Tour de France 2019: Preview
Jul 05 2019 12:18 am CET

Tour de France 2019: Preview
Tour de France 2019: Preview
Tour de France

The Tour de France 2019 is about to start and everything is set for the most popular race of the calendar. The race is bound to bring surprises and excitement and over three weeks we will see who is the strongest man to stand on top of the final podium on the Champs-Elysees.

History

The 106th edition of the Tour de France will start in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, for the second time in history. The first time the bustling city hosted the Grand Depart was in 1958, an important year in the history of the capital as it was that year that the World's Fair was held there and its symbol the Atomium was inaugurated.

The biggest race of the cycling calendar has been in Brussels eleven times and this time it is for a good reason. Fifty years ago, Belgian legend Eddy Merckx took his first victory in the race and La Grande Boucle aims to commemorate this important episode.

The rider, also known as 'the Cannibal', competed in the Tour de France seven times, in which he took five overall victories and 34 stage wins. In 1969, he wore the Yellow Jersey for the first time in the municipality of Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, in the Brussels-Capital Region of Belgium, and very close to his family's grocery store.

Winners of the previous 10 editions

2009 - Alberto Contador (Astana)
2010 - Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)
2011 - Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team)
2012 - Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky)
2013 - Chris Froome (Team Sky)
2014 - Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
2015 - Chris Froome (Team Sky)
2016 - Chris Froome (Team Sky)
2017 - Chris Froome (Team Sky)
2018 - Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)

The route

First week: A touch of Belgian flavour

The Grand Depart of the French grand tour will be in Brussels to commemorate the anniversary of Eddy Merckx taking the Yellow Jersey for the first time. There is a big possibility that a sprinter will be the first wearer of the leader's jersey as this stage is 192 kilometres long and mostly flat, with start and finish in the Belgian capital via Charleroi.

The second day will be a team time trial in Brussels, from the Royal Palace to the Atomium over a 27-kilometre route in which the General Classification riders could lose or win valuable seconds that later in the race may come in handy. On the third stage, the race says farewell to Belgium with a route of 214 kilometres leaving from Binche and finishing in Epernay that looks easy on paper but includes several sharp hills in the last 30 kilometres that are suitable for the puncheurs, but that could also influence the GC standings due to the bonus seconds -8, 5 and 3- that will be given away at the Cote de Mutigny with 15 kilometres to go.

The first week will include at least three chances for the sprinters: At stages four, seven and ten. The fifth day will take the peloton through a 175.5-kilometre hilly route that includes four classified ascents and a downhill finish before arriving in Colmar. This could be a good day for the breakaway.

The first encounter with the mountains will happen in the sixth stage when the riders go from Mulhouse to La Plance des Belles Filles over a 160.5-kilometre course that features three climbs of the first category -including the mountain finale- and new bonus seconds on the penultimate ascent, which is of the second category. The General Classification riders have an eye on this day to test their conditions and the rivals'.

The pack will face another hilly challenging route in the eighth stage with seven classified climbs and more bonus seconds on the last climb of the day -the Cote de la Jaillere at more than 10 kilometres from the finish. The ninth stage features another hilly route with one climb of the first category in the first part, and two of the third category, including the Cote de Saint-Just that offers bonus seconds and is at around 15 kilometres from the finish line in Brioude.

Second week

Week two kicks off after the first rest day with a flat stage and will continue with a 209.5-kilometre 12th stage that includes two climbs of the second category -the second including bonus seconds- before heading downhill to Bagneres-de-Bigorre, and the only individual time trial over a 27.2-kilometre route in Pau.

The second week of the Tour de France closes with two mountain stages: the 14th which includes one climb of the first category and a finish on the hors-category ascent of the Tourmalet that will likely bring fireworks in the General Classification. The 15th stage finishes on a first category ascent but before that, the riders will face two more climbs of the same category, including the penultimate ascent of the Mur de Peguere which has bonification seconds at the top.

Third week

After the last rest day of La Grande Boucle, the riders face the third week of racing, which includes two last chances for the sprinters: on the 16th stage from and to Nimes and the Champs-Elysees day. The 17th stage will offer a hilly profile making it very likely that the breakaway will make it to the end.

The last three days before the Champs-Elysees stage will be crucial in the fight for the title and all the action will take place in the mountains. On the 25th of July, the peloton will face the 208-kilometre 18th stage which features one climb of the third category, one of the first category and two hors-category ascents in the last 60 kilometres -the Izoard and the Galibier, which has bonus seconds- all before heading downhill to Valloire.

The 19th stage features the Col de l'Iseran -which has bonus seconds and is at around 30 kilometres from the finish- and a finish in Tignes after a first category climb. The last mountain stage of the race will start with the Cormet de Roselend (Cat-1), continues with the Cote de Longefoy (Cat-2) and will have a finish on the Val Thorens (an hors-category climb), after which it will be clear who is the winner of the 2019 Tour de France.

Favourites

General Classification

In the absence of Chris Froome (Ineos) due to the hard crash he suffered at the Criterium du Dauphine, the fight for the General Classification has opened up and looks less predictable than other editions.

One of the bigger contenders for the Yellow Jersey is the winner of the 2018 edition of the race, Geraint Thomas (Ineos). The Welshman surprised in the 105th edition of the race by showing an attacking style in the climbs and his good positioning in all the stages, although Froome was supposed to be the leader of the team. The rider returns to the race in a good form despite crashing out of the Tour de Suisse.

Another of the favourites to step on the first position of the podium on the Champs-Elysees is Thomas' teammate Egan Bernal. The Colombian talent has already shown in the past that he can perform in long races and arrives to the French grand tour after taking the overall victory in the Tour de Suisse.

Astana's Jakob Fuglsang could also play a big part in the competition for the Yellow Jersey in a season in which he has shown good performances by taking the victory in races like the Ruta del Sol, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Criterium du Dauphine, and achieving top-five places in Tirreno-Adriatico, the Amstel Gold Race and the Fleche Wallonne.

The winner of the Youth Classification in the 2016 edition of the Tour de France, Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) arrives to the race as one of the favourites to take the final prize. In 2019, he has taken podium positions in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta a Catalunya, and top-five places in the Ruta del Sol, Itzulia Basque Country and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

**** Geraint Thomas, Egan Bernal (Ineos), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
*** Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Steven Kruisjwik (Jumbo-Visma), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).
** Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First), Mikel Landa (Movistar), Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates), Tejay Van Garderen (EF Education First).

Sprinters

**** Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma), Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Michael Matthews (Sunweb).
*** Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Andre Greipel (Arkea-Samsic), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida).
** Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), Christophe Laporte (Cofidis), Lilian Calmejane (Total Direct Energie), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data).

Mountain Classification

**** Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Egan Bernal (Ineos), Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), Mikel Landa (Movistar).
*** Fabio Aru (UAE-Team Emirates), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ)-
** Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates), Steven Kruisjwijk (Jumbo-Visma).

Young rider classification

**** Egan Bernal (Ineos), Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal), Laurens De Plus (Jumbo-Visma).
*** Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-hansgrohe), Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo), Lennard Kamna (Sunweb)
** Gianni Moscon (Ineos), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida), Odd Christian Eiking (Wanty-Gobert), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
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