- The Race 2010
- All about the race
Overshadowed in the South-West of France by Toulouse and Bordeaux, Pau decided to go into branding in order to stand out in front of these two gigantic rivals. The new brand, Pau Porte des Pyrenees (PPP), also bids to coordinate local assets and talents to showcase the town’s enormous human and economic potential.
PPP unites 123 communes and some 225,000 inhabitants. The new brand aims at underlining a geographic reality but also to modernise Pau’s image in five directions: cooperation , education, culture, transportation and solidarity.
Thanks to the brand, Pau hopes to go beyond its image of a lively pleasant little town and stress the importance of the Pyrenees foothills at national and international level. Each of the three Ps on the new logo has a strong symbolic meaning: one is the Golden Cow, the town’s emblem, symbolising Peace, another one is a heart, symbolising Partage (Sharing), the other, the Ossau Mount, reflect the Passion for the mountain summits and the ambition to go higher.
Pau is proud of its past as a pioneering town for aviation. It was first a haven for aerostation thanks to the presence in town of James Gordon Bennett or Gaston and Albert Tissandier. In January 1909, Pau welcomed the famous Wright brothers, who inaugurated the first flying school in history. Soon, Louis Bleriot and air companies Voisin, Antoinette, Deperdussin, Morane Saulnier and Nieuport, followed.
In 1912, the French army chose Pau as its base to form its future pilots. Pau’s air base trained more than 6,000 pilots, including celebrities like Guynemer, Roland Garros or Vedrines as well as the American volunteers of the La Fayette squadron. Pau’s aircraft history is now displayed in an exhibition in the Palais Beaumont.
The Adour area remains an important centre for aircraft industry and several world-leading companies are based around Pau: Daher-Socata for turbine mono-engined aircraft, Dassault-Aviation for business jets, Messier-Dowty for undercarriages, and Turbomeca for helicopter turbines. These companies keep Pau up and flying.
Pau welcomed the Tour de France 63 times, which makes it the race’s third favourite halt after Paris and Bordeaux. The winners list in town reads like a cycling Who’s Who. Since Alfredo Binda, who opened the ball in 1930, Robic, Coppi, Bahamontes, Gimondi, Hinault, Kelly, Delgado, Chiappucci or Pereiro raised their arms on the finish line. Binda’s inaugural victory deserves to be looked into as it was only one of two by the most gifted rider of the time, who won the next day in Luchon. Binda, who had thought about becoming French when he turned professional, took part in this 1930 Tour only, shunning the race for the rest of his career. An extremely powerful athlete, he was the first ever rider to stay on the saddle in the hardest climbs. Rene Vietto used to describe him this way: “You could put a glass of water on his head and he would climb the Tourmalet without losing a drop”. Three times world champion, winner of 41 Giro stages, Binda finally won the Tour four times… as Italy’s team director.
His compatriots have since emulated Binda in Pau to the point that the last three winners here were Italians.
Pau is also the town which saw the first stage victory by a Soviet rider when Dmitry Konyshev won in 1990.
A number of active riders were born in Pau like Stpehane Auge, Mathieu Ladagnous or Herve Duclos-Lassalle.
|11th century||Building of a castle to control the Gave (river) halfway between Lescar, the bishop see, and Morlaas, fief of the viscounts of Bearn.|
|1188||Gaston VI of Bearn gathered his cour majour in the castle called Pau since the beginning of the century.|
|13th century||Gaston Febus fortifies and enlarges the castle.|
|1464||Pau becomes the fourth capital of Bearn after Lescar, Morlaas and Orthez.|
|1512||Pau becomes the capital of the kings of Navarre.|
|1589||Henri IV is crowned king of France.|
|1796||Pau becomes the prefecture of the Basses Pyrenees department.|
|1830||Pau becomes a favourite holiday destination for the British.|
|1909||Pau becomes one of the capitals of the aircraft industry.|
|1951||Discovery of gas in Lacq, which boosts the town’s economy.|
Built on a rocky ridge overlooking a ford on the Gave, the castle’s foundations date from the early Middle-Ages. But the present aspect of the castle owes much to Gaston Febus, viscount of Bearn in the 14th century. In the next, it became the residence of the viscounts of Bearn, who inherited the kingdom of Navarre. Henri IV was born here in 1553. Restored by King Louis-Philippe, the castle became a museum in 1926. Alongside the royal apartments, it is home to several collections devoted to King Henri and a great number of tapestries, making it the biggest tapestry museum in France outside Paris.
Prefecture : Pau
Subprefectures : Bayonne, Oloron-Sainte-Marie
Population : 647,000
Website : www.cg64.fr
Between the Gascony Gulf and the Pyrenees, Pyrenees Atlantiques is the 10th biggest department in France. In the south, the Pyrenees stand as high as the eye can see while the North is covered in valleys. Pyrenean rivers – the “gaves” – shape narrow valleys through the mountains which widen into large plains. The Bearn province was extremely wealthy up to the Revolution and declined in the 19th century. The discovery of natural gas in Lacq created a new petrochemical industry while thermal waters and good wines have been known for a very long time.
