- The Race 2010
- All about the race
The military airbase of Fancazal, in Cugnaux, was brought back to civil life in 2010 and handed to Canadian company Lavalin to become a business airport. The conversion will not affect one of the main services based in Francazal – Safire is an air unit with three planes devoted to research and weather forecasts.
In Spring 2010, two Safire aircraft were mobilised to check the ashes of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjöll. The ATR 42 was equipped with particle meters while the Falcon 20 used a radar pointed to the ground. The tests were made on a Toulouse-Montpellier-Montélimar-Lyon-Paris-Nantes-Limoges-Toulouse route. The aim was to detect the presence of particles, to identify their size and their potential effect.
In 2010, Safire also led campaigns on monsoon in Western Africa over Niger and research on turbulences over the island of Madera.
In November 2007, Cugnaux mayor Philippe Guerin made headlines in the national media by issuing a ruling prohibiting death on his commune to any person without a family vault in the local cemetery. The ruling was taken to protest against another ruling by the department prefect against the enlargement of the graveyard on former military grounds for safety reasons.
“I responded absurdly to an absurd situation,” the mayor told the media. The year of the ruling, 60 persons died in Cugnaux and there was not enough room to bury them. The ruling achieved his goal. In 2008, the prefect allowed the cemetery to be extended. Philippe Guerin’s move was not a first. In 2000, the Lavandou seaside resort had issued a similar ruling to tackle a similar problem.
Cugnaux is close to Toulouse, which was often a way into the Pyrenees for the peloton. In 1985, for instance, a stage had led the peloton from Toulouse to Luz-Ardiden. Hampered by a crash three days earlier in St Etienne, Bernard Hinault had lost more than four minutes to stage winner Pedro Delgado and a minute to his team-mate Greg Le Mond.
Cugnaux is also contiguous to Villeneuve-Tolosane, which was originally called Villeneuve de Cugnaux. The two towns still share sports clubs and a cemetery. And it is in Villenueve-Tolosane that a young sprinter named Frederic Moncassin made his cycling debut. The Frenchman had his best season in 1996, winning stages in Paris-Nice, the Midi Libre and two stages on the Tour, including the prestigious finish in Bordeaux. Moncassin’s main regret in his career was probably his failure to win the 1997 edition of Paris-Roubaix which seemed within his reach. Winner of the Hell of the North in the amateur ranks, Moncassin finished 5th in 1998.
|1239||Construction of a church serving Cugnaux and Villeneuve Tolosane. It was destroyed by far in 1824.|
|1680||Construction of La Cassagnere castle.|
|1827||Construction of St Laurent church.|
|1902||Implantation of perfume factory Berdoues.|
|1934||Creation of the Francazal airbase.|
|2009||The air force leaves the Francazal airport. The site is run by Canadian company Lavalin.|
It was once a huge farmland. The castle was built in 1680 by Baron Pierre de Papus, president of the Parliament of Languedoc. It belongs today to the Gourdou family, who opens it to visits during once a year.
It was built in 1779 for tax collector Jacques Lacans. It was located in the vineyards surrounding Toulouse, in an area favoured by 18th century politicians to buy property. The lodge nearly disappeared when the Francazal airbase was established but it was listed as a Monument historique and preserved.
Subprefecture of Haute Garonne, Muret is known for the battle which took place on its soil in 1213 and marked the end of the Cathar heresy. Peter II of Aragon came to support the Cathar Count of Toulouse and the Spanish King was killed by the French troops of Simon of Montfort. As a result, Languedoc was overtaken by the French crown while the Cathar cause received a fatal blow.
Muret was founded in the 7th century by bishop Germier and became the capital of the County of Comminges. Its fortifications were completed by the bishop of Carcassonne, who ruled the city on behalf of Simon of Montfort.
An old farming village turned into a Toulouse suburb, Muret was the birthplace of many celebrities, among them air pioneer Clement Ader, who also invented new light bicycles which inspired current models.
