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Tour de France 2019 route rumours ahead of tomorrow's presentation

Thomas Vergouwen of Velowire usually nails it before the official announcement - so what does he expect next year?

Some of cycling’s biggest stars – not to mention team bosses, the great and good of the sport, local political bigwigs and the sporting press – will assemble at the Palais des Congres in Paris tomorrow for the unveiling of the route of next year’s Tour de France.

But for all the efforts of ASO to keep the parcours a closely guarded secret, one man manages to second-guess the route in advance year-in. year out.

Paris-based Dutchman Thomas Vergouwen, who has worked for various sponsors of the race over the years, has made it his annual mission to scour local newspaper reports and minutes of council meetings as well as using contacts to find out when and where hotel block bookings have been made, all with the aim of being able to predict the route before it is officially announced.

And we have to say that Thomas – whom we met for a coffee a few years back before going into the vast auditorium where the unveiling takes place – is pretty good at it, with the details published on his Velowire website proving uncannily accurate each year.

So, what’s in store for next year’s race when, once again, their rivals will try to break Team Sky’s near-monopoly of the race, with Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and, most recently, Geraint Thomas, winning the yellow jersey at six of the past seven editions?

Here’s some of the highlights of what Thomas expects to be announced tomorrow – and for much more depth, which will also give you insight into just how he does it, head over to Velowire.

The one thing we always know in advance is where the Grand Depart will be held, and for the 50th anniversary of the first of Eddy Merckx’s five overall wins, that honour goes to Brussels in 2019.

There are cobbles and the Mur de Grammont on the opening stage on Saturday 6 July, which starts and ends in Brussels, then a team time trial in the Belgian capital the following day. The race then heads into France, with an anticipated Stage 3 finish in the Champagne city of Reims.

Assuming Thomas’s predictions are accurate, it’s an unusual parcours this year, hugging France’s borders with Belgium and Germany then southwest towards the one with Spain and back towards Switzerland before heading to Paris for the grande finale on the Champs-Elysees.

So it’s no surprise to find the climb of La Planche des Belles Filles – first included in 2012 when Chris Froome won the stage and Bradley Wiggins went into yellow after the first of what is now a familiar show of strength from Team Sky in the mountains – is likely to provide the first summit finish of the race, on Stage 6.

There is a twist, however – if rumours are to be believed, the finish line will be further up the climb than the one that has previously featured, and that means that the final part will be on a gravel track, with a ramp of 24 per cent towards the top to boot.

Bastille Day – Sunday 14 July –is expected to feature a stage finish in Romain Bardet’s birthplace of Brioude, with the start in Saint-Etienne. While climbs would be likely to feature late on, from the limited information we have it sounds more like a day for the break or the puncheurs than the overall contenders?

The following day is likely to be a rest day, and it sounds as though it may be a bit of a schlep, with Albi – the town that gave its name to the 13th-century Albigensian Crusade launched by the Roman Catholic Church against what it saw as the Cathar heresy.

 It could be one of several references to what was a bloody chapter in French history that ultimately helped create the ‘Hexagon’ as we know it today – many historians view it as an excuse by the French crown for a land grab against the Count of Toulouse, who was sympathetic towards the Cathars.

And indeed Toulouse, the Ville Rose – the Pink City, due to the effect of the sunlight on its red-brick buildings – is rumoured to be the finish of Stage 11, and the start of the following day’s stage into the Pyrenees with a summit finish at Bagneres de Bigorre.

It’s thought that Stage 13 will be an individual time trial around Pau – after Paris, the city the Tour visits most due to its status as a gateway to the Pyrenees – with the following day seeing a summit finish on the Tourmalet,  and another on Prat d’Albis near Foix in Stage 15.

The final rest day looks set to happen in Nimes as the race heads towards the Alps, with summit finishes at Tignes and Val Thorens on Stages 19 and 20 respectively.

Which just leaves the final day, which we know will finish on the Champs-Elysees, and which Thomas reckons will start in Rambouillet – which if you have ever heard an announcement while standing on a platform on Metro line 4, where it is one of the terminal stations, you will know is one of the most French-sounding place names ever.

We’re looking forward to finding out tomorrow if Thomas’s predictions prove correct (of course they will) and we shall bring you full coverage of the presentation here on tomorrow.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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