- The Race 2010
- All about the race
In 2010, the Aurillac Stree Theatre Festival celebrated its first quarter of a century. It has now entered the age of maturity. Every year, the festival, organised by the Eclat association, takes over the town squares, streets, courtyards and playgrounds, turns them into live stages before disappearing for another year. In 2010, even a train strike was not enough to rebuke the fans as 130,000 persons gathered in Aurilllac to watch shows by 569 companies. Some 460 promoters also came to Aurillac to select shows for their own towns in this unique showcase of the international art of street show. Throughout the year, companies are in residency in Aurillac, staying in the Le Parapluie complex.
In 2010, to celebrate the 25 years of the Aurillac Street Theatre Festival, American photographer Spencer Tunick took pictures of some hundred inhabitants in the nude under umbrellas. The picture was a tribute to the object which made the wealth and reputation of the city. As legend goes, the Jordanne river which flow across town used to carry gold. The gold was swapped with copper that pilgrims were taking back from Santiago de Compostela. The custom created a copper industry in Aurillac and the metal was used for umbrella spare parts. Wood from the Aurillac forest was used to make handles. Lastly, Aurillac breeders often went to Spain to sell their horses against linen. Everything was ready to make Aurillac the French capital of umbrella. Around 1850 the first umbrella companies – Piganiol, Dalbin or Sauvagnat – started an industrial production. The Aurillac quality label was created in 1998. Even though the trade was also hit by economic crises, the main theatre in town was called Le Parapluie.
The capital of umbrella sheltered six stage finishes in the past. The last time the Tour was in town, in 2008, Luis Leon Sanchez won his first Tour stage after attacking in the descent. The 1963 finish was also remarkable if only by his podium: 1. Rik Van Looy. 2. Jacques Anquetil. 3. Federico Bahamontes.
Bradley Wiggins also has fine memories of Aurillac, having won a Tour de l’Avenir stage in 2005.
But a star was born here on the 2010 Paris-Nice, when young Slovak Peter Sagan surged to win his first major pro success, a feat he repeated two days later in Aix en Provence. Since then, Sagan won stages on the Tour de Romandie and the Tour of California as well as the Tour of Sardinia.
|856||Birth of Geraud in the Aurillac castle.|
|Entre 885 et 900||Geraud creates a Benedictine abbey bearing his name.|
|1255||The consuls seize the St Etienne castle and take the town’s control at the expense of the abbots.|
|13th and 14th century||Aurilllac is besieged by the English.|
|1569||LTreason hands the time to the Protestants who ransack it.|
|1790||After a joint period with St Flour, Aurillac becomes the prefecture of Cantal.|
|1857||Birth of Paul Doumer, future French president (1931).|
|1866||Arrival of the railroad.|
|Vers 1880||First big umbrella factories.|
|1975||Creation of the street theatrefestival.|
Set since 1974 in an aisle of the St Etienne castle, the Museum displays 30,000 documents over 600 m2. It is a showcase of the largest volcano in Europe, the Cantal, its history and characteristics. We learn that the last eruption in Auvergne took place only 6,000 years ago while the Massif Central has the most volcanoes in Europe. France is also the most volcanic country on the old continent.
Subprfectures: Mauriac, Saint-Flour
Population : 150 000
Websites : www.cantal.fr
Cantal belongs to the Auvergne region. A rural area, it is also a volcanic and mountainous territory whose highest point, Plomb du Cantal, stands at 1,855 metres.
With 150,000, it is one of France’s least populated areas, where agriculture and green tourism are the main activities.
Cantal gave its name to a celebrated cheese, symbol of its agricultural vocation and its way of life. The meat and cheese from Salers are now also famous internationally.
Its climate is sometimes wrongly presented as the coldest in France. Yet while snow makes it a little-known ski destination, it is also a south-western department with the same sunny climate as its neighbours.
In Ytrac, our thoughts go to Antonin Magne, who was born here in 1904. Twice a Tour de France champion in 1931 and 1934, the withdrawn all-rounder was world champion in 1936 and was simply the first rider to win an individual time trial on the Tour. Antonin Magne spent most of his life in Livry-Gargan, a town the Tour visited in 2004, paying homage to its most famous son.
It was originally a small fortress. In the 15th century, two towers reinforced its defensive function. Later the castle was covered by a roof typical of the region with two rows of windows.
The Lamartinie castle was often restored throughout its long history and displays styles from various periods spreading from the 16th to the 19th centuries. To the 16th century square keep which is now the southern aisle, quarters with a tower were added later in the same century. The north aisle was added in the 18th or 19th century with another tower, dating from 1895. The inside of this private property is in troubadour style.