The mayor of Muret in 1925, Vincent Auriol became the first French president after WWII.
An old bastide in the urban zone of Toulouse, Rieumes is also a land of rugby with several French internationals in its ranks like Rieumes-born Bernard Vivies or Michel Billiere, Guillaume Bousses and Lionel Mazars.
Prefecture : Auch
Subprefectures : Condom, Mirande
Population : 185,000
Website : www.tourisme-gers.com
The land of D’Artagnan and his Musketeers in the heart of the ancient province of Gascony, Gers is the river flowing across the department. The economy is based on agriculture and tourism. Gers produces corn, wheat, colza, sunflower and alcohol (armagnac, Madiran wines) and poultry. Auch, its prefecture, is one of the warmest towns in France and the department is the birthplace of personalities as diverse as business tycoon Jean-Luc Lagardere, former rugby players Jacques Fouroux or fashion star Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.
The year 1390 saw the birth in Castera-Vignoles of Etienne de Vignolles, who tried to save Joan of Arc from the English. HE was better known under his nickname of La Hire, meaning the wrath. The English called him God’s wrath.
Ciadoux is remarkable for its St Michel church housing artistic riches coming from the old Nizors Abbey. The treasures – a 16th century altar, a 15th century pieta, a statue of Ste Madeleine and a crystal – belonged to the Ornezan family, whose Renaissance mausoleum is in the church.
Prefecture : Tarbes
Subprefectures : Argelès-Gazost, Bagnères-de-Bigorre
Population : 235,000
Website : www.cg65.fr
Hautes Pyrenees has a population of 220,000, split between the three distinct sectors which form the department, mountains, valleys and plains. In the south, the Pyrenees is a natural barrier marking the Spanish border – 35 peaks reach 3,000 metres or more. Tourism is the main activity, especially thanks to Lourdes, the world’s second pilgrimage centre, and the Gavarnie Circus, a World Heritage site. Another important site is the Pic du Midi, which can be reached by a lift leading to the 600 m2 panoramic terraces revealing a breathtaking view on the summits. Ski resorts are plenty – 12 in all including Luz-Ardiden, Hautacam and St Lary, familiar to Tour aficionados. Hydrotherapy is also a tradition in Argeles-Gazost, Bareges-Barzun or Beaucens. An ideal Pyrenean meal always starts with a garbure, a soup made of beans, ham bone, bits of duck and goose confit, cabbage, carrots, turnip, onion and garlic.
Lannemezan means the middle moor and it bears its name well, between the hills of Comminges, the Magnoac foothills and the plain of Tarbes.
The town was always a commercial centre, its Wednesday market attracting the whle of the region. It kept few traces of its past except a 15th century church with lovely Gothic gates and 18th century altar-pieces. Lannemezan was once located on the Road of Salt. The position attracted bandits called the Bandouliers who used to attack the salt merchants. To tportect them, fortifications were built in 1270 on the moor of Bloc, next to the Le Guet Castle. Like most towns in the region, Lannemezan was the berth of several rugby internationals like Philippe Rouge-Thomas and Pierre Berbizier.
Close to Peyrehicade and the Neste Canal, the castle was built by Benjamin Barbe (1818-1893) Hautes-Pyrénées councillor (1875), writer and journalist. The founder of Sunday newspaper L’Abeille, he died in his castle in 1893.
La Barthe-de-Neste was originally ruled by viscounts, the first of which was Sanche I (1180). The viscount ruled over four valleys. In the village centre can still be admired the House of the Four Valleys and the old castle on the banks of the Neste. LA Barthe is the heart of the Neste-Barronies territory, renowned for its natural treasures – Esprarros and Labastide caves – and for its architectural heritage – Montousse castle, a belonging of the French Kings from the 13th century to the Revolution.
