Tour de France organisers unveil attack-friendly 2019 route

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The 2019 Tour de France will include a record 30 mountain passes and five summit finishes after organisers unveiled a route intended to encourage aggressive racing.

At a ceremony in Paris attended by reigning champion Geraint Thomas, his Sky team-mate Chris Froome and a host of other riders past and present, organisers ASO unveiled the details of a route Tour director Christian Prudhomme said was intended not to be more difficult, but more difficult to control.

Team Sky have won six of the past seven editions of the Tour, using the strength of their well-funded squad to grind down opponents.

That is something organisers want to end – to the extent that Prudhomme used the presentation to appeal to watching UCI president David Lappartient to ban power meters.

With the goal of creating more exciting racing, organisers unveiled a route which features fewer hors categorie climbs – the most difficult of all – but more category two climbs which can encourage attacks.

There are also just 54 kilometres of time-trialling, including an Alpine test on stage 20.

The Tour – which marks 100 years since the introduction of the yellow jersey to signify the overall leader – will begin in Brussels, paying tribute to all-time great Eddy Merckx on the 50th anniversary of the first of his five overall victories.

The climbing begins in earnest on stage six to La Planche des Belles Filles. This was the scene of Froome’s stage victory in 2012 but next year there will be a further kilometre – including gradients of 20 per cent – added to the route to make it even harder.

From there, the riders will head south west across France towards the Pyrenees, where there will be a time trial around Pau, a summit finish on the famed Tourmalet, and a stage which goes over the imposing Mur de Peguere before finishing above Foix at Prat d’Albis.

The final battles will be fought in the Alps. A brutal stage 18 will take riders over the Col de Vars, the Col d’Izoard and the Galibier within the space of 207km.

A day later, the 123km stage 19 includes the Col d’Iseran, the highest paved road in Europe at 2,770m.

And the 2019 Tour champion will be known after the 33.4km time trial up to the finish at Val Thorens, at an altitude of 2,365m.

Merckx was joined at the ceremony by Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain, the only other men to have won the Tour five times besides the late Jacques Anquetil. It is a club Froome is one Tour victory short of joining, having been beaten to yellow by his own team-mate this July.

Though the mountains took the headlines, 30-time stage winner Mark Cavendish – aiming to match Merckx’s all-time record of 34 – was on hand to hear about a route which includes seven flat stages where sprinters might prosper.

In total the race will cover 3,460km from the opening stage on Saturday, July 6 to the finish in Paris on July 28.

Organisers also announced details of La Course, the women’s race which takes place during the Tour.

This year’s race will be a one-day event, covering five laps of the time trial course around Pau for a total distance of 120km.

The route includes the Cote d’Esquillot, which could prove the springboard for a race-winning attack.

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Fernando Gaviria joins UAE Team Emirates on three-year deal

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Fernando Gaviria will join UAE Team Emirates for the new season, despite having a year left to run on his contract with Quick-Step Floors.

The Colombian sprinter had a contract in place until the end of 2019 but his future has been up in the air in recent weeks. A report in Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport earlier this month linked him with a switch to UAE Team Emirates.

The 24-year-old, who won two stages in his Tour de France debut this year, was given permission to talk to other teams, and negotiations developed with UAE Team Emirates.

He is now set to link up with his new team in Abu Dhabi this weekend where they will hold a training camp until October 30.

Speaking about his move, Gaviria said: “I change team after having always raced in the same group, which has given me the possibility to make the next jump to the highest level.”

“With the new jersey, I’m not going to hide my desires and I want the biggest wins. I’m happy to be able to race with my countrymen Henao, Muñoz and Molano.

“Thanks to the UAE Team Emirates for the faith it put in me.”

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UAE Team Emirates star Yousif Mirza looking to end season on a high in China

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Yousif Mirza will be part of the final UAE Team Emirates selection for the UCI World Tour season as the UAE National Champion heads to China for the Tour of Guangxi from October 16-21.

The Emirati superstar will provide support for team captain Fabio Aru, who is looking to end his season on a high and get his first win in UAE Team Emirates colours.

Joining the two riders in Southern China will be team-mates Jan Polanc, Alexandr Riabushenko, Ben Swift, Matteo Bono and Oliviero Troia.

Commenting ahead of the race Yousif Mirza said: “This has been the most remarkable season for me – my second as a professional cyclist. I retained my status as the UAE National Road Race and Individual Time Trial Champion, as well as winning the Asian Cycling Championship Road Race.

“I’ve also had a fantastic experience with the team on the UCI World Tour, travelling the world competing alongside some of the best cyclists in the world. Riding in the UAE colours, on the biggest stage is the highest honour for me and I want to do the team and my great nation proud by giving my all in the final race of the season.”

Former Italian National Champion, Fabio Aru added: “I won’t be under a lot of pressure to achieve results in China; however I really want to do my best in this competition, in a new frontier of world cycling. I’m going to give my all to the team. We are going to try to light up the race and show off our jersey.”

The Tour of Guangxi made its debut on the UCI World Tour last year. The format and route is largely the same as last year, with the second stage being the only major change in that it will depart from the port region of Beihai and finish in Qinzhou.

The tour will consist of three flat stages and three hilly stages, with the biggest test coming on Stage five – the Queens Stage.

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