Maurs was first mentioned in 941, making it one of the oldest towns in Cantal. An abbey then stood on the site and was probably earlier than the town itself. In the 14th century, several nearby towns were conquered by Protestants and Maurs organised its defence. Yet the Protestants seized it a number of times and troops stayed in town long after the Edict of Nantes in 1598. The local life changed radically when the abbey went in 1784. Its abbatial church became the town church. In the 19th century, the Royal Road between Toulouse and Clermont went through Maurs. Rail also helped the town develop and boosted the trade of chestnut, which s one of the town’s main resources. The first train arrived in Maurs in 1866. Around its church, Maurs retained the circular shape it had taken when it was surrounded by walls. Those were replaced by a ring road, built on the moans which were filled in 1774. Maurs held a Paris-Nice finish in 2007, won by Aleksandr Kolobnev, and the start of a stage to Mende in the 2010 edition, won by Alberto Contador
St Cesaire abbatial church
It is a Gothic building of the 14th century, unusually vast, and it was at first the church of a Benedictine abbey founded by monks from the St Geraud abbey in Aurillac. The abbey disappeared around 1780. The St Cesaire bust containing his relics is a masterpiece of the12th century Romanesque. Another must see is the unique collection of wood statues dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Subprefectures: Figeac, Gourdon
Population : 173 000
Website : www.tourisme-lot.com
Created in 1790 from the province of Quercy, the Lot was at the time much larger than it is today, including the town of Montauban, but it lost a quarter of his surface when the Tarn-et-Garonne department was created in 1808. On its territory, known for its exquisite farm production, taste is a common value. Jam brands (Andros, Boin) are national leaders and export more and more. After the wine-growers and their Cahors appellation, sheep and beef breeders also see their efforts rewarded by quality labels as well as producers of hazelnut.
Industrial activity in the Lot focuses on four sectors: electric construction (Cahors), aeronautics, mechanics (Figeac, St Cere) and food processing. Craft industry is particularly developed but tourism is a major asset with sites like Rocamadour and the Padirac caves.
Subprefecture of the Lot, Figeac lies at the eastern end of the department, on the outskirts of Aveyron and Cantal. Surrounded by varied rural areas, it has always been a major market town.
Around the ancient abbey which was at the core of its foundation, Figeac preserved a remarkable network of old mediaeval houses which are an integral part of its charm. The birthplace of Jean-Francois Champollion, the first man do decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs, the town opened a museum in his family house dedicated to Egyptology and world scriptures.
The town thrived on the food and aeronautics industries. The Ratier-Figeac factory, opened in 1904, has since produced propellers and various plane spare parts. Several sub-contracted companies followed. Cultural and sports events are plenty in a town which hosts two festivals: the Missing Link in Spring, and a theatre festival in the summer.
Figeac was host to three Tour stages – starts in 1978 and 2008 and a stage finish won by David Moncoutie in 2004.
By the Cele river, the St Sauveur church recalls the foundation of the city. It is the former church of a 9th century monastery around which the town developed. It was rebuilt at the start of the Romanesque age and constantly refurbished ever since. Its walls bear witness to the passing of time from the mediaeval pilgrimages to the Baroque period.
In 2007, the Champollion Museum opened its doors after two years of enlargement and renovation. The house of Egyptologist Jean-Francois Champolllion had first been open to the public in 1986 for exhibitions on Egypt. Now the museum widened its range to deal with scriptures of the world and to place Champollion’s work within its overall context.
Subprefectures : Millau, Villefranche-de-Rouergue
Population : 274 000
Websites : www.tourisme-aveyron.com
With 274,000 inhabitants, Aveuron is one of France’s least populated departments but it has regained its appeal in recent years with the construction of roads, viaducts and the opening of an airport. Formed by three plateaux, Aubrac, Levezou and Lazac, Aveyron holds natural treasures like the Cevennes National Park and the Levezou lakes. Its architectural heritage is also striking with building like the Najac Castle or the Bonneval abbey. The breathtaking modernity of the Millau viaduct helps appreciate the traditional virtues of local products such as Roquefort cheese or the famous Laguiole knives.
The village of Loupiac, possession of the Figeac abbey in the 12th century, is typical with its houses pressed around a 12th century church dedicated to St Saturnin. The village map is interesting and forms an organised rectangle: the houses are packed together around the church which acts almost as a village fort. A castle is mentioned in the 13th century but was destroyed by 1630.
