- The Race 2010
- All about the race
At the heart of a communication network between Pornic (45 min), Nantes (1h), La Roche sur Yon (1h) and the islands of Noirmoutier and Yeu, the seaside resort is an ideal resting place for the whole family throughout the year. Surrounded by fragile natural environment (7 kms of beaches, 680 ha of forest, 1,200 ha of mashes), 67 percent of the town’s land is protected. Proud of its natural heritage, La Barre de Monts / Fromentine has made it a priority to preserve its environment and has made it a crucial part of all its projects for several years :
The same concern has led the town to develop sporting activities in the off-season. Many partners are taking part in the original initiative Wintersports by the sea held during the winter holidays. No need to travel to the ski resorts anymore to enjoy winter sports such as racquet trekking, Nordic walking, sand hockey or land sailing.
Passage du Gois is a 4.5-kms road, immersed twice a day, linking the Noirmoutier island to Beauvoir sur Mer on the continent. The nine shelter posts on the Passage du Gois stick out of the water at high tide like so many tiny lighthouses. They are small emergency shelters but saved many lives throughout the years. They did not exist when man first attempted the risky crossing to Noirmoutier on foot. It is impossible to know when it all started but the legend goes that the first to succeed were prisoners detained on the isle of Her (the ancient name of Noirmoutier). The first man to have crossed on a horse is named as Auguste Guvrit in 1766 but such crossings must already have been frequent at the time as the first posts were installed in 1780, serving as signs as well as shelters. These posts have evolved with time to become more solid and more comfortable. The ones you can see now on the Gois have not changed much for the last century. Six of them are called parrot masts. They are beams sealed in a concrete base and equipped with metal stairs. The other three posts are much more comfortable : they consist in two beams linked by metal bars which can be used as a scale. These posts are topped by a platform dubbed the cage. These posts saved many a life but they do not always suffice and the Gois was the scene of countless tragedies. Stabilisation works and the paving of the passage made the posts less essential than in the past. Yet, in spite of many signs indicating the tide times, incidents keep taking place every year.
The first visit of the Tour in the 1999 edition was a gentle reminder to Tour favourites that the race can be lost on the very first day. Alex Zuelle lost more than six minutes in a collective crash. It must be said that the Swiss was the rider who should have been the most wary about the trappings of the Gois. The bespectacled rider from Wil always struggled in wet and rainy conditions and crashes partly spoilt a great career.
For Zuelle, the jinx started in 1993 on the Vuelta, when he had to be content with second place behind Tony Rominger after crashing in the Cobertoria descent. In the 1996 Tour, he fell twice in the stage to Les Arcs, leaving Luc Leblanc to snatch the laurels. 1997 was even worse: Zuelle hit the canvas in the Dauphine Libere, the Tour de Suisse and the Tour, which he quit too early. It is ironical that the gentle Swiss should have taken on cycling because he kept crashing on skis !
This year, riders will only ride the Gois as part of the opening ceremony. In 2005, the peloton took the bridge to Noirmoutier for the prologue won by David Zabriskie, who held the yellow jersey at 20. .
|843||Prisoners from Nantes, held in the isle of Her (Noirmoutier) by the Normans, managed to escape on foot at low tide.|
|1577||First mention of« Gois », from an old French verb meaning walking with damp feet.|
|1701||First mention on a geographic map.|
|1766||According to tradition, Auguste Gauvrit, a taylor from Barbatre, made the first crossing on a horse.|
|1780||Wooden posts mark the trail.|
|1840||A horse carriage llnk is established.|
|1852||Creation of the Barre de Monts commune.|
|1896||Railway reaches Fromentine.|
|1915||Creation of the Fromentine lighthouse.|
|1932||Passage du Gois becomes National Road 148.|
|1942||The passage becomes a protected site.|
|1949||Marennes-Oleron ioyster farmers settle in Fromentine.|
|1971||Inauguration of the Noirmoutier bridge.|
|1987||First edition of the Foulees du Gois race.|
|1993||First Tour de France visit.|
|2001||Land sailing European championships.|
The Vendee marsh is composed of 45,000 ha of marshlands and polders, 1,200 of which are on the Barre de Monts soil. The Daviaud Museum is a showcase of the territory: buildings (farms and barns), human activities (salt, agriculture and breeding) as well as natural riches (birds). Located between seawater and plain water, the marsh is a preserved land sheltering varied species of animals and plants. The Vivier and Pommier bridges are registered sites.
The current bridge was built in 1842. The Nouveau-Porteau lock is keeping a fine balance between salty water and plain water in a vast part of the marsh. The Pont Neuf area has become one of the leading oyster breeding parts of town.
