Tour de France -- 2010

Placez-vous sur les chemins, regardez, Et demandez quels sont les anciens sentiers, Quelle est la bonne voie; marchez-y, Et vous trouverez le repos de vos âmes !

Karte at left will change to 2010 map when route announcée


Après une étape en ligne en 2008 en Bretagne et un contre-la-montre atypique en 2009 à Monaco, nous voici revenus pour ce Grand Départ de Rotterdam à une entame de Tour plus conventionnelle. Le tracé dans les rues de la ville avec la traversée dans les deux sens du pont Erasmus est plat, pas trop sinueux. Un parcours type pour spécialistes du chrono. The Dutch theologian, Desiderius Erasmus, was born at Rotterdam, on October 27, 1466. His 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament changed the ... well you can guess the rest or go HERE, s.v.p. Erasmus died in 1536 in Basel, Switzerland, but he retains statuary, bridge, road-naming and university status in his hometown.

In 2010 the Tour de France begins (The Grand Départ) in Rotterdam, Holland (Saturday 3rd July: Start and finish of the first stage near the Ahoy’). The choice of Rotterdam, a vast urban area (and Europe's premier port) with one million two hundred thousand inhabitants, follows up the special start of the Tour in London in 2007. In being awarded this Grand Départ, Rotterdam can be said to have won a top prize. It is a tremendous honour to be host to the most wonderful cycling event in the world. This will be the 4th time that the Tour has seen the city. Day Two witnesses a stage from Rotterdam (Sunday 4th July: Start of the second stage at De Heuvelpark) to Bruxelles. http://www.letour.fr/2009/TDF/COURSE/us/grand_depart_2010.html

La Ville de Bruxelles va accueillir le dimanche 4 juillet 2010 l'arrivée de la 1re étape du Tour de France au Heysel, à proximité de l'Atomium (a monument built for Expo '58, the 1958 Brussels World's Fair-102 meters high). Le peloton arrivera de Rotterdam pour s'élancer. Dans l'histoire du Tour, it was the 10th time the contestants have stopped in the city. http://www.bruxelles.be/artdet.cfm?id=4000 Beginning in 57 BC, Julius Cæsar extended the power of Imperial Rome into what is now Belgium. The people he encountered were the celtic tribes generally known as the Belgæ, inhabiting this portion of Gaul. The Romans dubbed the new province Gallia Belgica. In the fourth century AD, with Rome in steep decline, de facto control of Gaul was ceded to the Franks, a Germanic tribe. As the Franks flourished, the group moved from the role of a mercenary to that of a ruler. Thus by 431, they had established an independent dynasty. The Franks administered it as part of the Pagus Flandrensis. More history of Belgium HERE. Bruxelles (Brussels) has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by Charlemagne's grandson into a metropolis is the de facto capital city of the European Union (EU). Although historically Dutch-speaking, Brussels has become increasingly francophone. Today most inhabitants are native French-speakers, although both languages have official status. The name Brussels derives from the Old Dutch Bruocsella, which means marsh (bruoc) and home (sella) or home in the marsh.

Brussels is known for its fried cakes, fine chocolate, potato fries and numerous types of beers. Its coffee houses go by the name the Salons de Thé. The Brussels sprout was first cultivated in Brussels, as one might expect, along with Brussels waffles (gaufres) and mussels (usually as moules frites, served with the city's famous french fries). Lambic-style beer is only brewed in and around Brussels; cherry-flavored beer (Kriek) is popular everywhere. Atlanta, Georgia in the USA is Ville de Bruxelles' twin city -- home of the Waffle House.

Le jour d'après (Stage 2 -- 5 juillet), ils poursuivent une course qui les mènera à la station thermale -- Spa (a small village with lots of hot water near Liège). The riders travelled into the Liège Province. Liège is situated in the valley of the river Meuse ("Maas" in Flemish), where the Meuse meets the Ourthe, near Belgium's eastern borders with the Netherlands and Germany -- in the former sillon industriel, once the industrial backbone of Wallonia. In the past, Liège was one of the most important steel-making areas in Europe. The city possesses the third largest river port in Europe, directly connected to Antwerp, Rotterdam and Germany via the Meuse river and the Albert Canal. Until 1949, the city's name was written Liége, with the acute accent instead of a grave accent. Parmi les personnalités ayant séjourné à Spa, retenons Victor Hugo, le tsar Pierre le Grand, toute la famille royale de Belgique, Casanova, Alexandre Dumas and Meyerbeer. La vie mondaine au XVIIIe siècle à Spa est largement présentée dans le film Barry Lyndon.

