British stars have dominated the Tour De France in recent years and Geraint Thomas is favourite to retain the crown his surprisingly won in 2018.
A British rider has won in six of the last seven Tours – and Thomas will look to continue the British domination.
The Brits have also been dominating the headlines off the tarmac too – with Tour legends Chris Froome and Mark Cavendish both missing out.
Froome was set to lead Team Ineos – formerly Team Sky – into the race, but he crashed on a practice ride in France – breaking a leg, ribs and an elbow.
Thomas will now be a team leader, and he is fully fit despite a bad crash during the Tour de Suisse last month – although Colombian Egan Bernal, will co-lead the team, and many think he could claim the Yellow Jersey, and he is second favourite to win behind Thomas.
Despite being named co-leader – Bernal insists that he is firmly planning and helping Thomas to another win.
“I don’t know. I don’t choose to say that I’m the favourite. In any case, I will go with G [Thomas] – he will be our leader,” Bernal said
“I will try to help him. If he’s better than me, for sure I will help him. I don’t have any problems to help him; I’m just 22 years old so I think that I have a lot of Tours in front of me.”
And Thomas insists that he is happy to attack the tour as a co-leader.
“Discussing with the team, we believe it makes sense to go into the race with joint leaders as it gives us more options,” said Thomas. “Egan and I will work hard for each other and the team over the three weeks of the race.”
But it is unusual to have the two favourites for the race as co-leaders, and that is because of Froome’s absence along with that of last year’s runner-up Tom Dumoulin.
After Team Ineos duo Thomas and Bernal – the favourites are Swiss ace Jakob Fuglsang as well as another Brit in the shape of Adam Yates, who riders alongside his twin brother Simon – who is also not without a chance.
“A couple years ago I was fourth and not far from the podium, I don’t really want to put a marker on what I want to achieve,” said Yates.
“I just know I’ll like to go better than previously and with the condition and consistency I’ve had this year I don’t see why not. We’re bringing a super strong team for pretty much all terrain.”
But one Brit not on show is sprint legend Mark Cavendish – who has 30 stage wins to his name, just four behind Eddy Merckx – who is the most prolific stage winner ever with 34 wins.
Cavendish was looking forward to trying to add to his tally but his team Dimension Data have not included him.
He tweeted: “Well what can I say? I’m absolutely heart-broken by the decision that means I won’t be at @LeTour this year. As I have done my entire career, I targeted a specific time to be at peak form.
“After following a specific training programme to peak in July, I feel I was in the perfect place.
“Though I won’t be there, as always I’ll be supporting my team-mates with all I have.”
So the 2019 tour begins on July 6th – and the Grand Depart (official start) takes place in Belgium for the fifth time, and the second time Brussels has had the honour. Brussels was chosen to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Tour de France win of Merckx.
22 teams and 176 riders will begin the tour, which will comprise of 21 stages.
Before the off we have spoken to Coral’s Harry Aitkenhead to get their views on the big race
He had an injury scare but Geraint Thomas insists that he is in great shape to retain his crown and we aren’t too keen to disagree with him.
He’s our favourite to go back to back and his joint leader from Team Ineos is the second favourite just behind at 5/2.
It’s sure to be a fantastic edition of the great tour and the rising temperatures will add another interesting dimension to things when they kick off in Brussels this weekend.
Dylan Groenewegen is a popular pick to win the first stage whilst Julian Alaphilippe is the shortest of all to be King of the Mountains.