This is the highest point on the old Isle of Monts. The sightseeing post is 41 metres high and is an ideal spot to watch the sea, the isles and the marsh.
They are the wrecks of four German ship sunk during WW2 in the Fromentine pass. Only two wrecks are still visible today.
Prefecture : La Roche-sur-Yon
Subprefectures : Les Sables-d’Olonne, Fontenay-le-Comte
Population : 617,000
Websites : www.vendee.fr / www.vendee-tourisme.com
Vendee is first of all marked by a strong identity based on 20 centuries of history from Caesar’s legions on the Mint des Alouettes, to Marshall de Lattre de Tassigny, form the monks who first ploughed the marshlands to the Noirmoutier fishermen.
Vendee is also a diversity of landscapes – farmland, plains and marshlands – and a 250-kms seafront with an incredible wealth in animal and vegetal species. A pioneering area for the preservation of environment and the development of solar energy, Vendee was also the first rural department to be equipped with broadband Internet. These assets attract more than 5 million visitors every year and have made tourism one of the first activities in Vendee.
Regularly ranked near the top departments in France in also a land of economic excellence. Its rich network of small businesses rate it at the highest European and sometimes level in many fields. It is the case for yachting, with the Beneteau-Jeanneau firms or with the food industry. Vendee remains the department with the highest number of businesses created every year.
Sport is another contriutor to these dynamics, not only because Vendee inhabitants are great fans of events like round the world race Vendee Globe but also because they also practice. Cycling is of course a major sport in the department with amateur squad Vendee U and pro team Europcar.
The town lies at the cusp of a rocky hill splitting the Breton marshlands. A grain cellar in La Butte bears witness to Roman occupation of the site. The village grew in the late 17th century on an ancient gallo-roman site around the priory founded by St Philbert, abbot of Noirmoutier. A castle was built in the 11th century facing the isle of Bouin. It played a major in the Hundred Years War. In the 16th century, Francoise de Rohan, lady of La Garnache, found refuge from the Wars of Religion in Bauvoir. She was accompanied by mathematician Francois Viete, who wrote most of his Isagoge book here. After the Edict of Nantes, Beauvoir became a protestant stronghold in which a small army protected their rights. In 1689, Louis XIV put an end to this autonomy by destroying the castle. During the Vendee insurrection, Beauvoir was the first commune to rebel in March 1793. At the crossroads between the isles of Yeu and Noirmoutier, Beauvoir-sur-Mer lies in an ideal location for the development of striving businesses. Agriculture survived in the polders while oyster farming was launched after WWII. Tourism is another asset thanks to the Passage du Gois, a site visited by countless anglers.
Its beach is the most appealing side of St Jean de Monts and it made its reputation. Stretching over 8 kms of fine sand, it is easily accessible and the sea is mostly calm thanks to a regular slope. During the great tides, it becomes a huge open space and a perfect terrain for sports fans and anglers. Yet St Jean de Monts has not always been a seaside resort, an activity only launched in 1867. The parish spread from an original settlement on the isle of Monts in the 12th century. The town played a major role in the Hundred Years War and was a passage point for the army of King Louis XIII on the isle of Monts in 1622. The town was also a stronghold of the Vendee uprising since the first victim of the Revolution in Vendee was the local vicar. In 1795, the English army landed on the Grand Bec beach to provide fresh supplies to Charrette’s army. Fighting went on sporadically until 1815.
St Jean de Monts grew harmoniously around its beach and nowadays provides visitors and locals with first-rate equipment. Odyssea, the new concert hall, is home to various events and exhibitions, the yachting base and swimming pool are extremely active, while the seaside esplanade is a great place for a stroll with its cafes, restaurants and a casino. Writer Boris Vian was a St Jean de Monts regular.
With its 12 kms of sandy beaches lined with dunes, St Hilaire de Riez boasts the longest seafront in Vendee. Its twelve beaches and three yachting stations allow the practice of such diverse disciplines as multihull sailing, land sailing, windsurfing or sea canoeing. Nature lovers might prefer to walk along the two miles of rocky coastline know as the Vendee Corniche, a natural site registered since 1926. Saltern marshes in La Vie are another interesting site.
Bourrine du bois Juquaud is a genuine complex of mud-brick houses reflecting the life in the marshlands in the early 20th century. The ancient farm, built in 1818, consists of the bourrine, the main farmhouse and several other buildings – a barn, a shed, a henhouse and a dairy. The reconstitution has been led from interviews with aged locals in a bid to make the site as authentic as possible. Furniture and tools are the ones used at the time in the farm.