Stage 3 (3ème étape du Tour de France le mardi 6 juillet 2010) saw the race departing from the Place Faniel in Wanze (also within the Province de Liège (in Walloon Belgique)). Le Musée du cycle présente une remarquable collection d'environ 180 vélos fabriqués de 1830 à nos jours (à Wanze). Construit sur un éperon rocheux entre le XIème  et le XIV ème siècle, le Château de Moha (Pic) domine le confluent de la Mehaigne et de la Fosseroûle. Cette forteresse moyenâgeuse fut l'une de possessions de la famille des comtes de Dabo et d'Eguisheim en Alsace, et chez nous, de Moha, dynastie qui a compté parmi ses membres Sainte-Odile au VIIIe siècle et le pape Léon IX au XIème siècle. En1230, après la mort d'Albert III et de sa fille Gertrude, derniers Comte et Comtesse de Moha, le château et son comté sont passés entre les mains du Prince-Evêque de Liège, Hugues de Pierrepont. Ils firent dès lors partie de la Principauté de Liège jusqu'à la révolution de 1794. Entretemps, le château fut envahi et détruit en 1376 par le Hutois (from the town of Huy just to the SE). Il subsiste de cette forteresse, dans un site naturel idyllique, d'impressionnants vestiges: hautes murailles, caves voûtées, souterrains, escaliers, puits de 35 m de profondeur. Un ensemble qui mérite votre visite !

The Tour entered France near Arenberg-Porte du Hainaut (Nord-Pas de Calais in northern France), about 20 miles southeast of Lille -- Our page that includes Liège and Lille is HERE. Wallers-Arenberg was once one of the largest active coal mining region in the world. The mines have been closed over 20 years. The Forest of Wallers-Arenberg is well-known for the Paris-Roubaix cycling race and certain cobblestone roads which have been part of that course. The most infamous cobblestone road, La Chaussée des Boules d'Hérin, is only 2.4 kilometers long; but, it is narrow and notorious for falls, serious injuries and punctured tires -- one can only say bonne chance -- www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHmm2HuafYg. see http://www.ville-de-wallers-arenberg.fr/ville de wallers.html The cyclers had seven different sections of "rough" road to deal with today and these took their toll.

Stage 4 (Wednesday July 7th): We translated south this day about 20 miles for the departure from Cambrai. What a place and what history; not until 400 years ago was it firmly attached to France. Cambrai (in Dutch: Kamerijk; the old spelling Cambray) is a commune and town in the Nord département, France, being also a sous-préfecture. Cambrai is the seat of an archdiocese that had an enormous jurisdiction during the Middle Ages. Little is known with certainty of the initial life of Cambrai. Camaracum or "Camaraco" as it was known to the Romans appears in lists from the 4th Century and it may have some celtic background. Originally begun in the 6th century, the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Cambrai at one time included Brussels and Antwerp as well as most of Northern France (today's Nord-Pas-de-Calais). Under the old regime the Archdiocese of Cambrai had forty-one abbeys, eighteen of which belonged to the Benedictines. Philip II of Spain, in order to facilitate the struggle against the Reformation, downsized its jurisdiction. After leaving Cambrai the Tour will pass nearby Saint Quentin and Laon as it follows the "backroads" southeast.

And now we are at one of the truly grand (better words fail me) historic places in France, Reims. Does one not have to talk about Reims in hushed tones ? -- Names come to mind, like Bishop Remigius {Saint Remi [Rémy]}, Evêque de Reims {Rheims}, Apostle of the Franks. Rémy baptized Clovis, France's first Roi (on Christmas day 496AD) after the King is persuaded by Sainte Clotilde, his Queen. The crowning place of many other kings, sanctified (set apart) to rule, under Divine Grace. Archbishop Turpin (whose seat of power (See) was in Reims in the 8th century) gives communion to Roland, while the treacherous Saracen king Marsilies looks on as pictured in the Reims Cathedral. Sainte Jeanne was here too, alongside Charles VII, 'though the first Bourbon was not (the coronation for him took place at Chartres). Sparkling crown jewel of the Champagne, a region further consecrated by the blood of two World Wars in the last century; it was in Reims, at 2:41 on the morning of May 7, 1945, General Eisenhower and the Allies received the unconditional surrender of the Nazi's 1000 year reich.

