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Are you r'Eddy? Brussels puts on a big party to welcome the Tour de France
Are you r'Eddy? Recently, this cryptic message in yellow paint has appeared here and there all over central Brussels, on the pavement of the pedestrian zone and the Place de la Monnaie among others. The reason? The Tour de France is coming to Brussels.
This year is the 106th edition of the race and it's the 100th anniversary of the yellow jersey - as well as the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx's first yellow jersey victory. To celebrate all of that, the Grand Départ this year will take place in the Belgian capital - the first Brussels Grand Départ since 1958.
On Saturday 6 July, the first stage (192km, Brussels-Charleroi-Brussels) starts at the royal palace and travels through Molenbeek and Anderlecht before heading for the notorious cobblestone "wall" in Geraardsbergen - then on to Charleroi and back to Brussels.
Then on Sunday 7 July, the second stage will be a time trial around the Brussels region that will travel through Brussels, Etterbeek, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Auderghem, Watermael-Boitsfort, Ixelles, Woluwe-Saint-Lambert and Schaerbeek.
Things will actually kick off on Thursday when the Fan Park, a space exclusively dedicated to the Tour de France, will be set up on the newly renovated the Place de Brouckère. Over four days, until the end of the last stage of the Grand Départ, the Fan Park will host many events, games and workshops.
Also on Thursday, the introduction of the 22 teams, a Tour highlight, will take place from the Place des Palais through the Royal Saint Hubert Galleries to the Grand-Place, giving the world spectators a visual introduction to Brussels.
Visitors and locals will have a number of free Tour themed exhibitions to choose from during the Grand Départ.
Geys photographed the 1969 race, Merckx’s first victory, in his quirky fashion, focusing primarily on the mix of idiosyncrasies and everyday life of the cycling world. Along with the photographs, the show features two newspaper covers from 21 July, that make humorous and historical hay from the fact that it was the Belgian national holiday as well as the day Eddy Merckx won his first Tour and also the day that Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon.
For this 106th edition of the Tour de France, the exhibition pays tribute to the 15,059 cyclists who have participated in the Tour, to its 3,228 champions, and to the 54 Belgian cyclists who wore the yellow jersey.
This exhibition traces the history and development of the world’s third biggest sporting event, through different themes: the history, the creation of the routes and its challenges, a stage, the publicity car, the magic of live sports, and the Tour Festival and its supporters.
Even Autoworld is getting in on the cycling activity, with a Cycling Legends exhibition that celebrates the Tour de France, while Woluwe-Saint-Pierre town hall presents Merckxissimo, bringing together documents not seen before.
This takes you on a journey through 150 years of cycling culture in Brussels. The logic behind the timeframe of 150 years is that in 1869 the first cycling regulations were introduced in the City of Brussels.
Guided bicycle tours
This ride celebrates Eddy Merckx, five-time winner of the Tour de France. From his childhood in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre to his numerous victories, rediscover everything while pedalling in the footsteps of the "Cannibal". It combines Tour anecdotes with the history and development of cycling in Brussels.
The time trial will take place on 7 July - but on 2 July you can follow the time trial circuit on an electric bike guided tour. You’ll follow the route taken by the racers and learn about Brussels during some cultural stops. If you’ve always dreamed about taking part in the Great Loop, this ride is for you.
Cycling in Brussels
Brussels boasts 218km of bike paths. The Brussels-Capital region has seen the number of cyclists double over the last five years. This upward trend, observed since the beginning of the century, has continued with an average annual increase of 13% since 2010. Brussels has changed over the years, and has given more and more space to bikes. Laying out cycle paths, creating new parking for bikes, increasing the 30kph zones, all initiatives, both public and private, to encourage the people of Brussels to get on their bikes.
The #tourensemble initiative aims to get as many Brussels residents as possible in the saddle before, during and after the Grand Départ. Whether they cycle occasionally, as a commuter, for pleasure, or competitively, #tourensemble is bringing everyone together for the same shared goal: to be able to cycle around Brussels with the best conditions.
#tourensemble unites all the 184 nationalities that give the capital its cultural richness, around a collaborative project; a "citizens’ life project", where the bicycle will become the main form of transport in the city. One of its projects is a regional campaign to significantly increase the number of cyclists in Brussels in the run-up to the Tour de France, and to have more bikes than cars in the capital the week of the Grand Départ and to make a permanent difference that will last long after the Tour has moved on. A real social initiative, everyone is invited to join the team by applying at tourensemble.brussels and joining the Critical Mass on 28 June.
There are three kinds of cyclists, those who get around and commute by bike, those who participate in very competitive racing clubs and those who pursue cycling as a social endeavour. Kring is promoting the third type of activity - social biking. It's ideal for people looking to connect with others, it's face to face contact made easy by a common activity. They have a bike store/café in the Dansaert area where you can go for repairs, products, coffee and conversation and they organize weekly bicycle outings including afterwork group rides, young cyclists school, beginners cycling, long distance rides and apero rides. They also sponsor talks and other cultural activities.
Brussels has more than 8,000 hectares of open spaces, making up half of its area. The Sonian Forest, the Bois de la Cambre, the 100 parks and the agricultural areas - most are accessible by bike. Brussels Environment has created the Green Promenade, a 63km pedestrian and bike loop that never leaves Brussels and is a succession of mostly parks, natural areas and preserved landscapes, forest, woods and farmlands with an occasional industrial or urban area.
Brussels by Bike
This trail map suggests eight themed routes for cyclists of all levels. Discover Brussels and its ambience, culture and the richness of its heritage. Available from the visit.brussels tourist information offices.
Bike map of Brussels
This map shows the gradients, cycle routes (with directions), suggested cycle paths, places where bikes can be parked, Villo! rental bike stations as well as forest paths, and offers numerous tips. You can find this map at cycling associations and visit.brussels tourist information offices.