What is this race and why should I care about it?
For many, the Tour – or la Grande Boucle– is the only bicycle race that matters. Those people, of course, are very wrong indeed, but given the exposure the race is given compared to its less well known Italian and Spanish cousins and the other one-day or week-long races throughout the season this is understandable. Forgivable, even, some may say.
Founded in 1903 by Henri Desgrange, editor of L'Auto newspaper, the Tour is the biggest annual sporting event in the world and has more live spectators than even the Olympic Games or Fifa World Cup.
The Tour may not be the favourite stage race of the cycling cognoscenti – that honour goes to the Giro – but it is one that certainly captures the imagination of the wider sporting public. Along with the crack of leather on willow and old boys taking afternoon snoozes in their linen slacks and loud stripey ties, the Tour for many is the sight and sound of the summer.
When does the Tour de France start?
This year's Tour de France gets under way with a 192-kilometre flat stage near Brussels, Belgium, on Saturday July 6, 2019.
How long is this year's Tour de France?
The total distance of the race is 3,479.3km – or 2,162 miles in old money. As you can see from the map, after setting off from Brussels, the travelling circus that is the Tour will head over into its homeland after three stage starts in neighbouring Belgium as the race celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first win of Eddy Merckx. Once in France, the race heads due south then follows an anti-clockwise route that hits the Pyrenees before reaching the Alps where any final shake-ups in the general classification are expected to take place.
The route, which has been described by race director Christian Prudhomme as “the highest Tour in history”, features five mountain-top finishes with three going above 2,000 metres in altitude, along with a record number of 30 categorised climbs. With just 54km of time trials included – a 27km team time trial on the second day of the three-week race and the individual event, also 27km, in Pau on stage 13 – both of which come before the end of the second week, the route is expected to suit the more natural climbers as opposed to the power climbers.
And when does the Tour de France finish?
The race concludes a little over three weeks after setting off from Brussels with the largely processional 21st stage from Rambouillet to Paris (Champs-Élysées) on Sunday July 28.
Where does each stage start and end?
How can I follow the race?
Those with subscriptions to Eurosport are in luck, the self-styled 'home of cycling' will be broadcasting every day, live, all the way from Belgium and France. Broadcast times and the daily highlights programmes will be shown at different times each day. Terrestrial channels ITV and S4C, too, will also be broadcasting the action live. Alternatively, you can stay abreast of all the action right here with Telegraph Sport. All of the 21 stages will be live blogged by our team, while each evening we will publish full race details and standings.
What teams will ride the Tour de France?
As with all WorldTour races, each of the 18 teams that make up the top-flight of professional cycling receive an invite and in the case of the Tour de France, all teams are contracted to race.
In addition to the WorldTour teams, race organisers ASO handed wildcard spots to Arkéa-Samsic, Cofidis Solutions Crédits, Total-Direct Énergie and Wanty-Groupe Gobert.
Who are the bookmakers' favourites for the race?
Geraint Thomas (Ineos, GB): 13/5
Egan Bernal (Ineos, Col): 3/1
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana, Den): 11/2
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott, GB): 13/1
Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo, Aus): 16/1
Nairo Quintana (Movistar, Col): 93/5
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ, Fra): 20/1
Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma, Hol): 22/1
Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale, Fra): 25/1
Mikel Landa (Movistar, Spa): 25/1