Tour de France 2019 route described as 'highest in history'
Grand Depart in Brussels on July 6 on centenary of yellow jersey
Last Updated: 25/10/18 9:22pm
The 2019 Tour de France route will include a record 30 categorised climbs and five mountain finishes after organisers unveiled a route intended to encourage aggressive racing.
Reigning champion Geraint Thomas, his Sky team-mate Chris Froome and a host of other riders past and present attended the ceremony in Paris as organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) revealed the details of a route Tour director Christian Prudhomme described as 'the highest in history'.
With the goal of creating exciting racing, organisers unveiled a route which features fewer hors categorie climbs - the most difficult of all - but more category two climbs which can encourage attacks and breakaways.
"There's a lot of climbs over 2,000m altitude [and] I seem to perform well at those heights. I like it [the route]," Thomas told Sky Sports News.
"[But] it is hard to take it all in when it is so quickly in front of you."
Team Sky have dominated the race in recent years, with Sir Bradley Wiggins, Froome and, most recently, Thomas, winning the yellow jersey at six of the past seven editions.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the first of Eddy Merckx's five overall wins the race will start in Belgium with the Grand Depart in Brussels, while it will be 100 years since the introduction of the yellow jersey to signify the overall leader.
There are also just 54 kilometres of time-trialling, including an Alpine test on stage 20.
The climbing begins in earnest on stage six to La Planche des Belles Filles - scene of Froome's first stage victory in the race in 2012 - but next year will include a further kilometre, including gradients of 20 per cent, added to make it even harder.
"We have done that climb quite a few times before but not the extra bit which we are going to do next year," Thomas said about the dirt-road finish.
"It will spice things up a bit - make it a bit more interesting and exciting. There are a lot of stages that stand out so it should be another great race."
The opening stage starts and finishes in the Belgian capital on July 6 and includes the cobbled climb of the Mur de Grammont. It is followed on July 7 by a team time trial, also in Brussels, before the race heads into France.
From there, the riders will head south west across France towards the Pyrenees, where there will be a time trial around Pau, a summit finish on the famed Tourmalet, and a stage which goes over the imposing Mur de Peguere before finishing above Foix at Prat d'Albis.
The final battles will be fought in the Alps. A brutal stage 18 will take riders over the Col de Vars, the Col d'Izoard and the Galibier within the space of 207km.
A day later, the 123km stage 19 includes the Col d'Iseran, the highest paved road in Europe at 2,770m. The 2019 Tour champion will be known after the 33.4km time trial up to the finish at Val Thorens, at an altitude of 2,365m.
Merckx was joined at the ceremony by Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain, the only other men to have won the Tour five times besides the late Jacques Anquetil. Froome needs one more Tour victory to join them.
The route also features seven flat stages where sprinters might prosper, including 30-time stage winner Mark Cavendish, who is aiming to chase Merckx's all-time record of 34.
In total the race will cover 3,460km from the opening stage on Saturday, July 6 to the finish in Paris on July 28.
Organisers also announced details of La Course, the women's race which takes place during the Tour.
The sixth edition of the race will again be a one-day event, before stage 13 of the men's race on July 19, covering five laps of the time trial course around Pau for a total distance of 120km.
The route includes the Cote d'Esquillot, which could prove the springboard for a race-winning attack.