An old Bearn bastide known as Bourg Gerbier, the village retains from these origins a 14th century gate typical of the bastide defensive system.
The small town of Lacq is essentially famous for its natural gas. Discovered in 1951, it was distributed all over France by pipeline form 1965. The gas of Lacq was instrumental in the economic boom of the period but the site has been looking for redeployment since 1987. The industrial platform will be turned into a training centre for green technology. At its peak, the site produced 24 millions m3 of gas. The economic growth of the region led to the creation of new town Mourenx-Ville-Nouvelle.
An old village established in the 12th century in marshlands, Mourenx went through an extraordinary growth when the gas of Lacq started being exploited in the late 1950s. Some 10,000 workers came to live in the new town built especially to house them. Architects Maneval and Douillet took example on the English new towns for an architecture still seen today as typical of the time. Mourenx also created cultural facilities such as art galleries.
The city held four Tour de France finishes, the first in 1969 when Eddy Merckx won his 5th stage victory in the edition.
The town of Monein knew its golden age in the Middle Ages. In the 13th century, it even became one of the most important and prosperous cities in the county. The town of the sovereign lord of Bearn had its own autonomous administration in which an elected town council made the major decisions. In 1385, a census estimated its number of houses at 2,300 when other towns in Bearn had fewer than 1,000 including Pau or Oloron. Some of theses houses survived to this day. The rural town living of farming and vine was alro very religious. In 1464, the faithful built the imposing St Girons church. In 1709, Monein had 5,233 inhabitants. Fairs and markets were busy and renowned while the town was dealing with Gascony and Spain. The Revolution had a minor impact.
But in the 19th century, Monein stayed outside of industrialisation. The market hall was enlarged, a slaughterhouse was built while tobacco and potato were grown. Lots of men left for America. Modernity came as a shock with the discovery of natural gas in Lacq in 1951. Today, in spite of industrial redeployment, Monein remains a pleasant town with a rich heritage.
St Girons church
Built between 1464 and 1520 it was listed as a Monument Historique in 1913. A perfect illustration of the local Gothic style, it is one of France’s most untouched and complete parochial church of the late Middle Ages. An ambitious restoration is underway.
A rural village in the wine appellations of Jurancon and Bearn, Lasseube is the birthplace of world famous sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. It is also the hometown of Bernard Becaas, a former team-mate of Bernard Hinault and Laurent Fignon. He took part in four Tours between 1979 and 1983 and died accidentally in a motorcycle crash in 2000.
In the Ossau valley, Louvie-Juzon is the birthplace of former France rugby union captain Francois Moncla, a flanker who won three Five Nations Championships and belonged to the mythical French Tour of South Africa in 1958.
On the left bank of the Ossau gave, the town is the capital of the Ossau valley. Its St Vivien church was built in the 15th and 16th centuries in a Gothic style.
The vultures cliff
On the communes of Bielle, Aste-Beon, Bilheres and Castet is a natural reserve of vultures created in 1974. The reserve is run by the National Park of the Pyrenees.
Two sites on a 1,000-metres-high cliff are protected to favour the reproduction of vultures, who need prefect tranquillity and plenty of food to survive. The reserve also hosts five or six couples of Egyptian vultures.
The Gave d'Ossau is the torrential river flowing through the Ossau Valley, one of the three main valleys of the High-Béarn. It is formed in Gabas from the confluence of two gaves coming from both sides of the Pic du Midi d'Ossau. From Pau, the Ossau massif is the mountain chain that can be seen in the distance.
On the right bank of the Gave d’Ossau, the virtues of the thermal waters of Eaux-Bonnes (Good Waters) were known as early as the 16th century. Empress Eugenie made Eaux-Bonnes her favourite spa. The waters are sulphured, chlorinated, with sodium and calcium. They are known to cure rheumatisms and ENT affections. The water earned its reputation when it helped heal Bearn knights injured at the battle of Pavia in 1525.
The casino is sheltered since 1873 in a medieval looking castle.
Taken by the peloton 71 times in the past, Aubisque is one of the classic passes of the Tour de France, who climbed it in every edition between 1910 and 1958. Two stages finished at the top in 1985 and 2010. 16.6-kms long, its average declivity is 7.5 pc with sectors at 13 pc after Eaux-Bonnes.
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.
