Brussels looks forward to hosting Tour de France’s Grand Départ

Summary

The cycling event will set off from Brussels in 2019, the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx’s first victory, bringing a huge boost to the local economy

Bringing people together

The start of the 2019 Tour de France will be staged in Brussels, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first Tour won by local boy Eddy Merckx.

The tourism sector in Brussels and Flanders has welcomed the decision. The start itself, known as the Grand Départ, is over in one day, but the event will be surrounded by a week of associated entertainment, said Geert Cochez, CEO of VisitBrussels.

Research into the start of the Tour in Utrecht in 2015 showed an economic return to the city worth €34 million, with more than 900,000 extra visitors. “The event has a lot of benefits,” Cochez said. Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur put the estimated cost of staging the event at €5 million.

The exact route of the Départ has yet to be fixed, but the municipality of Sint-Pieters-Woluwe has already made a bid. Merckx was born and brought up there, where his parents had a grocer’s shop. The council has been in touch with Tour organisers, mayor Benoit Cerexhe said.

The Tour de France is the biggest cycling event in the world and it draws 80% of the world’s media attention to the sport, according to Stef Gits, spokesperson for Toerisme Vlaanderen, quoting research by Cycling News. “If as a tourist destination you can manage to pick up some of that attention, that’s fantastic,” he said.

For Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, meanwhile, the event has a wider significance. “Both Brussels and Paris have been victims in recent years of senseless violence,” she said. “It is sports events like the Tour de France that bring people together again and heal the wounds that once seemed incurable.”

Photo: The start of the second stage of the 2010 Tour de France in Brussels in July 2010

© Michel Krakowski/Belga

Flemish cycling

Flemish cyclists have played a dominant role in the history of European bicycle racing. With the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), the region also has a classic cycle race.
Flandriens - The legendary pioneers of the Flemish cycling tradition are called “Flandriens”. They include Roger De Vlaeminck, Eddy Planckaert, Johan Museeuw and Walter Godefroot.
Eddy Merckx - Having won 525 races in his career, Brusselaar Eddy Merckx, nicknamed “the Cannibal”, is considered one of the greatest cyclists of all time.
Trophy - The annual Flandrien Trophy honours the best Belgian cyclist of the past season. Professional cyclists choose and vote for the nominees.
5

number of times Merckx won the Tour de France

1 913

first Tour of Flanders

1 969

Merckx becomes first Belgian to win the Tour de France in 30 years