rider' is anyone who was born after January 1, 1994, so anyone under 25 or who turned 25 in 2019. The jersey goes to the best placed on general classification.
Not a jersey but a special red number badge for the rider deemed, subjectively, the ‘most combative’ the previous day - usually the rider most active in the breakaway. At the end of the Tour, the super combatif prize is awarded to the most aggressive rider of the whole race, based on a combination of panel and public vote.
Worn by members of the team leading the teams classification. This is calculated by adding together the times of each team's three best riders on every stage. For the stage 2 team time trial, each team's time will be be multiplied by four.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2019 STAGES
All times local - CET
Stage 1 / Saturday July 6 / Brussels - Brussels, 194.5km / Start: 12:25, Finish 17:00
Stage 2 / Sunday July 7 / Brussels - Brussels (TTT), 27.6km / Start: 14:30, Finish: 16:45
Stage 3 / Monday July 8 / Binche - Epernay, 215km / Start: 12:20, Finish: 17:30
Stage 4 / Tuesday July 9 / Reims - Nancy, 213.5km / Start: 12:25, Finish: 17:25
Stage 5 / Wednesday July 10 / Saint-Dié-des-Vosges - Colmar, 175.5km / Start: 13:25, Finish 17:35
Stage 6 / Thursday July 11 / Mulhouse - La Planche Des Belles Filles, 160.5km / Start: 13:25, Finish: 17:45
Stage 7 / Friday July 12 / Belfort - Chalon-Sur-Saône, 230km / Start: 11:35, Finish: 17:00
Stage 8 / Saturday July 13 / Mâcon - Saint-Etienne, 200km / Start 12:25, Finish: 17:30
Stage 9 / Sunday July 14 / Saint-Étienne - Brioude, 170.5km / Start: 13:25, Finish: 17:30
Stage 10 / Monday July 15 / Saint-Flour - Albi, 217.5km / Start: 12:25, Finish: 17:45
Rest Day 1 / Tuesday July 16 / Albi
Stage 11 / Wednesday July 17 / Albi - Toulouse, 167km / Start: 13:45, Finish: 17:30
Stage 12 / Thursday July 18 / Toulouse - Bagnères-De-Bigorre, 209.5km / Start: 11:50, Finish: 17:10
Stage 13 / Friday July 19 / Pau - Pau (ITT), 27.2km / Start: 14:00, Finish: 17:54
Stage 14 / Saturday July 20 / Tarbes - Tourmalet, 117.5km / Start: 13:45, Finish: 17:00
Stage 15 / Sunday July 21 / Limoux - Foix, 185km / Start: 12:10, Finish: 17:25
Rest Day 2 / Monday July 22 / Nîmes
Stage 16 / Tuesday July 23 / Nîmes - Nîmes, 177km / Start: 13:30, Finish: 17:25
Stage 17 / Wednesday July 24 / Pont Du Gard - Gap, 200km / Start: 12:40, Finish: 17:25
Stage 18 / Thursday July 25 / Embrun - Valloire, 208km / Start: 11:25, Finish: 17:15
Stage 19 / Friday July 26 / Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne - Tignes, 126.5km / Start: 13:55, Finish: 17:35
Stage 20 / Saturday July 27 / Albertville - Val Thorens, 130km / Start: 13:45, Finish: 17:45
Stage 21 / Sunday July 28 / Rambouillet - Paris, 128km / Start: 18:10, Finish: 21:20
HOW TO WATCH THE TOUR DE FRANCE
Live stream: UK
The Tour de France will be broadcast in the UK on Eurosport, which can be found in basic Sky TV packages. With a Eurosport Player monthly or annual pass, you can access the live stream from just about any internet-connected device. You can try it out for free.
ITV4 are also showing the race and producing daily highlights with the usual team – Gary Imlach, Ned Boulting, David Millar and Daniel Friebe. The show is being broadcast for an hour after each stage.
S4C is the official broadcaster for Wales and will be showing the race live throughout the UK on free-to-air television at 2 p.m. daily and has a daily highlights show every evening.
Live stream: North America
The 2019 Tour de France will be shown live online in the US on the NBC Sports Gold app and web page ($54.99/year). The race will also be broadcast live daily on NBC Sports Network, which is available on most local cable and satellite packages. Phil Liggett and Bob Roll will call the action during the stage, while Christian Vande Velde and Chris Horner will join Paul Burmeister in the network's 'traveling studio' for analysis before and after each stage.
Any of the streams from official broadcasters Eurosport or France-TV Sport will be geo-restricted. However, you may still be able to access them by simulating being in the home country via a 'virtual private network' or VPN.
TechRadar tested hundreds of VPNs and recommends the number one best VPN currently available as Express VPN. With ExpressVPN, you can watch on many devices at once including Smart TVs, Fire TV Stick, PC, Mac, iPhone, Android phone, iPads, tablets etc. Check out Express VPN and get 15 months for the price of 12.
In Canada, all stages will air live on Sportsnet with the international English commentary.
Live stream: Australia
Australians can watch the 2019 Tour de France on SBS or Eurosport.
We will have full live text coverage of every stage of the 2019 Tour de France, from the pre-race build-up to the post-race debrief and every pedal stroke in between.
Our stage reports will offer a comprehensive view of each stage, including a write-up of the action, full results, and a photo gallery.
Our reporters at the race will provide exclusive news stories, interviews, features and analysis, and we'll also have a regular podcast.
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