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Mark your calendars: The 2019 Tour de France will start in Brussels to honor the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx’s first of five victories.
Tour officials and Brussels politicians held a press conference Tuesday to announce the news.
“Eddy was my idol,” said fellow five-time winner Bernard Hinault. “It will be an honor to pay him tribute.”
The start will also celebrate the centenary of the emblematic race leader’s yellow jersey, first introduced 100 years ago. Brussels hosted the Tour start in 1958 and first hosted a Tour stage in 1947. Since then, the Belgian capital has seen the Tour pass through 10 times.
“I’m very emotional, I hope I’ll still be alive!” said the 71-year-old Merckx.
Said Tour director Christian Prudhomme: “It’s the least we could do. Eddy Merckx is an exceptional champion and a person of exceptional humility.”
The news confirms the departures for the next three editions of the Tour. The 2017 race will start July 1 in Dusseldorf, the first time Germany has hosted the “grand depart” since Berlin in 1987. The 2018 edition will start at Vendée in the Pays de la Loire region of western France.
Of the other grand tours, details for future departures are still in the works. The 2017 Vuelta a España begins in Nimes, France, while the 2018 Giro d’Italia is expected to start beyond the borders of Italy.
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Information from AFP was used in this report.