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The Muur and a 28km team time trial for the 2019 Tour de France

The Muur, Tour of Flanders 2005
Joe Robinson
16 Jan 2018

Muur van Geraardsbergen and 28km team time trial to kickstart the Belgian Grand Depart at the 2019 Tour de France

The Tour de France will be heading to the mythical cobbled slopes of the Muur van Geraardsbergen in 2019 before tackling a 50km team time trial when the race departs from Brussels to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merck's first Tour victory.

Stage 1 will be 192km in length, starting and finishing in the Belgian capital of Brussels in homage to Merckx, taking on the Kappelmuur and Bosberg within the first 40km of the stage.

The remainder of the stage is expected to be flat and favour a bunch sprint.

Stage 2 will then see the peloton tackle a 28km team time trial also in celebration of Eddy Merckx and his Faema team. This confirmation contrasts with previous reports from Sporza, which suggested the team test against the clock would be 50km.

Brussels will also host the team time trial, with the stage starting at the Atomium before finishing at the Royal Palace situated in the centre of the city.

Such a long team time trial could produce sizeable gaps between General Classification riders early in the race and will no doubt impact team selection.

The Muur's presence in the 2019 Tour was already expected after Geraardsbergen's mayor spoke of his interest in attracting the race to his town.

In an interview with Sporza, Mayor of Geraardsbergen Guido De Padt had confirmed he had been in talks with Tour organiser Christian Prudhomme about bringing the race to the cobbled climb famously used in the Tour of Flanders.

De Padt said, 'We spoke to organiser Christian Prudhomme and other great people, but also with Tour heroes like Poulidor and Thévenet, who were already looking forward to a possible Tour-passage on the Muur.

'I have been in politics for 35 years and have never lobbied so heavily in sports terms to get something done.'

The climb featured on the Tour in 2004 130km away from the stage finish and therefore having little effect on the race outcome. De Padt said he would hope it came closer to the stage finish yet his wishes were not listened to.

The climb itself is only 1km long but with an average gradient of 9.3% and maximum gradient of 19.8% on some of the sharpest cobbles in Flanders, the ascent to the famous church is amongst one of the most feared in professional cycling.

Its positioning within the Tour of Flanders has been experimented with in recent years, but it has previously been the deciding climb in previous editions, most notably in Fabian Cancellara's victory in 2010.

After not appearing in the race between 2012 and 2016 the Muur returned to the one-day Monument last year. Featuring fully 100km from the finish, it was nonetheless the scene of a pivotal attack from Quick-Step Floors and Team Sky that helped split the race, which proved one of the deciding factors in the eventual victory of Philippe Gilbert.