Sarrancolin, a medieval fortified village, was long reputed for its marble. The town developed around a Benedictine priory known as early as the 11th century. The priory depended from the Simorre abbey and made it the capital of the Four Valleys (Aure, Neste, Barousse and Magnoac). The 12th century St Ebons church is contiguous to the ruins of the priory.
The industrial vocation of the town came from the extraction of marble from the 17th century on the sites of Beyrede, Ilhet and Sarrancolin. Already exploited by the Romans, the marble was used by architect Mansart to build the Petit Trianon in the Versailles castle, but also in several castles of the Loire, the Paris Opera House or the main entrance of the Empire State Building. Afterwards, the town saw the implantation of glassworks and mills.
In 1890, the railway to Arreau led to the installation of metal-works. In the 20th century, the main source of wealth became the abrasive corundum, which played a major role in the development of the area.
St Ebons church
Of genuine Romanesque style, it dates from the 11th and 12th centuries. Built in the shape of a Greek cross, its 15th century chancel is closed by a 16th century wrought iron gate. The stalls date from the Renaissance and the paintings and altar-pieces from the 17th century. The furniture is remarkable. Another riches is the 13th century St Ebons golden copper reliquary containing relics of the saint, who was bishop of Barbastro in Spain. Dead in 1104, he was buried in the nearby Benedictine monastery.
Canal of the Neste
More than 28 kilometres long, the canal starts from the Beyrede-Jumet dam in the Aure valley and ends on the Lannemezan plateau. It was dug in 1860.
A turning point in the St James Way, Arreau was an important drapery centre until the French Revolution. The 12th century Notre Dame church was used for the defence of the village and even included a fencing room. The St Exupere chapel, with elements from the 11th to 16th century, was named after a 4th century Arreau-born farmer, who became Toulouse bishop and died in 418. His sanctuary was first built on the spot where the chapel now stands.
The Nestes Castle (15th to 18th century) is a summary of 10 centuries of history in the Aure valley. Used to protect the nearby St Exupere sanctuary, it was restored in 1989 and its museum holds an intriguing exhibition on the “cagots”, the French equivalent of the untouchables in the Middle Ages.
Le château des Nestes
The 15th and 16th century castle stands at the junction of two Neste rivers: Neste d’Aurz and Neste de Louron. It served as a protection for the nearby sanctuary dedicated to St Exupere. It was restored in 1989 and listed as a Monument Historique. A former Templar commandery, it houses an intriguing museum on the “cagots”, a sort of medieval untouchables who were plenty in the region.
Cadeac most interesting sight is the porch of the Notre-Dame de Pene-Tailhade chapel, overriding the road taken by the peloton. The Romanesque chapel as rebuilt in the 16th century. A former Roman spa town, it grew around its 13th century keep.
Ancizan is an old fortified village built at the foot of the Pic de l’Arbizon. An important linen centre, once the headquarters of the Aure Valley weavers corporation, it keeps several remains of its past. Several of the townhouses in the old town are historical. The church is remarkable for its furniture and especially for a painting of the Entombment of Christ. In 1953, a flood of the Erabat brook destroyed several buildings and reshaped the physiognomy of the town.
Hourquette d'Ancizan is a mountain pass between the valleys of Payolle and Aure. Hourquette means fork in gascon. The Tour de France never took the pass in the past. It is 10?2 kilometres long with an average slope of 7.9 pc.
Halfway up the Tourmalet pass, La Mongie is a hotspot for cycling and alpine skiing alike. Frequently crossed by the Tour, the resort also held alpine skiing World Cup races in 1985. At the foot of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre, La Mongie forms with Bareges the most important skiing domain in the French Pyrenees with 69 pistes and 42 lifts.
The village was named after monks who lived there in the Middle Ages. In the beginning of the 20th century, when the Tour rode through here for the first time, only a few shepherd houses existed. Skiing made a discreet start in 1920 but really took off in 1945 when the first lift was installed thanks to Pierre Lamy de la Chapelle, the resort founder. The domain is spread from 1,400 metres to 2,500 metres with La Mongie on the East side and Bareges on the West side. The link between the two resorts became effective in 1973.