Stage 5 (Thursday July 8th): We must begin again, but this time at the second capital of Champagne, Épernay, just a few miles away from Reims. Épernay (Sparnacum) belonged to the archbishops of Reims from the 5th until the 10th century, when it came into the possession of the Counts of Champagne. It was badly damaged during the Hundred Years' War. It was burned by Francis I in 1544. It resisted Henry of Navarre in 1592, and Marshal Biron fell in the attack which preceded its eventual capture. In short, the region was contested by nearly everyone for many-many hundreds of years, with two major wars fought there in the 20th Century alone; but, let us talk about viticulture. The Aisne River Valley, between Reims and Soissons, is considered the historic champagne area. Champagne is a sparkling wine produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of the wine to effect carbonation. While many regions in France and elsewhere utilize this method, only a limited production area within the Champagne region (five wine producing districts), may legally use the name Champagne. Champagnes, also, must be made from certain kinds of grapes. They can be made from white Chardonnay grapes, red Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes (principal fruit types). Then, there are different names that depend on the sweetness ... but I digress.

On June 23, 1791, Louis XVI after having been arrested during an attempted escape to Varennes-en-Argonne, made a stop in Épernay on the return journey to Paris. The royal family steps out of the carriage the Hôtel de Rohan where it takes lunch and rests for about an hour. The royals involuntarily continue westward to Dormans and eventually to Paris and their doom. http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Épernay

We end Stage 5 on Thursday afternoon at Montargis, due south of the heart of Paris some 70 miles away. From the streets lining the water to the charms of the visual aspects of the as well as Montargis' 131 bridges, the town of Montargis earns its nickname Venice of Gâtinais. With its flowery boats, the River Loing reflects the town through which it traverses, mirroring a beautiful city with a rich, historique past. Though quite modern, it retains a medieval charm in its downtown area. The place was known in ancient times. Numerous Gallo-Roman artifacts have been found nearby, many now rest in the town's Gâtinais Museum. In 1427 during the Hundred Years' War, the Earl of Warwick besieged Montargis using artillery, beginning his bombardment on July 15th. Sometime during the siege, the residents of Montargis sabotaged the dikes of numerous outlying ponds, flooding the siege equipment and drowning many of the English troops. On September 5th, French forces lifted the siege, led by Jean de Dunois and La Hire, commanders who later would lead the army of Sainte Jeanne d'Arc. This marked the first important victory by the army of King Charles VII in the conflict, gratefully remembered by Charles in later years. Vers 1060, Montargis entre dans le domaine de Courtenay par le mariage d'Hildegarde Ferole avec Othon, seigneur de Courtenay. Le premier château fut construit en bois, probablement au 10ème siècle. En 1642, la construction du canal de Briare et du Loing entraîna le début de l'industrialisation de la région gâtinaise. (An old link from 2006 when the tour was last here -- still works today -- don't miss the photo page) -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montargis

In 1528, King Francis I granted the town to his sister-in-law, Renée of France, Duchess of Ferrara and daughter of King Louis XII. After her husband Ercole II, the Duke of Ferrara died in 1559, Renée resided at Montargis. There she sheltered Huguenots fleeing from persecution in Paris (and elsewhere) during the 16th century French Wars of Religion. Friday's race begins where the race ended at Montargis.

Autun

Stage 6 (Friday July 9th): The course on this day passed between Nevers and Auxerre. The ending point was just west of Autun at Gueugnon, as close to the middle of France as the race will get this year. Gueugnon is a charming commune in the Saône-et-Loire département, region of Bourgogne (Burgundy) in mid-eastern France on the River Arroux. http://www.gueugnon.fr/index1.htm In ancient times the area was a place where pots were produced, and for a while, a ceramic industry flourished, furnishing ceramics to the Roman Empire.

The primary industry in the town today is a steel plant run by Arcelor (l'entreprise Ugine & ALZ rattachée au groupe Arcelor-Mittal). In the 18th Century a primarily agricultural region began to exploit its mineral riches. The underground mines in the immediate vicinity of Gueugnon removed hard coal, as well as, iron, manganese and lead ores. There were also many quarries for gypsum, building stone or phosphate of lime. Over time, Les Forges de Gueugnon went from simple ironworks (think steam locomotives) to sophisicated usines métallurgiques (full-scale production facilities). The industrial development in the northern part of town (Les Forges) was the object of the long Nazi occupation (June 17, 1944 through September 6, 1944) and the seat of prisoner labor. Today the steel plant employs about 1200 persons. Mark Cavendish won the sprint at the end for the second day in a row. It is a short hop west to the start point for stage 7.

