Where to watch the Tour de France
Cycling doesn't appear that difficult, does it, apart from once a year when the riders of the Tour de France prove quite how Herculean it can be as they embark on the marathon 21-stage race that sees them cover an average of more than 100 miles a day.
For the French the Tour de France is a national celebration; it's considered a huge honour for a town or village to be chosen as a host venue. Fans flock from across the world to watch the action unfold, while clamouring to get their hands-on free gifts doled out by the publicity motorcade that precedes the riders at each stage.
Fancy sampling a slice of the action first-hand? The 2019 Tour de France runs from 6 to 28 July and the Citybond team has picked out the best vantage points from which to watch the world-famous race.
Brussels, Saturday 6 July
For the second time in the history of Le Tour, and the first in six decades, the Belgian capital will stage the Grand Départ. The riders will spend most of the opening stage pedalling frantically through the famously flat Flemish countryside. It promises to be a spectacle that's not to be missed. Because Le Tour doesn't swing by this way very often expect it to be crowded so be sure to arrive early and why not pick up some snacks to ease the wait - may we suggest chips with mayonnaise, with some Belgian choccies for dessert?
Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles, Thursday 11 July
After a flat opening five stages the first of Le Tour 2019's many punishing climbs takes place on the run to La Planche des Belles Filles, a ski station perched 1,148 metres up in the Vosges Mountains. This famous stage was won by Britain's Chris Froome in 2012. But since then the organisers have bafflingly decided it wasn't quite hard enough so they've grafted on another half-mile section at the end, incorporating gradients up to an eye-watering 20%. By the time they reach this gruelling 'bonus' riders will already have tackled three tough climbs earlier in the stage. Expect to see looks of exhaustion at the finish line.
Mâcon to Saint Étienne, Saturday 13 July
Le Tour's weekend stages are meticulously planned for maximum excitement. Stage eight, from Mâcon to Saint Étienne, coincides with Bastille Day weekend so expect the ever-vociferous French fans to be even louder and more excitable than usual. While the spectators will be in the party mood the riders will be facing one of their toughest tests of the whole tour taking them through the scenic surrounds of the Beaujolais hills. Sadly they won't have much time to soak up the scenery as they'll be busy tackling five categorised - and seven uncategorised - climbs that represent just shy of 4,000 metres of ascent. Ouch.
Nîmes, Monday 22 and Tuesday 23 July
The southern city of Nîmes hosts the second and final rest day of Le Tour 2019 and we can think of few more picturesque settings to spend the riders' day off. Nicknamed the Rome of France this ancient city was once one of the Roman Empire's most important Gallic outposts. Be sure to explore its palm-lined streets, grand amphitheatre and 2,000-year-old temple. When it comes to the on-road action Nîmes is both the start and finish point of the Stage 16 loop, a largely flat section that winds its way 110 miles through the countryside of Gard departement - including a stunning crossing of the Pont du Gard, a 275-metre Roman aqueduct straddling the Gardon River.
Paris, Sunday 28 July
While the mountains will decide the ultimate winner of Le Tour there's little doubt that the most iconic stage is the 80-mile home stretch from Rambouillet to Paris, culminating at the Champs-Élysées. If you're set on watching the pinnacle of the three-week race prepare to brave the crowds, with hundreds of thousands of baying fans taking to the streets of the French capital each year to cheer the riders home. Unless you're feeling masochistic don't even think about getting a perch at the Champs-Élysées - it's simply too busy. Instead, take the slightly more tranquil option of watching from the Tuileries, overlooking the Place de la Concorde.
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