Stage 2: Brussels
Date: July 7, 2019
Stage type: Team Time Trial
The Tour's racing director Thierry Gouvenou has suggested that if the conditions are right this 27-kilometre team time trial course could produce a new record speed for a stage of this kind, improving on the 57.841km/h average set by Orica-GreenEdge when they won over 25km in Nice during the 2013 event. Featuring plenty of long straights, just a handful of tight turns where the eight-rider teams will have to ease off on the gas for a few moments, and barely any climbing of note, it promises to be as tightly contested as last year's contest in Cholet, where five teams finished within 11 seconds of each other at the top of the leaderboard, BMC taking the spoils with a margin of four seconds over Sky and seven over QuickStep.
Starting outside the magnificent Palais Royal, the course heads east towards Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, then tracks into the southern suburbs of the city, before turning north to bisect the Belgian capital in order to reach the finish adjacent to the Atomium. A yellow jersey adorned with an image of a young Eddy Merckx will be presented here to what is likely to be a new wearer, perhaps from one of the teams that has this jersey as its ultimate target when the race reaches Paris in three weeks’ time.
Ineos, Sunweb, Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma should all be in the frame, but racing on home terrain with the crowd and great form to motivate them, Deceuninck could be the outfit to beat. Their 2018 King of the Mountains winner Julian Alaphilippe has acknowledged that the prospect of him being in yellow at this early point in the Tour has crossed his mind, and those teams with longer-term objectives won’t be too disappointed if the Frenchman or one of his teammates carries the pressure of the yellow jersey for a few days.
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