Stage 7 (Saturday July 10th) -- an eventful first day into the mountains: Tournus sur Saône (another Roman fortress town with important ancient Christian heritage) to Station des Rousses (a resort town). This first mountain day consists of a few medium difficulty climbs. The Roman garrison occupied the banks of the Saône at today's Tournus. From that beginning, it became an important religious center with the influence of the Abbey of Saint-Philibert, a masterpiece of Romanesque art. This Merovingian abbot (Philibert) was buried in 685 within his monastery at Heri (Noirmoutier), an island off the Atlantic southern coast and the mouth of the River Loire. Because of the Viking attacks on the Christian relics, it was necessary to exhume and bring his body (in a large sarcophagus) to its new resting place. The first place of retreat was the monastery of Deas (now Saint-Philbert-de-Grand-Place). But in 858, the Normans also came to Deas. The monks fled, taking with them the precious relics of St. Philibert to Tournus, where they arrived in 875. During the retreat after the Russian War, Napoleon's troops fought the Austrians at Mâcon (just south of Tournus -- January 1814). Unexpected support of three hundred Tournusien volunteers fighting courageously still did not sway the outcome. Napoleon was exiled to Elba, but he did not forget the sacrifice of lives. He awarded (on his brief his return) the Legion of Honor to the town of Tournus on May 22, 1815. The collection of the Musée Greuze (Jean-Baptiste Greuze, peintre français, né à Tournus le 21 août 1725) covers a number of diverse historical epochs as well as the fine arts. A visit to the Abbey, its crypt and its church are essential.

Stage 8 (Sunday July 11th): Station des Rousses to Morzine-Avoriaz (more ski resort towns) This was billed as a hard Mountain day as the race travels around Lac Léman and Geneva (Genève) into the base of the Alps at France's tallest Peak, Mont Blanc (indeed the highest peak in the Alps and Western Europe). Morzine has hosted Tour de France stage finishes on several occasions, thanks in part to the proximity of the infamous climb to the Col de Joux-Plane. It was here that a 7 times Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, had his most difficult moment, in the 2000 race, although he sufficiently limited his time losses to retain his Yellow Jersey. Today he crashed before the assent, but was able to return to the back of the crowd. He never fully recovered and finished well back of today's winner.

Rest Day (Monday July 12th) -- Lost in most discussions of the history of the region is the period between Roman occupation (such as at Aix-les-Bains) and the time of the Savoy domination. In the year 369AD, the Roman Emperor Valentinian I enlisted the aid of the Burgundians (a Germanic tribe possibly from Scandinavia) in his war against another Germanic tribe, the Alamanni (which forms the the root of the French word for Germany). Within 100 years the realm of the second Burgundian Kingdom (centered around Lac Léman) covered most of what is today southern Switzerland and South-east France. Map Here Historian Pline tells that Gonderic reigned in the areas of Saône, Dauphiné, Savoie and a portion of Provence. He set up Vienne as the capital of the kingdom of Burgundy.

Stage 9 (Tuesday July 13th): Morzine-Avoriaz to Saint-Jean de-Maurienne, was a heavy High Mountain day that bore heavily on the bikers, producing a new leader. Maurienne is one of the provinces of Savoy (Savoie). The oldest possessions of the Counts of Savoy were the countships of Maurienne, Savoy proper (the district between Arc, Isère, and the middle course of the Rhône). The Duchy of Savoy, which had been a French-speaking province under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Piedmont, was invaded by Revolutionary France and later permanently annexed. Relics of Saint John the Baptist, which came via Egypt about 1500 years ago were not lost and remain today. Not just another ancient town, it is at a pivot point. Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne accesses several Alpine passes (the Croix de Fer, Telegraph, Lautaret, Grand Cucheron, Madeleine, du Glandon, the Iseran, Mont-Cenis and Galibier). It sits beneath the domain of the Sybelles and Vanoise Park. In 2006, this was the départ point of a stage in the Tour de France. It is only a short hop west to the next day's start point at Chambéry.

Stage 10 (July 14th) -- Chambéry to Gap on 14 JULY -- A NATIONAL HOLIDAY IN FRANCE: Today is Bastille Day. The race was in the mountains again somewhat east of the Valley of the Isère and Grenoble. Please look at these pages to learn more about the area and the holiday.

Portugal's Sergio Paulinho (riding for Radio Shack) escaped from a breakaway group of six to win Stage 10 of the 2010 Tour de France (by half a wheel), while Luxembourg's Andy Schleck continues his lead over Alberto Contadar by 41 seconds in the race for the yellow jersey. Thursday's Stage 11 is a relatively flat 184.5-kilomter trek from Sisteron to Bourg-les-Valence that should feature a return to prominence for the sprinters.

Stage 11 (jeudi 15 juillet) Sisteron to Bourg-lès-Valence: Today we left the mountains, begining a little south and a little west of Gap. Sisteron is in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence département in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. Situated on the River Durance the town is called a portal to Provence. Sisteron has been inhabited for 4000 years. The Romans extensively used the pre-existing north/south route through it. Sisteron escaped the barbarian invasions after the fall of Rome, but was ravaged by the Saracens. During the French Revolution the town remained Royalist. Consequently, when Napoleon arrived on his march north after his escape from Elba in 1815, the town ignored him and let him through. They received no medal for their heroic yawn.

