A guide to the Tour de France
Stage 1 of the Tour de France 2019 heads west out of Brussels via Anderlecht to Ninove. After 43km comes the Muur van Geraardsbergen (Mur de Grammont) climb, and it's rapidly followed by the Bosberg. The riders are on an anti-clockwise tour south of Brussels, and they make their way to Charleroi (at geographical 6 o'clock). From there, it's north via Waterloo and Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, then back to Brussels for the finish.
|Climbs||Muur van Geraardsbergen
This is the official map of Stage 1, Tour de France 2019:
Map of Stage 1, Tour de France 2019, © ASO/Tour de France
The the official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 1 (to follow):
Profile of Stage 1, Tour de France 2019, © ASO/Tour de France
Stage 1 takes place on Saturday 6th July 2019. Timings to follow.
Mountain High, by Daniel Friebe and Pete Goding, covers the Muur van Geraardsbergen. They say, '...the Muur has established itself as the totem of Belgium's favourite sporting occasion [the Tour of Flanders] in the space of just 60 years. Or even fewer if one considers that, while it was first included on the Flanders route in 1950...only since the 1980s has it been a permanent feature of cycling's grimmest, but in many ways most fascinating, one-day event.'
Grand Place, Brussels
Stage 1 of the 2019 Tour de France starts at the Grand Place in the centre of Brussels. I'll add the start of the stage route to the map when I'm sure of the precise details.
Initially, the riders head west, passing close to the Château de Karreveld on the way to Anderlecht, and the stadium where Anderlecht play football.
Leaving Anderlecht, the route is further west to Lennik and Ninove. Then it's on to Geraardsbergen.
The Tour de France tackles the famous climb of the Muur van Geraardsbergen or Mur de Grammont. It's also called the Kapelmuur, because of the chapel at the top. It's a climb which is a fixture on the Tour of Flanders.
The ascent starts near the river Dender at 18m, and takes a series of steep, narrow, cobbled roads to the top of the Oudenberg at 110m. They are Brugstraat, Markt, Vesten, and Oudebergstraat. The average gradient is 9.2%, and the last bit up to the chapel is 20%.
Soon after the Muur van Geraardsbergen comes another famous Tour of Flanders climb, the Bosberg. Climb By Bike says:
'The climb starts very gradually on macadam road, but once you reach the forest and cobblestones, it goes up to over 10% on a very bad road. Cobblestones seem to be thrown in here and there, certainly if you have to take the right side of the road...Starting from Kapellestraat, the Bosberg ascent is 1.35km long. Over this distance, you climb 67m. The average percentage thus is 5%.'
The race now travels via Galmaarden, then continues south east. On the edge of the town of Enghien, it crosses from Flanders to Wallonia.
The riders go through Braine-le-Comte, and continue to Ronquières, on the Brussels-Charleroi canal. They follow the canal south, and go past the Inclined Plane of Ronquières - an arrangement for lifting canal boats up a section of canal without all the delays that a number of locks would entail.
After crossing the autoroute, Stage 1 reaches Seneffe, and passes the Château de Seneffe.
The route continues south east to Courcelles and Gosselies, northern suburbs of Charleroi.
From Charleroi, the peloton heads north, passing through les Bons Villers and Villers-la-Ville. The riders sweep past the Abbaye de Villers.
They continue north via Genappe. After Genappe, they are on the N5, but take a little detour off it for Waterloo, and the lion staircase that gives a panorama of the battlefield. There are bonus seconds for any rider who finds a musket ball, probably.
The race travels to la Hulpe, and then over the border from Wallonia back into Flanders. It reaches Overijse, then Tervuren (the town from which Eddy Merckx took the nickname 'the Ogre of Tervuren'), and now it is nearing Brussels.
The riders pass the Royal Golf Club of Belgium, hoping they don't get stuck in a bunker, and go past the Parc Parmentier in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre. (Woluwe-Saint-Pierre is where the young Eddy Merckx rode his bike). They reach the Parc du Cinquantenaire, on the edge of Brussels itself.
The stage finishes in the north of Brussels, near the Château de Laeken. I'll add the exact route and finish line when I'm sure of it.