La Mongie held three Tour stages and crowned three great winners: Bernard Thevenet (1970), Lance Armstrong (2002) and Ivan Basso (2004).
PIC DU MIDI
Before being an astronomic base, the Pic du Midi had been used for weather forecasts. As early as 1774, scientists Monge and Darcet climbed on top of it to study atmospheric pressure and in 1873, General de Nansouty installed a weather station in which he measured pressures, temperatures, humidity and other figures of interest. The first astronomic observations only started in 1884. Little by little, the observatory became devoted to a astronomy, botanic studies and cosmology. Threatened with destruction, it was saved in 1996 and open to the public in 2000.
STE MARIE DE CAMPAN FORGE
Eugene Christophe, known as the old Gaul, repaired his bike’s fork in this forge in the 1913 edition. A plaque reminds the feat.
With 78 climbs, the Tourmalet is the most frequently visited pass on the Tour de France but it is also, at 1,115 metres high, one of the race summits with the 4th highest stage finish in 1974 (victory by Jean-Pierre Danguillaume).
Well known by shepherds, pilgrims or merchants, the pass means “bad detour” and it earned a bit of fame in 1675 when King Louis XIV’s mistress Madame de Maintenon went up it in a Sedan chair. The road between Luz and Bareges being flooded, the marquise and the Duke of Maine, the king’s son, were forced to travel across the mountain. Madame de Maintenon was the one who called the spa town where she spent the summer Bareges as it was called Bourg des Bains at the time.
The road was widened under Napoleon III and became the Thermal Road in 1864.
The Tour de France finally made the Tourmalet’s reputation. Climbed for the first time in 1910, it crowned Octave Lapize and then all the legends of the sport.
From Ste Marie de Campan, the climb is 16.9-kms-long with a percentage of 7.2 pc. At the top, a plaque pays homage to former Tour director Jacques Goddet. It was joined in 2010 by a plaque to honour Octave Lapize.
In 2011, the traditional Montée du Géant (Giant climb), renamed Laurent Fignon Memorial, took place on June 4 in the presence of Miguel Indurain. On the occasion the Laurent Fignon way, the historical climb from Bareges, was inaugurated. It is now reserved for cyclists.
The Bareges valley; one of seven valleys in the Lavedan county, once was a small independent Republic with its own customs. It was called the valley of the Toys, inhabited by mountaineers who proudly defended their freedom and were never subdued.
The thermal baths were revived in the 18th century – after the visit of Madame de Maintenon – and the small thermal village became a commune in 1946. Its waters are used in traumatology, dermatology and to cure rheumatisms.
In 1675, Madame de Maintenon, mistress of King Louis XIV, went from Bareges to Bagneres de Bigorre by the Tourmalet in a Sedan chair. It was at the time, in spite of the altitude, the safest way to go since the valley road was often flooded or littered with stones. Francoise d’Aubigne, who was then 40, was looking after the Duke of Maine, the King’s son, who had come to Bareges to cure articular problems preventing him from walking normally. He would be a limp his whole life. Her nurse, who was made a marquise that year, always treated “the little duke” as her own son. The Duke of Maine spent most of the summer in Bareges and made some progress. “The Duke of Maine walks and even though it is not very vigorously there is ground to hope that he will some day walk like us”, Madame de Maintenon wrote in October.
The marquise returned to Bareges twice and always recommended the baths to her friends. She became the King’s mistress that same year and married him secretly nine years later.
Tourmalet botanic garden
On two ha of wild Pyrenean vegetation regrouped by species, the garden is free forall. Children games are available for pedagogic purposes.
St Marie Castle
Built by the Count of Bigorre to hold the population of Barges at bay, the castle housed an English garrison during the Hundred Years War. Its remains are still visible.