The town has several important buildings including the citadel and the 12th century former Sisteron Cathedral dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Thyrsus (Cathédrale Notre Dame des Pommiers et Saint Thyrse). Three museums of note: the Citadel Museum, the Baden-Powell Scout Musée and Musée Terre & Temps (about the earth and the measurement of time). The weather remains sunny an average 300 days a year, so the race experienced a warm sun on race day in 2010. http://www.tourisme.fr/office-de-tourisme/sisteron.htm

The race headed north and west to its end point at Bourg-lès-Valence, the heart of the city of Valence and the capital of the département of Drôme (Sud Rhône-Alpes). Situated on the left bank of the Rhône, 65 miles south of Lyon it was known in Roman times as Valentia Julia. La Cathédrale Saint Apollinaire (Bishop died 520), rebuilt in the 11th century in the Romanesque style of Auvergne was consecrated in 1095 by Pope Urban II. The structure contains the monument to Pope Pius VI, who died at Valence in 1799. North of the cathedral and south of l'Église de St-Jean, which has preserved its Romanesque tower and porch capitals (on the Grande Rue), are some of the oldest and narrowest streets of vieux Valence. http://www.mairie-valence.fr/ Another Stage win for Mark Cavendish, his third this year.

le Mont Gerbier de Jonc Stage 12 (vendredi 16 juillet) Bourg-de-Péage to Mende: The started just a few miles north of the previous day's end point in Valence. After crossing the River Rhône the riders were off to Mende (Mimatensis), in the Lozère département. Along the way they passed by the source of the River Loire, the longest river in France, which consists of three springs at the base of le Mont Gerbier de Jonc located in the Ardèche. About 60 km from the last climb of the day (and the exhausting end point on the tarmac) the entourage passed by Pradelles, the site of a pilgrimage since 1512. Pradelles sits where the départments of Lozère, Ardèche and Haute Loire meet. The small red-roofed town is known for its chapel the Notre Dame de Pradelles. The local cult of Our Lady of Pradelles appears in 1512, when a statue was discovered in the soil of a meadow next to the hospital, where now stands the steeple of the chapel. A statute of Mary was placed on the top of the clocher and the discovery was placed at the alter. Some say that it came from Middle East brought by the Crusaders; but nothing more definite about the history of this statue is known for certain.

Mende is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mende. La Basilique-cathédrale Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Privat de Mende is a former Roman Catholic cathedral, now a basilica minor, and a national monument of France. Christian heritage dates back to at least the 3rd Century, its first legendary bishop, St. Severian, a disciple of St. Martial. The first bishop known to history is Saint Privatus, who according to Gregory of Tours, died in a grotto of Mount Mimmat, a victim of the ill treatment he suffered at the time of the invasion of the Alamanni under their King Chrocus. Gregory of Tours places this event about 260; though Fredegarius puts the invasion of Chrocus at 407. Mgr. Duchesne places the invasion of Chrocus and the death of St. Privatus at the beginning of the reign of Constantine, perhaps before the Council of Arles. It is certain that there was an organized church in this country of the Gabali from about 314AD. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10180a.htm Moving way ahead, Cardinal Dominique de la Rochefoucauld, Archbishop of Rouen, who presided in 1789 over the last assembly of the clergy of France, was born in 1712 at Saint Chély d'Apcher, in the diocese. The race ended on the runway of the local airport, above the town after a 4 km-10 degrees climb.

Stage 13 (samedi 17 juillet) Rodez to Revel: The race begins on the other side of the mountains (south and west) at Rodez on its way (again southwest) to Revel (Haute-Garonne département). What can we say about either place that you do not already know ? The citizens of Rodez are called Ruthenois. Existing from at least the 5th century BC, Rodez was occupied by the Celts. Sometime after the Roman arrival, the oppidum (fortified place) was renamed Segodunum. In late Roman Imperial times it was known as Civitas Rutenorum, whence the modern name is derived. The notable Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rodez has a completely closed western wall, which was part of the city's defensive structure. The Church of Saint-Amans (12th century, rebuilt in 1758-1761 in the Baroque style) contains 6th century tapestries about the miracles of Saint Amand. The interior houses also a 15th century Pietà and a statue of the Trinity (sixteenth century).

Revel is a town of approximately 8000 inhabitants situated roughly 35 miles (54 kilometres) to the east of Toulouse (La Ville Rose). Other nearby towns are Carcassonne and Castelnaudary to the south, Castres to the east, and Albi to the north-east. Revel is arguably best known for furniture, as well as a mint liqueur named Get 27, which has been manufactured since the 18th century. Just south of Revel, where the land begins to slope upwards into the Montagne Noire regional park, is the Lac de Saint-Ferréol, a man-made lake (south of the Agout River) dating from the seventeenth century which is linked to the Canal du Midi (http://www.canal-du-midi.org/en/map/carcassonne-toulouse). Revel's most distinctive building is the Gothic-style town church of Notre-Dame, just south of the central square. The new day's journey through the mountains (Pyrénées range) begins again tomorrow.

