The route of the 2019 Tour de France will feature 30 categorised climbs, five mountain finishes but only 54km of time trialling in what the organisers are promising will be "the highest Tour in history", and which they have set to up encourage breakaways and attacks.
Three of the mountain-top finishes will be over 2,000 metres, and there will be back-to-back Alpine stages to take in Col d'Izoard, the Col du Galibier, and the 2,770m-high Col d'Iseran - which is the highest paved road in Europe. The penultimate stage of the Tour, which could decide the overall yellow jersey winner, will be on the 33km climb up the 2,365m high Val Thorens on stage 20.
"This is the highest Tour in history," said the Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme. However, with the goal of creating more exciting racing, the route features fewer hors categorie climbs - the most difficult of all - but more category two climbs which can encourage attacks.
The total race distance is 3,460km, with the Grand Depart set for Brussels on July 6th before the finish in Paris on July 28th.
"Holding the Grand Depart in Brussels is a wonderful way to honour the man who best represents the image of the yellow jersey, cycling's greatest ever champion, Eddy Merckx, " Prudhomme said.
There are also seven supposedly flat stages that are best suited to the sprinters. “We are virtually guaranteed wind on one of those and confident there will be wind on a second one too,” said Prudhomme.
The climbing begins in earnest on stage six to La Planche des Belles Filles. This was the scene of Chris Froome’s stage victory in 2012 but next year there will be a further kilometre - including gradients of 20 per cent - added to the route to make it even harder.
From there, the riders will head south west across France towards the Pyrenees, where there will be a time trial around Pau, a summit finish on the famed Tourmalet, and a stage which goes over the imposing Mur de Peguere before finishing above Foix at Prat d’Albis.
The final battles will be fought in the Alps. A brutal stage 18 will take riders over the Col de Vars, the Col d’Izoard and the Galibier within the space of 207km. A day later, the 123km stage 19 includes the Col d’Iseran, before the penultimate stage includes a time trial up to the finish at Val Thorens.
Merckx was joined at the ceremony by Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain, the only other men to have won the Tour five times besides the late Jacques Anquetil. It is a club Team Sky's Froome is one Tour victory short of joining, having been beaten to yellow by his own teammate Geraint Thomas this July.
Organisers also announced details of La Course, the women’s race which takes place during the Tour. This year’s race will be a one-day event, covering five laps of the time trial course around Pau for a total distance of 120km. The route includes the Cote d’Esquillot, which could prove the springboard for a race-winning attack.