St Gilles appeared in antiquity when it was a colony form Phocea. In the 9th century monks from St Michel en l’Herme built a priory and a church dedicated to St Gilles. The town quickly became an important harbour by which transited exports from the Poitiers region. Croix de Vie developed in the 16th century from lands given by the Duke of Montausier to local fishermen on the small island. The two villages kept fighting during the Wars of Vendee – the poor fishermen from Croix de Vie favouring the King while the wealthy St Gilles dealers and ship-owners supported the Revolution. Bathing beaches appeared in the 1860s and soon became the main resource of the town and its neighbours. St Gilles Croix de Vie is also the home of yachting company Beneteau, whose shipyard is in town.
The small seaside resort is better known now as the main surfing spot on the Vendee coastline. Its miniature museum is also worth a visit: it shows an authentic Vendee village in miniature form.
Brem sur Mer is a contradiction in terms as it does not lie by the sea. While it boasts one of the oldest churches in Vendee (11th century), the town is best known for it wines. Brem is with Mareuil, Vic and Pissotte, one of the four towns growing wines labelled as Fiefs de Vendee. The grapes used for the white wines are grolleau and white chenin. They are ideal with seafood. Red and rosé wines are made from gamay, cabernet and pinot noir.
The Talmont Castle, hold of the Talmont principality, was locatd at the very end of the ancient region of Lower Poitou. Built on a height, its defenses were reinforced by the tides filling its moats twice a day. Around the 11th century dungeon, built by William the Bald, Richard the Heart of a Lion built a fortress dismantled in the 17th century by cardinal Richelieu.
In Avrillé, the Guignardiere castle was built around 1555 by Jean Girard, heir of King Henri II, on plans breaking with the Renaissance tradition and leaning towards classicism. In 1563, Jean Girad was murdered and the construction is halted. In the 18th century, the big pond is dug and paved. Count Sylvester du Chaffault helped rebuild the castle but was exiled after the demise of King Louis XVI. When he returned, Republicans had plundered the castle, destroyed his armouries and shot his children. In the early 19th century, the marquis de St Denis developed the gardens, planting them with exotic trees. Open to visits between April and September, the castle is now home to several animations like a big quiz dubbed “the castle of adventurers”.
Ste Pexine is an oddity in Vendee as the only town without a church. It was destroyed during the Revolution and never rebuilt.
Between plain and marshland, Ste Hermine was always a crossing point between the north and the south. It was the see of a major barony in the Middle Ages. The 1120 church was built by Pierre Travers, lord of Ste Hermine and La Reorthe and sold during the Revolution. Essentially rural, Ste Hermine saw its population decline in the 20th century.
Used to be named St Georges La Plaine, a village linked to a legend according to which each time the most beautiful girl in the area was going to the wash-house, the devil would turn into a flying snake and devour her. On year, St George, riding across the region, killed the monster and a fountain sprang on the spot. The scene is pictured on a silk banner from the 16th entury and a 17th century painting.
The La Commanderie castle was a former house of the Order of Malta. Of the original building, only three towers remain.
A small town of only 1,250, Mouilleron-en-Pareds still gave birth to two famous figures of French history, Georges Clemenceau and Jean de Lattre de Tassigny. A museum of the Two Victories has been created to celebrate the two local heroes: Clemenceau was heading the French government during WWI while De Lattre was one of the leading generals of De Gaulle’s army in WWII. The museum site is in the house in which general de Lattre was born.
What strikes visitors when they first discover Les Herbiers is the astonishing and innovating architectural choices made in such a small city. Demographic and economic growth changed the face of the Vendee town and pointed to contemporary and groundbreaking forms. The mutation owes nothing to chance. The population of Les Herbiers proved open and adaptable, a key to the town’s economic success, while the municipality has promoted architectural awareness for years. Individuals, companies and local councils all took the turn towards architectural modernity as a way to create a unique way of life in Les Herbiers. The choice is not only aesthetic, it is also environmental.
Its originality made Les Herbies renowned worldwide, with several stories in the national and international media. Since then, Les Herbiers constantly weclomed professionals, students, politicians or individuals wishing to discover prize-winning sites such as the Val de la Pepiniere ecological area, the Arts Tower, a site devoted to art and creation, the Grand-Fief zone with its nautic center, its town houses built like glasshouses. Thanks to all of these unique buildings, Les Herbiers is also attracting a new form of tourism.