Stage 14 (jour du Haute montagne -- dimanche 18 juillet) Revel to Ax-3 Domaines: The Race will not pass through Foix, as it did in 2008. The riveting views of the town are still a vivid memory. Situated at the heart of the department of Ariège, Foix is best known by the three towers of its castle. Standing atop a rocky perch, the castle (10th-15th centuries) recalls the Counts of Foix (and Viscounts of Béarn), notably the flamboyant Gaston Phœbus (1343-1391), who composed a livre des oraisons (Book of Prayer) and livre de la chasse, a writing related to the hunt. A statue of Gaston stands outside the Château de Pau. Foix remains a small town, but it benefits from the nearby Toulouse (north), Spain and Andorra (south). More pictures from and information about Foix -- here & here.

The ending point was a ski resort almost due south of Revel up against the border with Andorre, just outside Ax-les-Thermes. Ax (from Latin aquæ or water and the French Thermes meaning hot springs), situated at a height of 2300 feet (also in the Ariège), is well known for its warm sulphur springs (77 degrees to 172 degrees F.), of which there are about sixty. The waters, which were used by the Romans, are claimed to treat rheumatism, skin diseases and other maladies. The springs at Ax were developed in the mediaeval period under the orders (to Roger, Count of Foix) of Saint Louis to treat soldiers returning from the Crusades afflicted with leprosy. The Bassin des Ladres (Lepers' Pond), in the centre of the town, is fed by warm springs supplying water from the ground at a temperature of 77 degrees Centigrade.

Stage 15-Haute montagne (lundi 19 juillet) Pamiers to Bagnères-de-Luchon: Today's stage begins north of Ax, but still in the traditional County of Foix (Ariège). The town of Pamiers is famous for its three bell towers and for being the birthplace of Gabriel Fauré, one of the greatest late 19th beginning 20th century French musicians and composers. The town itself dates to the 5th century. The origin of its name is subject to debate. One involves Roger II de Foix, who had gone to a crusade in the region of Apamea in Syria. Upon his return to France, he gave his castle and domain the name of one of his battles: Castrum Appamiæ, a name later associated with the town. The fact that its inhabitants are called Appaméens might seem to favor this hypothesis. The main square of Pamiers, Place de la République, is paved in red marble. Every week, three large open-air (farmers) markets are held, plus a flea market every Sunday morning. Nearby are the old Tour des Cordeliers and the l'église of Notre-Dame-du-Camp.

Just about a dozen air miles due north of Bagnères-de-Luchon is one of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France called Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges in Haute Garrone and its famous Cathédrale, Notre Dame (Sainte Marie) de Saint-Bertrand de Comminges. The town dates from 72BC (Lugdunum Convenarum) in order to defend the passage to the Aran Valley and the Iberian peninsula. Sacked by the Vandals, razed by the Burgundians, the town shrunk from 30, 000 to the small commune seen today. Bertrand de l'Isle-Jourdain, canon of Saint Augustine in Toulouse, was nominated bishop of Comminges. He ordered the construction of the cathedral (today the Romanesque basilica) and of the Romanesque-style cloister. The place became used by pilgrims as a stage on the route to Santiago de Compostela. When he became Saint-Bertrand in the 13th century, Lugdunum Convenarum became known as Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges. Comminges comes from the Latin word "Convenae," meaning "those who came together" at Pompey's new settlement. The remains of a Roman thermae and of a theatre are visible today near the church.

Over the years the church has changed with gothic additions (14th Century) and the purchase of a world famous Renaissance organ, still in use today (16th Century). The marble floor contains some tombs and sepultures from years past. The former cathedral has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (part of the World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela) in France (pictures HERE). Interestingly, the Roman colony was the place of exile, beginning in 37AD, of Herod Antipas (and his wife Herodias), he being a former Tetrarch (ruler) of Galilee, under whose rule . . . see Matt 14:1.