Villeneuve was he first bastide (fortified town) in Rouergue, built at the initiative of Count Raymond IV of Toulouse. It was added in 1231 to an 11th century monastery founded by Ozil de Morlhon on a oath made in Jerusalem. On Raymond VII’s death, the town passed on to Alphonse of Poitiers in 1249. It later became a Royal bastide. Thanks to privileges awarded by the King, it became a major economic and commercial centre.
The church of the Holy Sepulchre is a beautiful Romanesque building in the shape of a Greek cross. In 14th century, its western apse was demolished to be replaced by a luminous Gothic nave. The darker Romanesque part is perfectly fitted for meditation. Every last Sunday in July, a medieval show is organised with a march in costumes and a fair. At the end of the day, a medieval dinner is served, preceded by hippocras, a medieval aperitif.
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
In 1053, Odil de Morlhon made a donation of his possessions to Sophronios, patriarch of Jerusalem, on instruction that he builds a monastery dedicated to the Holy Sepulchre. According to his wish, a church was built on the model of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. In 1069, the church passed under the rule of Moissac. A bastide later developed around it.
Cardalhac gate tower, also called Savignac tower, remains one of he last traces of the 14th century fortifications.
A royal bastide (fortified town), Villefranche de Rouergue was founded in 1252 by Alphonse of Poitiers, count of Toulouse. A subprefecture with 13,000 inhabitants, it kept the originality of its mediaeval urban chequered plan converging towards the central square, Place Notre Dame. The very heart of the bastide, the square is surrounded by arcades topped by Gothic or Renaissance townhouses. Every Thursday a market displays the flavours and colours of the region.
Among Vllefranche’s famous sons are writer Francis Carco, football coach guy Lacombe and motorcycling pilot David Fretigne.
Notre-Dame collegial church
It took 300 years to see this Gothic church finally completed in the 15th century, its massive bell tower opening on the central square, now a symbol of Villefranche. Apart from its magnificent gate, Notre-Dame also houses authentic 15th centuries masterpieces, the 62 stalls sculpted by carpenter Andre Sulpice. They illustrate the mediaeval view of the world, a mixture of fantasies, truculence and anecdotic scenes of everyday life.
Chapel of the Black Penitents
The Baroque chapel is very simple from the outside, modest in size with a classic front and an elegant pinnacle. Yet its inside is exactly the opposite. The wood vault is painted in shiny colours in a naïve style illustrating the cult of the cross.
St Sauveur Charterhouse
It was built in 1452 just outside the city from a legacy by a rich linen merchant, Vesian Valette. The St Sauveur charterhouse imposed an extreme discipline on its monks: isolation and total silence. The monastery has two cloisters, the smaller one, richly sculpted, a perfect example of the Gothic style.
At the confluence of the Jaoul and Vergnou rivers, the Roumegous Castle overlooks the Vlaur valley. Built in the 15th century, it stands on a steep hill between the two streams, over an old pre-Romanesque chapel. A massive quadrangular building, it is flanked by four round towers and windows were originally installed only on the wall facing the ravine. The granite cut-stones were removed for construction and the castle in a complete state of decay. A tower collapsed in the early 20th century.
Population : 360 000
Website : www.tourisme-tarn.com
By its surface and population, the Tarn department is the second in the Midi-Pyrenees region. Its climate reflects both the mildness and coolness of the Atlantic and the luminous weather of the Mediterranean.
With a population of 360,000 Tarn is renowned for its quality of life: an exceptional natural and human heritage, a bustling economy and artistic riches make it a great place to live.
The economic network is mostly composed of small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. But some large companies like pharmaceutical group Pierre Fabre also bring wealth to the department. Chemistry, food processing, glassware and building material, leather and textile are the main industries. While services are booming, agriculture remain an important part of the country life.
Mirandol-Bourgnounac is known to Tour de France followers as the birthplace of Rene Mauries, one of the most exuberant figures of Tour journalism. Before his death in 1999, Rene Mauries covered 37 Tours and was awarded the most prestigious prizes – Albert Londres Prize in 1956, Henri Desgrange prize in 1974. He was also a renowned novelist.
The Tour de France was the first in 2003 to pay a visit to Cap Decouverte, the leisure park which replaced the open air coalmine known as Grande Decouverte when it was closed in 1997. On the 650 ha of the site were created a museum of the mine, a boating base, a synthetic ski piste and several animations and music festivals. Six communes are linked to the project which created dozens jobs and attracts some 100,000 visitors per year. The site has been conceived for thrills: a skate park, a water ski lift, paintball are among the many activities on offer. Restaurants, a hotel and a campsite on the spot also make it possible to stay on site. Culture has not been neglected since Maison de la Musique became the most popular concert hall in the area.
