Bengaluru, July 5: The Tour de France gets underway on Saturday, with Geraint Thomas aiming to defend his crown.
Ahead of cycling's greatest race, we provide you with all the key details you need to know.
WHERE IS THE TOUR STARTING?
This year's Tour begins in Brussels, with Belgian cycling great Eddy Merckx - a five-time winner of the race - having been honoured during the team presentation.
HOW LONG IS THE RACE?
A mere 3,480 kilometres, spread across 21 stages in the space of 23 days. The riders get two rest days, after stages 10 and 15, amid a gruelling challenge that features seven mountain stages and five mountain-top finishes. As ever, the winner will effectively be decided on the penultimate stage before the peloton enjoys a largely ceremonial ride into Paris on July 28.
HOW MANY TEAMS AND RIDERS ARE TAKING PART?
This year's race will feature 22 teams, each comprising eight riders to make up a total field of 176.
WHO ARE THE FAVOURITES?
Thomas' somewhat surprising triumph in 2018 represented a fourth successive win for Team Sky and their sixth in seven years. The heavyweight outfit are now known as Team INEOS following a change in sponsor but will again be favoured to take glory, with Thomas and highly rated Colombian Egan Bernal named as their joint team leaders. Away from Team INEOS, in-form Astana rider Jakob Fuglsang is expected to mount a strong challenge after winning the Criterium du Dauphine. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) is another contender while hopes of a home victory will again be largely carried by Romain Bardet of AG2R La Mondiale and Groupama-FDJ's Thibaut Pinot.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT BERNAL
Team INEOS supremo Dave Brailsford has the highest of hopes for Bernal, a 22-year-old who has already won the Paris-Nice and Tour de Suisse in 2019. At last year's Tour, Brailsford was quoted by the Guardian as saying: "I've searched and searched for the rider that might be the next Chris Froome, who would be our next big leader for Grand Tours. My choice was Bernal, whom we absolutely had to have in the team. He's our future." Do not be surprised if the youngster gets the better of defending champion Thomas.
WHAT ABOUT CHRIS FROOME?
Froome, the champion in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, was ruled out of the Tour following a shocking crash at the Criterium du Dauphine, which left the Briton in intensive care with a series of severe injuries including multiple fractures. The 34-year-old would undoubtedly have been among the favourites but he now faces a significant challenge just to compete at the highest level again.