Stage 16-Haute montagne (mardi 20 juillet) Bagnères-de-Luchon to Pau: The riders passed over the Col du Tourmalet with Lance in the lead group, seeking a final stage win in his Tour career. This pass will be seen two times this Tour, from west to east in stage 17 and east to west today. Perhaps this is the easy direction !! By any account the course begins in a beautiful valley at the confluence of the One and the Pique rivers in the foothills of the Pyrénées. Bagnères-de-Luchon's thermal springs, which number forty-eight, vary in mineral composition, but chiefly contain sodium sulfate, and range in temperature from 62 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. The discovery of numerous Roman remains attests the antiquity of the baths, which are identified with the Onesiorum Thermæ of Strabo. Superbagnères, located on the territory of the commune, to the south-west of the town, is a ski resort. Historically it was connected to the town by a railway, and it was the 2nd resort in France to install a lift, but today it is connected with a gondola lift. Each cabin holds up to four people and takes about ten minutes to reach the summit, running in the summer as well as the winter. It's not possible to ski back down to the town. Cycling is a popular sport in the region in the summer. The climbs of Superbagnères, Col de Peyresourde, Port de Balès, Col de Menté, Col du Portillon and the Col de Portet d'Aspet are all nearby. The Tour de France route often passes through Luchon, due to its location deep between two passes. http://www.luchon.com/fr/index.php Pau the ending point is the capital of historic Béarn.

In Repose (mercredi 21 juillet) at Pau: Béarn was once a small semi-independent province, immediately north of the Pyrénées, about 45 miles long and 35 miles wide. Pau, its capital, lies at the center. It formed a considerable portion of the Kingdom of Navarre. The city had become the seat of the Viscounts of Béarn. Pau was made the capital of Béarn Province in 1464. With magnificent views of the mountains in the NW portion of the Pyrenees range, in the early 16th century the Château de Pau became the residence of the Kings of Navarre, who were also Counts of Béarn.

Pont de 14 JuiletThe beautiful sky of Pau, Beth Ceü de Paü, about which (with enthusiasm) the inhabitants of Béarn continue to sing, is not a legend without substance. Under this sky one must stroll to find the testimony of the long history of this city that saw two kings being born: Henri IV (Navarre and France) and Bernadotte (Roi de Suède) and un peu histoire anglais. http://www.pau-en-ligne.com/english/history-of-pau.php

Pau overlooks its river and valley, Gave de Pau, a gateway to Spain for centuries. Up river (south-east) sits Lourdes; Bayonne, downstream, is near the coast. The ancient pilgrimage trail to Spain (Chemins de Saint-Jacques) crosses the valley here. The site was fortified by the 11th century — the word pau-paü means palissade in Occitan language, one of the medieval dialects of Langue d'oc (southern France). Pictures HERE. http://www.pau.fr/ecards/

Stage 17-Haute montagne (jeudi 22 juillet) Pau to Col du Tourmalet: One may easily predict that the ending point would be one where history would be made, as it most always is (and was today). This was the second stage in 2010 to go to the top of the Tourmalet -- this time from the northwest to the top of the pass. Col du Tourmalet (at 2,115 m / 6,939 ft) remains the highest road in the central Pyrénées in the department of Hautes-Pyrénées in France. Sainte-Marie-de-Campan is at the foot on the eastern side and the ski station La Mongie two-thirds of the way up. Luz-Saint-Sauveur is at the bottom of the western side. Tourmalet is also a cheese made from sheep milk produced in these mountains. At the top rest a memorial to Jacques Goddet, director of the Tour de France from 1936 to 1987, and a large statue of Octave Lapize gasping for air as he struggles to make the climb. Schleck won the stage with Contador (yellow) taking second with the same time. Looks like Contador will have the advantage in the time trial and maintain his overall lead.

Salies-de-Béarn Stage 18 (vendredi 23 juillet) Salies-de-Béarn to Bordeaux: We jumped west to a new start point, Salies-de-Béarn. Its name comes from naturally occurring saline water and has a saltwater river. People come to the town for this attraction, as a place for cure thermale at the thermal spa, as well as the attractiveness of the region, weather and flowers. L'église Saint-Vincent partially dates from the 15th Century. http://www.salies-de-bearn.fr/ The race was last in the town in 1939. More about the history is HERE (la petite venise du pays Béarnais).

The Tour headed due north into the flat land and former swamps of the Aquitaine. It passes within 6 miles (10km) of Mont-de-Marsan, a commune and the capital of the Landes department in Aquitaine south of today's destination. Ses habitants sont appelés les Montois. As you may remember, two historic punk rock music festivals were held in Mont-de-Marsan's bullring in 1976 and 1977. Mont-de-Marsan airbase is a major installation of the Armée de l'Air. The city's coat of arms consists of two keys on a field of blue, a reference to its patron saint, Peter who was given the keys to the Kingdom. The city (which lies in the Landes forest) dates from 1133, although it sits in a much older region (Gascogne). The first church in Mont-de-Marsan, was built on the site of the present church of the Madeleine (1830) and depended on the Abbey of Saint-Severin for its support. Its oldest structures date from near its founding. The city sits near one of the routes for the pilgrimage of "Saint-Jacques de Compostelle."

