The spa of Bagnères-de-Luchon© Alain FELIX
• 50 times a stage town
• Population: 3,000
• County town of Haute-Garonne canton (31)
Future Tour winners have often triumphed in Bagnères-de-Luchon: Octave Lapize, Firmin Lambot, Ottavio Bottecchia, Nicolas Frantz, Antonin Magne, Sylvère Maes, Jean Robic, Hugo Koblet, Federico Bahamontes, Eddy Merckx and Luis Ocana. For the last quarter of a century this spa resort has often hosted stage starts: five out of six visits since 1986. This will moreover be the seventh Luchon-Pau stage since the War and this “classic” has been conquered by some truly magnificent Tour champions: Jean Robic, Federico Bahamontes and Bernard Hinault.
1910 marked the start of wonderful relationship between the Queen of the Pyrenees and the most emblematic of cycling races, with two stages that became legendary: Perpignan-Luchon and Luchon–Bayonne. In 2010, the Tour will be visiting Bagnères-de-Luchon for the 51st time. The start of the race will take place on Allées d’Etigny. This superb avenue, the main street of the town, with its monumental alignment and buildings of diverse architectural inspiration, is located opposite the spa centre, whose spring waters have built up the reputation of the town since Roman times. A soldier in Pompey’s army suffering from a skin disorder came to take the waters and, after three weeks (the still recommended traditional length for treatment) left the town cured. Today, Bagnères-de-Luchon is the most popular spa resort in Haute-Garonne and it boasts a Vaporarium that is unique in Europe. This natural hammam whose temperature ranges between 38 and 42 degrees, after full refurbishment and improvement at the beginning of the year, is a wonder of nature and a source of well-being.
© DG / OTC Pau – Ville de Pau
• 62 times a stage town
• Population: 82,000
• Prefecture of Pyrénées-Atlantiques (64)
The city of Henri IV is a mainstay of the Tour: it has gracefully hosted 62 stages of the race, surpassed only by Paris and Bordeaux. The list of prize winners in Pau is a Who’s Who of the Tour. From Alfredo Binda, who set the ball rolling in 1930, to Robic, Coppi, Bahamontes, Gimondi, Hinault, Kelly, Delgado, Chiappucci and Pereiro: all have triumphed here. Only heavyweights can hope to win in the Béarn capital, even if sprinters sometimes find a way through to the front.
Pau loves the Tour and the Tour loves Pau. This year, the stay of the Tour de France in Pau will give rise to a grand popular festival with the show “Je me souviens du Tour” (I remember the Tour), by Christian Laborde, a native of Pau, and the “64ème du nom”, a crazy caravan bringing together the Générik Vapeur troupe and Pau’s associations. Followers of the Tour and the inhabitants of Pau will thus be able to enjoy these shows and share in a moment of relaxation and friendship. In Pau, 2010 also marks the 400th anniversary of the assassination of Henri IV and the 200th anniversary of the election of Bernadotte to the throne of Sweden. Henri IV will in particular be commemorated by a parade, the illumination of the castle and the presentation of an exhibition of paintings entitled “Paris vaut bien une messe” (Paris is well worth a mass). Furthermore, in October, Pau will be organising the Basque Pelota World Championships and, in November, the national flower show.