Paris: Australian Richie Porte's bid for a maiden grand tour title will begin in Brussels next year after organisers announced the route for the three-week Tour de France.
The 2019 edition will mark the 50th anniversary of Belgian great Eddy Merckx's first win of five and the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the fabled yellow jersey first worn by Eugene Christophe in 1919.
Chris Froome will be bidding to equal Merckx's five Tour de France titles, after being denied a fifth title last year by Sky teammate and fellow Briton Geraint Thomas.
Despite a promising start to this year's race in which Porte won the third stage time trial, the 33-year-old Australian crashed during the ninth stage for a second consecutive year and was forced out with a broken clavicle.
Porte will have another shot next year with his new team Trek-Segafredo, which he will move to from BMC Racing at the beginning of next season.
It will be the fifth grand depart in Belgium and the second in Brussels, and Tour de France general director Christian Prudhomme said on Thursday it was a fitting way to mark the feats of Merckx.
"When we heard of Brussels' application for the Tour de France, the idea of grand depart soon sprung to mind," he said.
"Brussels, the capital of Belgium, the European capital and Eddy Merxck's city. We had to start from city where this man was born. He was the yellow jersey's greatest symbol … It was obvious."
The peloton will tackle cobbles on the Mur de Grammont in the opening loop stage on July 6, a 192-kilometre ride starting and ending in Belgium's capital after visiting Charleroi.
A 27-kilometre team time trial takes place in the city the next day.
The race then heads into France from Binche to Epernay in a 214-kilometre stage three. The route hugs the border with Germany, bringing the Tour to the east of the country after the early stages were along the west coast of France last year.
Riders then head south and into the Pyrenees where a 27-kilometre individual time trial will take place in Pau on July 19, the exact day of the 100-year anniversary of the yellow jersey.
The final rest day will be in Nimes three days later before three Alpine stages which includes the Col d'Iseran, the highest paved road in Europe at 2770 metres.
The winner will likely be decided by the end of stage 20 on the final 33.4-kilometre climb up to Val Thorens, before the 106th Tour culminates in its usual grand finale on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on July 28, setting off from Rambouillet.
The total race distance is set to be 3460 kilometres with seven mountain stages and five altitude finishes.
Merckx holds the record for most Tour wins with Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain with the latter two also present with the Belgian in Paris on Thursday.