The capital of Lavedan, at the confluence of the Pau and Azun gaves (rivers) is a lovely little town with steep and narrow roads. First called Ourout, it then became Argeles and added Gazost to its name to outpoint the presence on its soil of thermal waters. Argeles is a climatic and thermal centre recommended for ear, nose and throat affections and phlebitis. The town gave birth to a number of celebrities. Rene Billieres was a former Education and sports minister while Clement Dupont was only the second French rugby union international to beat all four British nations before WW2. It was also the start of a Tour de France stage in 1996: the stage winner in Pamplona was Laurent Dufaux.
The 67th and latest Lourdes miracle was acknowledged in late 2005 by Mgr Gerardo Pierro, archbishop of Salerno, who proclaimed the “miraculous healing” of Anna Santaniello in Lourdes half a century before. The old woman, then aged 94, suffered from a heart malformation which doctors deemed incurable.
At the age of 40, her condition worsening, she decided to go to Lourdes in spite of the opposition of her family and doctors. Unable too breathe, she was taken to the holy spring on a stretcher and bathed in the pools. “The water was icy but I felt something burning in my chest just as if life was returning inside of me. A few seconds later, while I could no longer take a step, I stood and walked to the bewilderment of my nurses,” she said. Back home, she went to a renowned cardiologist, who said I was in perfectly good health and could not understand the results of the previous tests.
The Church finally determined that there was no scientific explanation to the miracle and proclaimed it a miracle.
In 1884 the Catholic Church created a medical bureau to examine the claims of miracle healings. A first investigation is led by the Lourdes bureau and is later transferred to Rome. The final investigation is led in the diocese of the diseased.
Eight French champion titles between 1948 and 1968. Eleven finals between 1945 and May 68. Eight internationals in 1948, seven ten years later. Twelve years without a home defeat between 1948 and 1960. Figures speak for themselves: FC Lourdes was the greatest rugby union club in the post-war period. The club, founded in 1911, was very discreet until the 1940s. The team’s golden era is linked to a man, Jean Prat, who was their captain an then their coach before becoming France’s selector in 1963. The list of players who played for Lourdes is a roll of honour of French rugby at the time: Jean and Maurice Prat, Roger Martine, Henri Domec, Rancoule, François and Antoine Labazuy, Jean Barthe, then Michel Crauste, transferred from the Racing Club de France, and Jean Gachassin, recruited in Bagneres-de-Bigorre. The 70s were painful for the once unbeatable Lourdes. A victory in the 1984 French Cup was just a reprieve. Even though Lourdes would produce more rugby greats such as Jean-Pierre Garuet or Louis Armary, the decline was ineluctable and FC Lourdes is no longer a major force.
The Tour de France only stopped in Lourdes once in 1948, with the victory of Gino Bartali. It was the only finish in town but four other stages ended in the nearby ski resort of Hautacam. A very pious man, Bartali sent a telegram to the Pope after his victory asking for a special benediction for himself and his family. After dinner, he asked to go to the grotto. He kneeled down and asked the Virgin Mary: “Madonna, I did not come here to ask you to help me win. This I can do by myself. I just came to ask you to protect me against crashes.” The previous year, Bartali had crashed on the road to Briancon and had been forced to quit.
In 1948, his prayer was heard.
|1844||Birth of Bernadette Soubirous, the daughter of a miller.|
|1858||On February 11, Bernadette Soubirous meets for the first time the “lady” who will change her life and the destiny of the small rural village called Lourdes. On May 1, the first miracle takes place. On July 16, the Virgin makes the first of 18 appearances.|
|1879||Death of Bernadette.|
|1925||Bernadette is beatified.|
|1948||Création de la station climatique de Sables d'Or les Pins Roland Brouard.|
|2004||Pilgrimage of Pope John-Paul II.|
|2005||Officialisation of the latest miracle, the 67th.|
|2008||150th anniversary of the apparitions and visit by Pope Benedict XVI.|
They are open round the clock. Can be visited the Massabielle grotto, the basilicas, the crypt, the Ste Bernadette church, the adoration tent, the chapel of reconciliation and the outside stations of the cross. A torchlight procession takes place every night from April to October.
A key stronghold in the network of fortresses on the Pyrenees piedmont, overlooking the city, the castle is a major trace of Lourdes history from the 11th to the 19th century. Since 1921, it has been home to a Pyrenean Museum recounting the history of the Pyrenees and the mountain way of life both sides of the border from the 18th to the 20th century.
Lourdes is overlooked by the Pic du Jer. A cable car takes visitors to the top in six minutes. The view is exceptional wile a footpath follows “Bernadette’s footsteps”, form her birth house to the cell in which she lived.
With the start in Pau, riders are back on the foothills of the Pyrenees. The Aquitaine Basin, an immense natural bowl, filled up with sediments coming fro the erosion of the massifs. At its deepest, geologists measured a layer of sediments 11,000 meters thick. These porous layers trapped gas and oil: the Lacq site is very close. The peloton then rides past the Pic du Midi d’Ossau, a 280-million-years-old volcano.