Bordeaux, is it a wine or a place ??? Despite some exports from Bordeaux, in the modern age until about 1850, most wine was consumed locally. No, Bordeaux is a poem: a medieval French poem, written in the style of an epic (think Beowulf), dating from the first half of the 13th century. Charlot, a son of the emperor Charlemagne, lays an ambush for Huon, son of Séguin of Bordeaux; but Huon kills Charlot without being aware of his identity. Huon is then saved from hanging by performing a series of seemingly impossible tasks. Huon de Bordeaux, through the prose translation of John Bouchier (Lord Berners), furnished the name Oberon and the fairy element for Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream (first performed 1595-96), Ben Jonson's court masque Oberon, the Færy Prince (1611) and Christoph Martin Wieland's verse romance Oberon (1780). Decimus Magnus Ausonius was born in Bordeaux in ca. 310. His father was a noted physician of Greek ancestry, and his mother was descended on both sides from long-established aristocratic families of southwestern Gaul. In 334, he established a school of rhetoric in Bordeaux, which was very popular. His most famous pupil was Saint Paulinus of Nola, who later became Bishop of Nola. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ausonius Accordingly, there is a Bordeaux Poetry Festival and one can find a poem entitled Confessions of a Wine Buyer.

Stage 19-Contre-la-montre individuel (samedi 24 juillet) Bordeaux to Pauillac: Bordeaux is one of the oldest cities in France. The first inhabitants of these lands were the members of a Celtic Tribe, the Bituriges Vivisci, who came from the North of France in the 3rd century BC. Two centuries later the armies of Cæsar conquered the city and named it Burdigala. A few years later the first vineyards along the banks of the Garonne river were planted. Despite some exports from Bordeaux, until about 1850, most wine was consumed locally. Paulliac today, however, is one of the premier small-areas (within the Médoc) for wine production today. At http://www.bordeaux.com/Tout-Vins it is recounted that the modern Bordeaux has 57 appellations and many producers with small acreages. The magic of Bordeaux sweet white wines is a unique balance between sugar and acidity, notably with such icons as the crus classés from Sauternes-Barsac, as well as other less well-known appellations that also produce high quality sweet wines. Medium sweet and sweet wines are made principally from Sémillon and Sauvignon and, to a lesser extent, Muscadelle. Their exceptional sugar content results from the activity of Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot. It develops as a result of a specific microclimate which, as of the end of the Summer, combines mild temperatures and morning fog. This noble rot attacks the grape skin, cracks it, thereby allowing the grape to lose its moisture. The grape pulp transforms itself into a golden jam, in which are concentrated sugars, juices and aromas. Perhaps the most famous is from Château Y'quem.

The Race except for the last sprint is over. Contador will wear the Yellow shirt (best rider) into Paris and Schleck (best young rider -- also second overall) Only third place changed hands. So arrives the last day -- Stage 20 (dimanche 25 juillet): After a TGV ride from the southwest of France (Bordeaux), the final Race day began on the outskirts of France's Capital, Longjumeau to Paris, Champs-Élysées. This repeated a stage from -- 1947. The Peace of Longjumeau (also known as the Treaty of Longjumeau or the Edict of Longjumeau) was signed on March 23, 1568 by Charles IX of France and Catherine de' Medici. This accord officially ended the second phase of the French Wars of Religion, between Protestant and Catholic factions. Much more conflict would follow. Overall, the treaty confirmed the Edict of Amboise, which granted significant religious privileges and freedoms to the Huguenots. The treaty expired in August of 1568. Longjumeau is about 12 miles southwest of Paris city-centre. Longjumeau is served by two stations on Paris RER ligne C: Longjumeau and Gravigny-Balizy. Cavendish won today's stage.

Contador was the overall winner; however, in October it was revealed that he had failed 2 doping tests. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/05/sports/cycling/05cycling.html Now, a few years ago, Floyd Landis had his overall victory taken away (and I believe it was given to Contador, too) for doping allegations. What will happen now ??? Will Andy Schleck be declared the winner, and what about the 2009 results, in which the top two were the same ?

A few of the places to host the Tour in 2010: Bruxelles, Liège, Cambrai, Reims, Chambéry, Gap, Valence, Pau, Bordeaux & Paris

Placez-vous sur les chemins, regardez, Et demandez quels sont les anciens sentiers, Quelle est la bonne voie; marchez-y, Et vous trouverez le repos de vos âmes !

Our 2009 Tour Page is HERE -- New: 2011.

Current Newsletter -- Many more French Cities HERE

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New: October 15, 2009

Will update during Tour-more pictures may follow -- PDF Map of Race (big file slow to load)

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