Brussels will host the start of the 2019 race
Race organiser ASO had already confirmed that Brussels will host the Grand Départ of the 2019 race, as the Tour marks the 50th anniversary of five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx’s first triumph in the race in 1969 and the 100th anniversary of the famous yellow jersey.
Starting in the Belgian capital on July 6, 2019, the race will begin in the Place de Palais in the centre of the city with the riders facing 192km of generally flat and rolling roads before the stage finishes back in the outskirts of Brussels at the Castle of Laeken.
The finish will be one for the sprinters, with a flat, wide boulevard leading up to front of the royal palace, but there will be a few lumps and bumps along the way, including the famous Tour of Flanders climb of the Muur Van Geraardsbergen, which will feature in the Tour de France for only the second time in history.
Watch: 2018 Tour de France route guide
The second stage should see a change in the race lead, with riders facing a 28km team time trial starting from the Palais Royal in the centre of the city and finishing at the Atomium in the north.
This stage will not only take in many of the same roads that were used in the team time trial on stage 1b of the 1969 race, a stage won by Merckx’s Faema team to put the 24-year-old into the yellow jersey for the first time, but will also go through the suburb of Woluwe-Saint-Pierre where Merckx spent much of his childhood.
Despite the Grand Départ being planned as a tribute to Merckx, organisers have had to face the prospect of the man himself not being in attendance after a falling out between Merckx and ASO over the Tour of Oman.
Brussels has staged the Tour on ten occasions, but not the start since 1958. The last time the race visited Brussels was in 2010, when Alessandro Petacchi won stage one from Rotterdam. Stage two also started there.
The last time Belgium hosted the Grand Départ was in 2012, when the Tour started in Liége.