Tour route to feature brutal Alps finale
A century after the maillot jaune first became a staple on the roads of the Tour de France, the iconic jersey will be fought over in the clouds over the Alps at the climax of a mountainous 2019 route, which race director Christian Prudhomme yesterday described as "the highest Tour in history".
The final three stages before the procession to Paris all feature tough Alpine climbing. Stage 18 takes in the classic Col d'Izoard and Col du Galibier, stage 19 is rudely interrupted by the 2770m-high Col d'Iseran - Europe's highest paved road - before racing culminates on stage 20 with a sapping 33km drag to a summit finish at Val Thorens.
The five mountain finishes and 30 categorised climbs contrast with only 54km of time trialling, made up of a 27km team time trial on stage two in Brussels and an equally short individual time trial around Pau on stage 13.
The route could put off specialists against the clock like Tom Dumoulin, last year's popular runner-up, who had said earlier this month that he was targeting the 2019 edition of the race but would reserve judgement until the parcours was revealed.
It is likely to suit Team Sky and their ability to control the peloton through the mountains as they seek to win their seventh yellow jersey in eight years following Geraint Thomas's triumph in July, but the frequency of category-two climbs are intended to invite attacks which might unsettle the British team's grip, which has been unrelenting in recent years.
The race will begin in Brussels on July 6 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx's first Tour de France win, and head into the Vosges in the north-east of France, before cutting across the middle of the country and down towards the Pyrenees.
There the peloton will again take on the Col du Tourmalet - where 100 years ago the first rider to wear the yellow jersey, Eugene Christophe, suffered a famous mechanical failure - before heading across to its brutal and decisive finale in the Alps. (© Independent News Service)