The 1st stage of the 2019 Tour de France begins on a huge square in Brussels, called Place Royale in French. The race heads to the Wall of Geraardsbergen and Bosberg – both Flemish Classics hallmarks – to turn back to Brussels via Charleroi, Villers-la-Ville and Sint-Pieters-Woluwe. It’s a special moment when La Grande Boucle moves through Sint-Pieters-Woluwe, as Eddy Merckx spent his youth here. In 1969, the Cannibal also took his first maillot jaune in the place where he spent his early years.
The 2nd stage is a rolling team time trial of 27.6 kilometres. The boulevards in Brussels are wide and straight, so top speeds are to be expected.
The 3rd stage starts in the fortified Wallonian town of Binche and concludes with a punchy finale in the Champagne region in the north of France. A flat race from Reims to Nancy is included on the fourth day of action and the 5th stage travels on hilly terrain from Saint-Dié-des-Vosges to Colmar.
The battle on GC ignites on the sixth day when the race ventures into the heart of the Vosges mountains. The 6th stage takes in six intermediate climbs to finish atop La Planche des Belles Filles. The steep climb was included in 2017 (Fabio Aru victory), 2014 (Vincenzo Nibali) and 2012 (Chris Froome), while an extra section of approximately 1 kilometre on gravel roads is added to pep up this year’s race. La Planche des Belles Filles is 7 kilometres long and the average gradient sits at 7.8%. The steepest stretch at 24% is served 100 metres before the line.
Stage 7 runs to a sprint finish in Chalon-sur-Saône and stage 8 is a hilly race with 3,750 vertical metres to Saint-Étienne. Brioude hosts the arrival of the lumpy 9th stage before stage 10 should see another fast finishers showdown.
The Tour de France features the Pyrenees in its second week, but before tackling the high mountains stage 11 travels from Albi to a likely sprint finish in Toulouse. Following climbs up the Col de Peyresourde and La Hourquette d’Ancizan, a downhill finish in Bagnères-de-Bigorre is included in the 12th stage, while stage 13 is an ITT of 27.2 kilometres in Pau.
The last two days in the Pyrenees are sure to turn the overall classification upside down. Stage 14 is merely 117 kilometres long and features a summit finish at the Col du Tourmalet after a 19 kilometres climb at 7.4%, while stage 15 travels to an arrival in the mountains above Foix. The race takes in the Port de Lers, Mur de Péguère and ends at the Prat d’Albis after a 11.8 kilometres climb at 6.9% with 2 kilometres exceeding 10%.
Via Nîmes (stage 16, sprint) and Gap (stage 17, breakaway) La Grande Boucle continues to the Alps. Stage 18 takes in intermediate climbs up the Col de Vars, Col d’Izoard and Col du Galibier before a flying descent to the line in Valloire.
Stage 19 finishes uphill in ski resort Tignes, while the mega-long Col de l’Iseran will be the penultimate climb. The riders tackle the 32.9 kilometres to the summit of the Iseran around halfway. The average gradient is 4.2%, yet the last 3 kilometres are marked by double digit ramps. Following a descent to Val d’Isère and Lake Chevril the last climb kicks in. The road to the ski resort is 7.4 kilometres long and slopes at 7% before the last 2 kilometres in Tignes are a false flat.
At 131 kilometres and featuring 4,450 vertical metres, stage 20 is set to act as the climax in the fight for the yellow jersey. Situated at 2,365 metres, Val Thorens is Europe’s highest ski resort and it has hosted only one Tour de France finish. In 1994, Colombian Nelson Rodriguez climbed to victory on the hors catégorie slopes. The final climb of the Tour de France is 33.4 kilometres long.
Of course, the finish is on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The 21st stage will set off in Rambouillet.
Tour de France 2019: route, profiles, more
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