• Stage town for the first time
• Population: 15,700
• Sub-prefecture of Ariège (09)
The Tour de France adores Ariège, having stopped off in no less than nine towns in the county during the course of its history. But if Ax-les-Thermes and Saint-Girons, located nearer to the Ariège mountain summits, are regulars on the Tour, the city of composer Gabriel Fauré has never before been visited by the Tour. This will change with the 2010 stage in Pamiers, the county’s most densely populated town.
Located in a green setting 60 kilometres to the south of Toulouse, Pamiers, the biggest town in the Ariège, is a booming place. With the canals that surround the old district and its three tall bell towers overlooking its inhabitants, the town nicknamed “little Venice” delightfully combines economic drive with an authentic and well-preserved living environment. Visitors to whom this type of environment appeals can discover the enchanting site of the Mas Vieux Church and its mysteries, or the marvellously restored fountains and washeries of the small characteristic villages in the surrounding area. For those with an attentive ear, listen hard and the wind seems to murmur a soft melody of the famous composer form Pamiers Gabriel Fauré, or even the echo of Cuban salsa that filled the town’s streets this weekend during the 15th Latino Fiesta Festival. Pamiers is a town full of charm where culture, heritage and nature harmoniously, dynamically and innovatively combine to the utmost delight of all.
The town of Bagnères-de-Luchon and the resort of Superbagnères© Jean-Michel EMPORTES
• 50 times a stage town
• Population: 3,000
• County town of Haute-Garonne canton (31)
The Tour ventured into the Pyrenees for the first time exactly one hundred years ago with a victory in Luchon (now known as Bagnères-de-Luchon) for Octave Lapize, future winner in Paris. The race was never to be the same again and returned to the spa resort fifty times to sharpen attacks on the climbs that lie close by: Peyresourde on one side, Portillon on the other.
At the heart of a small pastoral valley, Bagnères-de-Luchon is the most characteristic mountain town in the entire Pyrenean range. With its natural crown formed by the Venasque River and the surrounding peaks, it was nicknamed the Queen of the Pyrenees in 1834 by Vincent de Chausenque in his book Les Pyrénées ou voyages pédestres (the Pyrenees on foot). Throughout the 19th century, it welcomed celebrities from all over Europe attracted by its warm spring waters. The town was a spearhead of Pyrenean mountain climbing but also skiing with the resort Superbagnères. Today, the range’s oldest resort is linked to the town by an eight-minute cable car run, boasting outstanding natural views and many mountain activities. As regards culture, each year Bagnères-de-Luchon holds renowned events, such as the International TV Film Festival and the Flower Show. The finishing line of the 15th stage will be located near to the Villa Julia where French writer Edmond Rostand spent twenty-two summers of his youth and wrote Les Musardies.