Cap Decouverte was the idea of several local politicians looking for an ambitious way to revive the huge open air mine. An audit in 1999 helped public money to be invested in the project which overcame criticism and initial problems to become an important landmark in the area.
Born in Castres in 1859, Jean Jaures discovered Carmaux in his first electoral campaign in 1885. He was elected on a departmental list. Beaten in the 1889 election, he was again elected member of Parliament in 1893 when the Knight of Solages, the mine owner, resigned over the 1892 miners strike.
In spite of his support to the striking glass house workers and his involvement in the creation of a glassware cooperative in Albi, the Socialist candidate was beaten in 1898 after expressing his support in the Dreyfus scandal. Elected once again in 1902, he remained Carmaux MP until his death. Several locations recall the action of Jaures in the area: houses, halls in which he held meetings with the former peasants turned miners who called him “lou nostre Jenanot” (our Johnny).His memory is evoked by his statue, inaugurated in 1923, in the Castle Museum dedicated to coal and glassware or the Cultural Centre that bears his name. The workers club or the former club de la Montagne, open after the 1883 strike have seldom changed since the Jaures days.
It is hard to imagine the scenes of grief which followed the announcement of his assassination in Paris in 1914. Jaures had been a symbol of hope for the whole of France and even more so in Carmaux. When his statue was demolished by vandasl in 1981, the mobilisation to have it rebuilt proved that his prestige was intact.
One thing Lance Arsmtrong did not like on the Tour was heat. In the 12th stage of the 2003 edition, a 47-kms time trial between Gaillac and Cap Decouverte, the American found everything he hated: 61 degrees on the road, 38 in the air. And it is probably why the seven times Tour winner suffered that day his only defeat to rival Jan Ullrich in a TT. It was five years since the German had last won a Tour stage, another time trial in 1998. Armstrong sounded confident, claiming that the stage would neot make big difference. How wrong he was! Alain Gallopin, then the team director of Ullrich’s Bianchi team, had booked a hotel room on the course to make sure the German had time to check it. In the morning, he even had Ullrich train in an air-conditioned cycle shop to get progressively used to the heat. The plan worked to perfection. Even though Armstrong finished second and retained his yellow jersey, he lost 1:36 to Ullrich. It was ony his second defeat against the clock since 1999. The Texan explained he was completely dehydrated towards the finish. Yet it was only a lost battle and Armstrong went on to win the Tour.
|13TH century||Coal is discovered in Carmaux.|
|17th century||Carmaux is ruled by the Ciron family.|
|1752||The knight of Solages becomes owner of the Carmaux mines and creates a glass factory.|
|1892||Miners strike in Carmaux.|
|1893||First election of Jean Jaures in Carmaux.|
|1923||Inauguration of Jaures statue.|
|1951||US Carmaux beats Stadoceste Tarbes 14-12 and become rugby union French champions.|
|1980||Francois Mitterrand lauches his presidential campaign in Carmaux|
|1985||Start of the exploitation of the Grande Decouverte mine.|
|2003||Opening of Cap’Decouverte|
An exhibition on the history of coal and glass in the 19th century is held in the renovated buildings of the first glass factory built in 1752. The social and cultural evolution of the area was dictated by the exploitation of coal which became a major part of local life. The Castle of the marquis de Solages was destroyed by fire in 1895.
It was sculpted by Gabriel Pech and inaugurated in June 1923. Destroyed by an attack in 1981, it was rebuilt as a copy of the original. In 1983, the new statue was unveiled in the presence of the mayor, the director of daily L’Humanite, created by Jaures, and Socialist leader Lionel Jospin.
The hospital was built between 1882 and 1891 for the Carmaux mine company by architect Valatx and opened in1891. It was destined for injured miners. A chapel was added in 1948. In 1992, it became a cultural centre.
The peloton will ride on coal for most of the day. The whole stage takes places along the Sillon Houiller, a vast zone between two north-south rifts which collapsed 300 million years ago. Lakes appeared in the depression. At the time, the Massif Central was 7,000 metres high and was standing at the level of the equator. At its feet, an ntense vegetation was growing with huge trees and gigantic ferns who lived and died in the lakes. Centuries turned them into coal. Many vegetal fossils are still found in the coal veins.