Luz-Ardiden’s village choir was created in 1888, between the stay of Emperor Napoleon III and the opening of a tramway line in 1901. The spas were all the rage at the time and tourists were fond of the male vocal bands which were already part of the local culture. Today, more 120 years after its creation, the 34 members of the Luz Ardiden Orpheon sing everywhere in France and abroad. They also produced several records, and even a CD now available for downloading.
The choir is now a cultural heritage of the Toy region and while it is a men-only institution, women play a central part in its success by handling the commercial side of their shows. In 1988, the band celebrated its 100th anniversary around Besancon archbishop Mgr Lacrampe, who hails from the region and is a great fan of the Orpheon. That day, several choirs from the whole of Bigorre came to sing along.
Victor Hugo, who stayed in Luz in1843, explained why the town was called Light: “”When the Spanish plunderers or smugglers arrived from Aragon by Roland’s Breach, they suddenly saw at the end of the gorges a great light like the open door of a cellar to the ones inside. They would make haste and find a big lively and sunny village. The place they called Light, Luz.”
St Sauveur was added to the village name in 1962. Crossed by the gaves of Gavarnie and Bastan, which converge further down to form the Gave de Pau, Luz has a long history of floods. A hydraulic plant took advantage of such topography. The other plague threatening Luz were the raids of “miquelets”, Spanish plunderers who forced the locals to build fortifications for protection in the 14th century. The Ste Marie Castle, built on a strategic mound, reflect this past history.
Thermal baths later made the fortune of Luz, thanks to Napoleon III, who often came to the spa and built a monumental bridge over the Gave de Pau. Yet light and sun had the final say as they nowadays attract tourists in the winter and in the summer.
Luz Ardiden always stage moving stages and memorable finales. After the struggle of Bernard Hinault in 1985, Claudio Chiappucci also went through hard times in the 1990 edition, also in the yellow jersey. That day, he only kept a five second lead over Greg LeMond at the end of Miguel Indurain’s second only stage victory. Four years later, Richard Virenque’s mountain reign started in Luz.
In 2003, Lance Armstrong suffered one of the biggest scares of his Tour career. Hurt the previous day in the intense heat of Cap’Decouverte, the American nearly lost everything the next day when he hit the canvas in a freak accident, when his pedals were tangled into the strap of a spectator’s bag. While Jan Ullrich refused to take davantage of the situation to break clear, the incident spurred the Texan, who went on his own to win the stage with a 40 seconds lead over his rivals.
|1660||A violent earthquake shakes the region. It is felt as far as Vendee.|
|1735||National road arrives.|
|1859||Napoleon III has the Napoleon bridge built over the Gave de Pau near the Luz thermal baths. The works last three years and require 150 workers.|
|1901||A tramway links Luz to Pierreffitte-Nestalas and Cauterets.|
|1905||Construction of a dike on the left bank of the Bastan river, putting an end to the floods which ravaged the town several times.|
|1962||Luz becomes Luz Saint-Sauveur.|
|1975||Opening of the Luz-Ardiden resort.|
|1985||First arrival of the Tour in Luz-Ardiden.|
|1996||Opening of the Luzea fitness centre.|
|2005||6,3 million euros are invested to modernise the resort.|
The history of Luz was marked by the imperial couple of Napoleon III Eugenie, who stayed in town between August 19 and September 11,1859. It was a elative short stay but it had a major impact on he region thanks to the building of a huge bridge on the Gave and several other constructions, like the Solferino chapel. In December 2010, a 3-kms footpath along the sites visited by the imperial couple was inaugurated.
The peloton tackled the Pyrenean chain, formed by the collision of two Earth plaques, Iberia and Europe, 65 million years ago. The north end of Iberia thrust beneath Europe and lifted the grounds, creating the chain. The movement continues today at a speed of 0.4 mm/year, which accounts for several little quakes in the area. In the second half f the course, the riders will cross the North-Pyrenean rift, a scar left by the collision between the two plaques.