The climbs of the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg come too early in the stage to make a difference. Stage 1 should be contested by the sprinters. As ever, it will become clearer who is taking part, and who is on form, nearer the time. It seems likely that one of the top sprinters, like Fernando Gaviria, will be in with a good chance.
Stage 2 of the Tour de France 2019 is a team time trial in Brussels.
Read about Stage 2 of the 2019 Tour de France.
Grand Place, Brussels
Brussels is a City in the Brussels-Capital Region. It's called Bruxelles in French, and Brussel in Flemish. It is neither part of French-speaking Wallonia, nor part of Flanders, but is an enclave within Flanders. In this way, it is a 'neutral' capital for both parts of Belgium.
Historically, it was Flemish-speaking; in the late C19th, there was a shift to French; technically, it is bi-lingual.
Brussels is on the river Senne. The name of the city probably derives from the Old Dutch broeksel, meaning marsh.
It is home to most of the institutions of the European Union, as well as the HQ of NATO. It's also a financial centre.
Brussels began with a chapel on an island in the Senne around 580. In 979, Duke Charles built a permanent fortification on the island. It was on a trade route between Bruges and Ghent, and its population expanded as a result; it specialised in textiles.
In 1183, Brussels became part of Brabant, within the Holy Roman Empire. In the late C15th, it lost its independence, but became capital of the Burgundian Netherlands, under the Habsburg Emporer.
In 1695, King Louis XIV of France bombarded Brussels, and much of the city, including the Grand Place, was destroyed.
From 1713, Brussels was part of the Austrian Netherlands, under the Austrian branch of the Habsburg family. In 1795, it was conquered by Napoléon, then after the Corsican's defeat in 1815, it joined the Netherlands under William of Orange.
Belgium became a country in its own right in 1830, and King Leopold I reigned from 1831.
Brussels was occupied by German troops in World War I and World War II.
Among the sights of Brussels is the Royal Palace, where the King of Belgium performs his functions. The Royal Family actually live in the Royal Castle of Laeken.
The Grand Place is at the heart of Brussels, and it's surrounded by impressive, historic buildings, with a mix of styles including Gothic and Baroque. The Grand Place is given a flower carpet in August.
The Manneken Pis is a small, bronze statue of a boy peeing.
The Atomium is outside the centre of Brussels, at Heysel. It was built for a 1958 Expo, and has nine steel spheres connected by tubes. It represents an iron crystal. Nearby is the Mini-Europe park, with models of famous European buildings.
Museums include the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, and the Musical Instruments Museum. There's also a Comic Strip Centre.
The Parc du Cinquantenaire has an impressive triumphal arch at its eastern end. This is part of a U-shaped complex of buildings commissioned for the 1880 National Exhibition, commemorating fifty years of Belgian independence. (The current arch was only put up in 1905). Either side of the arch are museums - the Royal Military Museum on the northern side, and Autoworld and an Art & History Museum to the south.
The EU institutions based in Brussels include the European Commission (Berlaymont building) and the Council of the EU. The European Parliament holds many of its sessions at the hemicycle in Brussels, although it also meets at its formal seat in Strasbourg.
Brussels is well-known for chocolate, waffles, and chips and mayonnaise. You can also enjoy moules-frites.
There is a wide range of beers in most bars, including the traditional lambic - fermented in brewery attics with naturally-occurring yeasts. When cherries are added to lambic, you get kriek. There are also many strong beers originally developed and brewed by monks.
Anderlecht is a suburb of Brussels. Delhaize, the biggest supermarket group in Belgium, has its head office in Anderlecht.
RSC Anderlecht (a football club, not an acting troupe performing Shakespeare) has its stadium in Astrid Park. It's the most successful Belgian football team. The lowest point in their history may be a UEFA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest in 1983-4 season, when the referee awarded an extra-time penalty, but there are suspicions of skullduggery.
Enghien (or Edingen in Flemish) is a town in the Wallonian Province of Hainault. Its population is around 12,000.
Enghien is known for its Castle Park. The castle was built by wealthy industrialist Baron Francois Empain in the early 1900s, in a neoclassical style. He also spruced up the grounds.