- The Race 2010
- All about the race
The Apple Road (Strada de mele) is a 63-kms cycling path between Pinerolo and Cavour, ideal to discover on a bike or by car the Piedmont’s biodiversity and the variety of its agriculture. The region is noted for its orchards and especially for its apples. Along the way, a pleasant flavour of cider accompanies the visitors and a halt is compulsory to discover the cider drawn from 40 ancient breeds of carefully selected apple. Apricot or peach are other fruit whose smell entertains the nostrils. The course can also be done on a horse, Pinerolo being the Italian capital of the animal.
The story of the Man in the Iron mask remains one of the main mysteries in French history yet one thing is sure about it – the famous prisoner began his detention in Pinerolo, called Pignerol at the time of French occupation. The presence of a masked prisoner is first mentioned in 1669, when the marquis of Louvois, a minister of Louis XIV, wrote to Benigne Dauvergne de St Mars, governor of the prison, asking him to keep the detainee in an armoured jail to keep him away from other prisoners. The governor is instructed to only visit him once a day. Arrested in Calais, the prisoner, named Dauger, arrived in Pinerolo in August 1669. The first rumours spread about this man who was masked permanently as if to hide his identity.
In any case, Pinerolo was a prison reserved for criminals thought to be a menace to the kingdom. In Pinerolo at the same time as Dauger were an Italian diplomat named Antonio Mattioli, the marquis of Lauzun, a lover of Madam of Montpensier, and the disgraced finance superintendent Nicolas Fouquet. Fouquet was in contact with Dauger, who served as his valet when his own servant was sick. No one knows whether he recognised the man. Fouquet died in detention in Pinerolo in 1680.
Dauger followed governor St Mars in his several postings to the St Marguerite island, to Lerins and to the Bastille, in which he died in 1703 under the name of Marchioly. Nobody ever clarified the mystery even tough some pretended he was a two brother of the King. Pinerolo honours its most famous host every year in the Maschera di Ferro, a historical show in which a celebrity plays Dauger’s part.
While the Tour never visited Pinerolo before, the Giro stopped in town in 1949 for a stage belonging to the race history. With five mountain passes, it was the queen stage of the edition and a ride from Cuneo that Gino Bartali was tackling with care, having suffered from stomach pains since the start.
“The Maddalena pass would have sufficed to exhaust a bull. And it was only a start,” wrote writer Dino Buzzati, the Corriere della Serra special envoy. That day, Fausto Coppi bore the fatal blow to his elder: “Today, Bartali realised he had reached his dawn. And for the first time, he smiled.”
It was almost funny for the 1938 and 1948 Tour de France winner as bad luck struck repeatedly. “Coppi went when I punctured. I was about to catch him when I punctured again. I was still second, five minutes behind. But the worst was when a spectator threw a bunch of flowers at me and it got tangled in the derailleur. I could hardly change gears. But I never gave up,” Bartali said.
|981||First mention of Pinerolo, which belongs to the March of Turin.|
|1064||The town becomes the property of Benedictine monks from the San Verano abbey.|
|12th century||Pinerolo becomes the religious capital of the Waldensians sect.|
|1235||The town passes to the House of Savoie.|
|1295 to 1418||Pinerolo is the capital of Piedmont.|
|1536||Pinerolo becomes French until 1574.|
|1631||Pinerolo becomes French again by virtue of the Treaty of Turin in 1696. Vauban builds a fortress which will be used as a jail, notably for the legendary Man in the Iron mask.|
|1680||Death of Nicolas Fouquet, the disgraced finance superintendent of King Louis XIV exiled to Pinerolo.|
|1748||On request by Charles-Emmanuel III of Sardinia, Pinerolo becomes a bishop see.|
|1801||Piedmont is annexed by France for the last time (until 1814) . March 17, 2011 – 150th anniversary of Italian unification and the separation of France and Piedmont.|
Set in the premises of the Horse-riding School, the museum keeps weapons, uniforms, harness and standards from the Italian and foreign Horse Guards from 1500 to the 20th century. It is one of the largest museums in he world dedicated to military equestrianism.
Symbol of the town, it is preceded by a romantic alley lined by horse chestnut trees.
The Great Wall of the Alps spreads along he crest of Mount Orsiera over three kilometres. Built in the 18th century, the Fenestrelle fortress includes three forts, three redoubts and two batteries on a slope of more than 600 metres in declivity. Its construction was ordererd by Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia and it was conceived by architect Ignazio Bertola to protect the Piedmont against a French invasion. A stair with 4,000 steps climbs up the fortress along the three kilometres of walls. It was so impressive it was never attacked. It was later used as a jail.
