BRUSSELS, July 6 (Xinhua) -- The 2019 Tour de France kicked off at 12 pm local time on Saturday in Brussels, with King Philippe of Belgium and cycling legend Eddie Merckx both in attendance at the opening ceremony.
176 drivers from 22 teams took part in the opening race of the day, departing from the Royal Square in central Brussels.
The race then goes on through Charleroi, Waterloo and other cities in Belgium, and ends at the King's private palace on the outskirts of Brussels in Laeken, rounding off a 194.5km opening day race.
To encourage people to go out and watch the race, public transport such as the Brussels Metro, buses and trams in Brussels are free of charge on the weekend of the 6th and 7th.
This year's Tour de France chose Brussels as a starting point to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Tour de France title won by cycling legend Eddy Merckx.
Born in Brussels in 1945, and nicknamed the "cannibal" for his cycling prowess and insatiability, Eddy Merckx was a track bicycle racer widely seen as the most successful rider in the history of competitive cycling. His victories include an unequalled eleven Grand Tours (five Tours of France, five Tours of Italy, and a Tour of Spain).
The Tour de France is a well-known annual multi-stage road cycling event, the world's third largest sporting event after the World Cup and the Olympic Games which has been held every year since 1903.
This year, the race starts on 6 July in Belgium and ends with a traditional finish on 28 July along the Champs-ElysEes in Paris. It has 21 stages - with two rest days after stage 10 and stage 15.