Five things to know about the 2019 Tour de France

The biggest event in long-distance cycling begins this weekend, so here are some things you might like to know about the famously gruelling race.

Five things to know about the 2019 Tour de France
A pre-race 'yellow jersey' event in Belgium, which is hosting the start. Photo: AFP

1. It starts in Belgium. This year the Grand Départ will be in Brussels before the cyclists cross over the border and complete the majority of the ride in France. Despite its name, the Tour frequently crosses over into other countries for at least some of the race and in the past has had sections in Spain, Italy and the UK, which hosted the Grand Départ in 2014. Setting off from Yorkshire (the best bit of the UK) the race attracted huge crowds and proved to be a big boost for cycling in the region.

Map: Tour de France

2. It started out as a publicity stunt. The first Tour in 1903 was an attempt to boost flagging sales of French newspaper L'Auto by offering a cash prize to the winning cyclist. Of the 60 that started, only 21 completed the course.

3. The current favourite to win is a 22-year-old Colombian rider called Egan Bernal. If he does triumph it will be the first time that a Colombian – or indeed anyone from South America – has won the event, the leaderboard of which is heavily dominated by French riders (36 winners out of 105 events).

Egan Bernal on the podium at the Paris-Nice race. Photo: AFP

4. The highest point on the 2019 Tour will be Col de l'Iseran in Savoie in the French Alps, which sits 2,270m above sea level.

5. It starts on Saturday, July 6th and finishes three weeks later in Paris on July 28th. As is traditional, the last leg of the race will be a largely ceremonial ride up the Champs Elysées where the winner will be crowned. Spectators will be seen along the route, but the towns hosting a stage departure usually offer a good view for spectators, and frequently put on an event to celebrate the tour coming through the town.

The following places are hosting a départ in 2019: Brussels, Binche, Reims, Saint Dié des Vosges, Mulhouse, Belfort, Macon, Saint Etienne, Brioude, Saint Flour, Albi, Toulouse, Pau, Bagnères de Bigorre, Tarbes, Limoux, Nimes, Pont du Gard, Embrun, Saint Jean de Mourienne, Albertville, Rambouillet.

If that all sounds like too much effort, the race will be televised.

French vocab

Yellow jersey (worn by the winner) – le maillot jaune

The race start – le grand départ

The start of each stage – le départ

The group of cyclists – le peloton (literally translated as 'the pack)

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French government: All athletes must be vaccinated to compete in France

All athletes and sports professionals who wish to compete in France will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19, government sources told AFP on Monday.

Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic
Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic. Photo: Oscar del Polzo/AFP

The French parliament has just given the go-ahead for the health pass to be converted into a vaccine pass, which means that anyone wishing to enter leisure and cultural venues – including sports grounds and stadiums – will have to be vaccinated.

This goes for the crowd, but also professional sports players and staff. The government has indicated that exemptions will not be made athletes who are based outside France.

The ministry said a new vaccine pass, “applies to everyone, to volunteers and to elite sportspeople, including those coming from abroad, until further notice.”

READ ALSO What changes when France’s health pass becomes a vaccine pass

Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said last week that certain events like the French Open could have a special exemption, when asked whether Novak Djokovic could play in the tournament, but this appears now to not be the case.

Questions had been asked about whether the unvaccinated Djokivic – recently deported from Australia – would be able to play in the French Open in May, but the ruling would affect all visiting sports professionals, including rugby teams from England, Ireland and Italy who are due to play in France during the Six Nations tournament in February and March.

Until now a health pass has been sufficient to enter sports grounds, which means unvaccinated players and fans were able to use a negative Covid test.

However once the vaccine pass enters into effect – scheduled to be later this week – only proof of vaccination will be affected.

French domestic sports teams were given the choice of either making sure that all their players and staff were fully vaccinated or playing behind closed doors.