Previewing the 2019 Tour de France

In 2019 the Tour de France celebrates its 106th
edition and also the 100th anniversary of the legendary maillot
jaune or Yellow Jersey; the ultimate prize in road cycling. This year’s edition
of the race covers 3,460 kilometres over 21 stages, starting in Brussels,
Belgium (a nod to five-time Tour de France Winner and cycling legend Eddy
Merckx) on Saturday 6th July before finishing three weeks later on
Sunday 28th July in Paris, where the riders will swarm the iconic
Champs-Elysees and the winner will be crowned.

Along the way riders will have to reach deep into the pain locker as they conquer infamous climbs as well as fast, flat stages that favour the world’s best sprinters and everything in between. In anticipation of what will hopefully be some incredible days of racing, let’s take a look at this year’s route and the riders hoping to battle it out for overall victory.

Tour de France 2019: the Route

The race start in Brussels features a flat 192km stage
expected to favour the sprinters in the Peloton, despite taking in a famous
cobbled climb from the brutal Tour of Flanders, the Muur van Geraadsebergen.

After this, the riders will face a 27km Team Time Trial
which may break apart the contenders for the overall Grand Tour victory apart
early on, so teams will have to keep their wits about them if they want to
avoid giving their team leader extra time to make up early on. The first two
stages in Brussels celebrate the 50th anniversary of the legendary
Eddy Merckx’s first yellow jersey win with both stages taking place entirely within
the city, before the race leaves Belgium and heads into northern France for
stage three and the rest of the race.

The first proper test of the Grand Tour contenders will
be in the Voges Mountains, breaking riders in fairly easily on stage five, with
short, punchy climbs punctuating the 169km stage from Saint-Die-des-Vosges to
Colmar. Stage six will be a real test of rider’s fitness and race form, with four
category one climbs along its 157km length, with riders reaching a peak of
1336m on the Grand Ballon.

After getting their eye in on the flatter stages the
sprinters in the Peloton will be rewarded for hauling themselves through the
Voges Mountains with a flat finish to Stage seven, though this is one stage
where a strong breakaway could build up too much of a gap for the sprinter’s
team to overcome thanks to its length and bumpy profile. At 230km long this
stage is the longest in the race and features several categorised climbs to
give opportunistic riders the chance to make a break for it.

The Tour works its way down to the Pyrenees over several
days before hitting them for the first time on stage 12, “easing” riders in
with the category one climbs of the Peyresourde and the Hourquette d’Ancizan.
Stage 13’s 27.2km time trial may look like a welcome break for the riders, but for
those in GC contention it could be a crucial stage as its hilly (for a time
trial) nature could really play into the hands of time trial specialists and
help them to gain some crucial time over their competitors. Stage 14 will sort
the men from the boys with the peloton tackling the legendary Col du Tourmalet,
taking in nearly 1,700m of climbing over 30km. Count us out for that one!

After a rest day and a few flatter stages, the race heads
into the Alps for Stage 18, where the battle for the GC could swing decisively.
At a gruelling 207km, the stage takes in three brutal climbs: the Cole de Vars,
Col d’Izoard and Col du Galibier. The riders will haul their way up and over
more than 4,000 vertical meters before a challenging descent takes them to the
end of the stage. As if that wasn’t enough, the riders face stage 19 just a day
later, which – though only 126km in length – is almost entirely uphill! The
riders will tackle nearly 89km of almost continuous climbing up to the summit
of the Col de l’Iseran before descending (finally!) towards another climb and
the summit finish in Tignes.

Not content with the incredible amounts of climbing, the
2019 route gives riders and GC contenders one more challenge before they ride
into Paris the following day. Stage 20 is where the race could be won or lost,
with two brutal climbs acting as a final test of rider’s strength, mentally and
physically. The final stage takes the riders into Paris for its traditional
finishing procession along the Champs-Elysees, with a dramatic sprint finish
expected as ever.  There can be no doubt
that whoever triumphs in this year’s Tour will have certainly earnt it!

Tour de France 2019: the Teams and Riders

22 teams totalling 176 riders will compete in this year’s
Tour de France, but only a select few will battle it out for top honours. Team
Ineos (formerly Teak Sky) will have to place their hopes on reigning Tour
winner Geraint Thomas after Chris Froome’s horrifying training crash during the
Criterium du Dauphine. With Froome out of contention, Thomas will be in a
fantastic position to retain his Tour title but it’s unlikely that the Welshman
will have it all his own way.

Jakob Fuglsang won his second Criterium du Dauphine this
year to add to his win at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege Classic in April and podiums
at the Strade Bianche and Amstel Gold Race among others. On such good form,
Fuglsang will be looking to make a big improvement on his previous best finish
of seventh at the Tour de France in 2013.

British riders have dominated the Tour in recent years,
with Froome taking four wins in addition to the individual victories taken by
Sir Bradley Wiggins and Thomas. Another British rider who has caught the eye in
recent years is Adam Yates. The Bury rider was looking strong in this year
Criterium du Dauphine before illness took him out of contention, but as shown
by his fourth place finish in 2016, Yates can put a performance in when the
pressure is on.

Perhaps one of the biggest threats in the Tour is Julian Alaphilippe. Enjoying a dominant spring campaign in which he would the Milan-San Remo and Strade Bianche, Alaphilippe took a stage win and the Polka Dot King of the Mountains Jersey at the Criterium du Dauphine with an exciting ride that makes him one to watch when the Tour rolls round.

Perineal dangermen Nairo Quintana and Richie Porte looked decidedly off-form during the Dauphine but can never truly be written off. They may even have been keeping their powder dry for the Tour rather than simply being off the pace. Who will end up wearing the Maillot Jaune when the Tour rolls into Paris? We have no idea, but it’s going to be fun watching the race unfold!

Finally, we can’t discuss the riders in this year’s Tour de France without mentioning the Sprinters. The Points Jersey format has favoured the versatile Peter Sagan in recent years, and he’ll be looking to add an eighth Green Jersey to his CV, but he’ll face strong competition from the likes of Arnaud Demare, Dylan Groenewegen and Fernando Gaviria. The sprint finishes are always some of the most hectic and exciting parts of the Tour, so are definitely ones to keep an eye on!