The epic and adventurous life of Francois de Charette was both mythical and tragic and his feats as much as his rebellious and exuberant temper made him a fascinating character in Vendee and beyond. A navy officer of lower nobility, je tooks part in several campaigns, incluidng in America, before settling down after his marriage in 1790. A womaniser and adventurer, he cannot stand wedlock. The 1793 insurrection by Vendee farmers againts the French Republic was a chance he could not miss. On March 14, 1793, a group of men from the Breton marshlands, determine dyet disorganised, came to Charette asking him to lead the rebellion. Charette, who took part in the fightings to save the king’s life in Paris in 1792, organised many raids and assaults, obeying his fiery temper more than caution. In June 1793, he was the first to enter Nantes but the lack of coordination between the several Vendee armies led them to lose the town. Charette’s many victories are always temporary and not stable enough for his cause to take the upper hand. Generals Haxo and Hoche are the fiercesr opponents of the man dubbed the King of Vendee since he was named commander in chief of the Vendee troops in 1794 in the Les Herbiers castle. He proved a gifted diplomat in 1795 when negotiating a truce with the Republicans but the treaty was never respected. Pushed to the very limits of his destiny with the strong support of future king Louis XVIII and England, Charette was arrested in March 1796 in the Chabotterie woods and shot to his death in the Viarme square in Nantes. A cros reminds the execution to this day.
Launched in 1982 in Les Herbiers, the Chrono des Espoirs, named Chrono des Herbiers since 1988, became the Chrono des Nations in 2006 to replace the defunct Grand Prix des Nations, which was abandoned in 2004. The event, now the world’s leading time trial event, will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2011. But Les Herbiers will also have the honour to award the first yellow jersey in this Tour de France. The profile of the finale should favour sprinters even though the course could give ideas to bold riders such as Thomas Voeckler, who won the national title not far from here in 2010. For sure the stage finish will be the talk of the Chrono Festival, a fair held alongside the time trial, to which more than 200 participants are expected. Traditionally, the election of the Queens of the Chrono will be held to name the young women who will hand the laurels to the winners. The riders at the start will be hoping to take over from 2010 winner David Millar of Britain.
Each year, because of landscapes especially fitting for cycling, the Les Herbiers area hosts several other races like the Tour de Vendee, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2011.
|55 BC||A Roman legion dubbed the Sparrows settles on a hill in front of Les Herbiers to watch over an important Roman road. The hill takes the name of Mont des Alouettes (Mount of the Sparrows).|
|1130||Foundation of the Grainetière abbey by monks from Saintonge. Abbot Prevost wrote sevral pages of his famous novel Manon Lescaut in the abbey.|
|1758||Jean-Baptiste Laurent d'Hillerin, a renowned scientist, invents a portable barometer.|
|1794||Charette is named commander in chief of the Catholic Army at the Les Herbiers castle. The town was burnt down and 60 persons were killed during the Vendee wars.|
|End of the 19th century||Creation of a shoe factory by Louis Rondeau.|
|1957||Creation of the shipbuilding company Jeanneau.|
|1964||The towns of Les Herbiers, Petit Bourg and Ardelay regroup. The growth of the city continues.|
|1978||Creation du of the Puy-du-Fou theme park.|
|2011||30th edition of the Chrono des Nations les Herbiers Vendée time trial race.|
Just outside Les Herbiers, the legendary hill tops at 231 metres. It offers a great view over the Vendee farmland. At the top can be found an elegant neo-gothic chapel and three windmills, two of which have been restored. Every summer, several animations are taking place on the spot, like the visit of the windmill with its miller.
Created in 1978, the Puy du Fou theme park hosts the biggest nightly light show in the world, picturing France’s history through the life of a Vendee family from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. With 3,200 volunteers and 1,200 actors, the show attracts more than 400,000 spectators every year between May and September.
The Puy du Fou park also traces back France’s timeline over 45 ha, with the reconstitution of several periods from Roman gladiators to a 1900 village or the Musketeers. It is the 4th biggest theme park in France with more than a million visitors from April to September. Like in 1993, the park will host the team presentation of the 98th Tour de France. The riders will be associated to a new show, Sign of the Times, based on the circus games in a gallo-roman stadium with a 7,000 capacity.
Discover the rugged landscapes of the Vendee farmland on board a steam engine between Mortagne-sur-Sevre and Les Herbiers. Lucnh is available in old carriages, some having been part of the Orient Express.
The Passage du Gois that riders will take on their way to the Mont des Alouettes is a narrow stretch of land emerging only at low tide. It was not always the case. Some 20,000 years ago, the peloton would have been at a loss to catch a glimpse of the sea as the beaches were some 80 kms to the west. The ice age over Europe resulted in the formation of a huge layer of ice over the northern part of the continent. Consequently the sea level had gone down by 120 metres. It was possible to get to London on foot.