Details of the route for the 2019 edition are beginning to surface
With not long remaining until the presentation of the route of the 2019 Tour de France, rumours continue to swirl about where the race might be heading and the nature of the tests being lined, several of them apparently designed to derail the Team Sky train in the mountains.
What can already be said for sure is that the race will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the yellow jersey by starting in Brussels, the home city of Eddy Merckx, who holds the record of 96 days in the maillot jaune in his seven appearances in the race.
The Tour will begin on July 6 with a 192km road stage starting and finishing in Brussels, followed by a 28km team time trial in the Belgian capital the next day.
From Belgium, the race is expected to track down the eastern side of France via the Champagne region, Lorraine and the Vosges, which will be the location of the first key mountain stage to La Planche des Belles Filles.
A regular feature on the route since Chris Froome first won there in 2012, the stage will finish higher than in previous editions, climbing a gravel road that includes a section at 24 per cent to an altitude of almost 1,100m.
After cutting through the heart of the Massif Central, where a Bastille Day stage between Saint-Étienne and Brioude, home town of French favourite Romain Bardet, is said to feature four significant categorised climbs, the first rest day will be at Albi on the Tour’s second Tuesday.
Two days later, on July 18, the race will head into the high mountains, with the local press reporting that the stage will cross the Peyresourde and Beyrède passes to finish in Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
There have been many different stories about the next day’s stage, with a summit finish on the Tourmalet and a time trial in Pau both mentioned as possibilities. Could it be a mixture of the two? A time trial to the summit of the Tourmalet?
What can be said for sure is that this is a particularly significant day for the Tour de France as it will mark exactly 100 years since the first yellow jersey was presented to Eugène Christophe at Grenoble during the 1919 Tour. Consequently, there’s likely to be something very special on the menu.
The final stage in the Pyrenees is another that has attracted many contradicting reports. What most agree on is that the finish will be on Prat d’Albis, which stands right above Foix. At 1,200 metres, it’s not as high as nearby Plateau de Beille, but the climb is consistently steep for five kilometres after it kicks up out of Foix, with the gradient only relenting in the final couple of kilometres.
It has been widely reported that a lot more spice will be added to the stage with the inclusion of the Mur de Péguère. Averaging 12 per cent for three kilometres, this narrow lane through thick woodland could separate the GC leaders from their domestiques before the final ascent.
After the second rest day has been spent at Nîmes, rumours suggest that the final Tuesday will feature an individual time trial either around the city or to the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct.
From there, the race will enter the Alps at Gap, the launch point for three consecutive days in the range, beginning, according to local press reports, with an epic stage over the Izoard and Galibier passes to Valloire.
Rumours suggest that the mountains will conclude with two summit finishes, the first at the resort of Tignes (2,100m), which will also include the sapping ascent of the Madeleine before the 20km-long grind up to the line.
The last stage in the Alps is said to be another that will suit riders who prefer their climbs lengthy and steady. After crossing the Cormet de Roselend and the Col de la Loze, the finale will be at Val Thorens at an altitude of 2,300m and reached after as much as 80km of climbing over the stage.
The one thing that all of the conjecture agrees on is that the race will then transfer to Paris for the traditional laps of the Champs-Élysées. But don’t be surprised if ASO serve up one final celebration of the maillot jaune.
More updates will be added to this page as they become available.