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Could the Muur van Geraardsbergen feature on Stage 1 of 2019 Tour de France?

Iconic Tour of Flanders climb set to feature in Brussels Grand Depart - but Eddy Merckx may miss race due to ASO dispute

 

Think of the Muur van Gerardsbergen and chances are you’ll think of the Tour of Flanders, with the cobbled climb returning to the race last April after a five-year absence.

> Muur van Geraardsbergen returns to Tour of Flanders

But press reports in Belgium suggest that in 2019, it could feature in the first stage of the Tour de France.

The Belgian capital was confirmed earlier this year as the host of the Grand Depart of what will be the 106th edition of the race.

> 2019 Tour de France to start in Brussels

Precise details of the opening days of the race will be unveiled in Brussels on 16 January 2018.

But according to Het Nieuwsblad, it will begin on Saturday 6 July with a road stage that will take the peloton out into Flanders and Wallonia.

Expectations are that the Muur will feature on the itinerary, with Geraardsbergen’s mayor, Guido van Padt, actively lobbying for its inclusion.

That opening stage would then be followed by a team time trial in Brussels on Sunday 7 July.

It will be the second time the race has started in Brussels, the previous time being in 1958.

In all, the Tour de France has visited the city on 11 occasions, the first of those when it hosted the finish of Stage 2 of the 1947 edition.

The 2019 race marks the 50th anniversary of the first of Eddy Merckx’s five Tour de France wins, with the Brussels Grand Depart designed as a tribute to him.

However, it’s far from clear whether the Belgian legend will be there himself after he became embroiled in a dispute with race organisers ASO.

According to reports in Belgium, the row is centred around the Tour of Oman with Merckx, who helped ASO set up the race in 2010, not involved in next year’s edition.

Quoted in the Belgian press last month, Merckx said that the dispute was making him have second thoughts about being involved in the Brussels Grand Depart.

Merckx and ASO also collaborated on the Tour of Qatar, although this year’s edition of the race, which had been due to be upgraded to UCI WorldTour status, was cancelled due to lack of sponsorship. 

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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