2019 Tour de France: Stage 1 preview

Stage 1: Brussels-Brussels
Date: July 6, 2019
Distance: 192km
Stage type: Flat 

The Tour relishes an anniversary, and this edition has got two very significant ones to glory in: the centenary of the yellow jersey and the 50th anniversary of the first victory taken by Eddy Merckx, the record-holder for days in the maillot jaune. Inevitably, the opening stage goes big on both. Starting in Merckx's home city of Brussels, 61 years on from the Belgian capital's first hosting of the Grand Départ, it initially heads west into Classics country, heading through Ninove, for so long the finish point of the Tour of Flanders, to tackle what used to be the Ronde's final two climbs, the Muur at Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg.

Although they come too early in the stage to have a likely effect on the stage result, they should still stoke the action as both count towards the mountains jersey. The first rider to the top of the Muur, ranked third-category, will end the day in red polka dots and remain in the distinctive jersey until at least the afternoon the race reaches French soil on stage 3.

After turning south to Charleroi, the stage loops back to Brussels, passing the site of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo and entering the city via the suburb of Woluwe-Saint-Pierre where Merckx spent part of his childhood and, early in that 1969 Tour that saw his first overall victory, wore the yellow jersey for the first time. By this point, the bunch should be travelling full bore, its sights set on reeling in any breakaways that may have resisted as a prelude to a bunch sprint in the grand setting of the Royal Park.

The rider who emerges triumphant from the pack will pull on the first of 20 one-off yellow jerseys, this one featuring the Atomium, the iconic structure built for the 1958 World Fair that will provide the backdrop for the finish of stage 2.

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