Close to the border, the Province of Turin was always rocked by the conflicts with nearby France. Turin, as a result, was once the capital of Savoie and even briefly, of Italy. Turin is the focus of the province. Founded by Augustus, the fourth biggest Italian city is also one of its main industrial centres and the home of Fiat, the country’s emblematic carmaker. At the foot of the Alps, in a zone of exchange between Italy, France’s Rhone-Alpes and Switzeland, Turin takes full adntage of the situation. Yet the Province of Turin is also an alpine region, proud of its mountain agriculture and the beauty of its landscapes. The province, with 2.3 million inhabitants, held the 2006 Winter Olympics and is a popular tourist area.
Cavour drew its name from the Celtic people of Caburni (who live on a mound). The definition fits the Cavour population perfectly since the antique and medieval town was perched at the top of La Rocca, an impressive rocky mountain overlooking the present town. The fief of Amadeus IV of Savoie, Cavour was the object of constant conflict between the House of Savoie and the local marquis. A natural barrier at the French border, the town passed in 1648 on to Michele Antonio Benso, whose most famous descendant was Camillo Cavour, one of the founders of the Italian nation. The Benso used to live in the Palazzo Cavour in Turine. From the 19th century, irrigation in the plain turned Cavour into an agricultural area producing fruit.
The Province of Cuneo, in the Piedmont region, is surrounded by splendid Alpine landscapes with some twenty valleys deploying towards France and Liguria. The luxurious valleys, the silence of the mountain paths, the natural parks and the countless cycling trails, the snowy slopes, medieval villages, castles, fortresses, abbeys and Baroque cathedrals are among the many tourist attractions of the province. And what about its gastronomy, its special flavours and perfumes? To discover the local wines and products is to discover a land unharmed by pollution producing first choice fruit and a celebrated cheese, Castelmagno. The province of Cuneo was also known as “Provincia granda” as it was one of the largest in Italy. Its population is close to 600,000.
Trekking, mountain-bike, the ski resort of Rucas make Bagnolo an ideal spot for sport and nature lovers. The forest covers most of the hills and mountains around, making mushroom the main ingredient in local cuisine. They are mainly boletus, seen as the only breed worth cooking while many other mushrooms grow on the soil. They are called “bulé d’Bagnol” in the local dialect. Originally, the village stood on the heights between the Pellice and Po valleys, where the stone castle of the Malingri family can still be found. In the 15th century, habitations moved to the plain and developed around the Romanesque and Gothic San Pietro in Vincoli church. Around Bagnolo, several quarries are still active for the extraction of a local stone used for construction.
Prehistoric men chose Mount Bracco as a place to stay as their paintings attest and the richness of the wildlife accounts for such a choice. In the forest around Barge can be found the celebrated bulé (boletus), he mushroom which is a main ingredient of Piedmont gastronomy. In 1511, Leonardo da Vinci cited Mount Bracco for its stone quarries, used I the construction of several houses and religious buildings. The village developed at the junction of the torrents Chiappera and Infernetto. This was the post where two castles were built, linked by fortifications. Today only ruins of the miliqry complex remain while the oldest castle was turned into a Franciscan convent in the 15th century. The bell tower and a section of the cloister have been preserved.
Revello est la porte du Marquisat de Saluces (Saluzzo) et elle était anciennement dotée d’un ensemble étendu de fortifications. Le château inférieur en faisait aussi partie ; aujourd’hui la Mairie est installée dans l’aile restée debout. Dans sa tour se trouve la chapelle du marquis qui contient certaines fresques représentant les Histoires de Saint Louis et de Sainte Marguerite, les saints éponymes des marquis Ludovico et Margherita qui les commandèrent. Près du centre se dresse l’Abbaye de Staffarda, confiée aux moines cisterciens au XIIe siècle, et qui eut une grande importance pour la mise en culture des terrains marécageux qui l’entouraient. Le complexe de l’abbaye comprend aussi le cloître, l’hôtellerie et un espace pour le marché couvert.
Famous during the Risorgimento as the birthplace of Silvio Pellico, it is today noted for the art of furniture and for Castelmagno, Italy’s most celebrated cheese. Saluzzo is among the prettiest towns of Piedmont. The former capital of a powerful marquisate, it is now one of the main Italian centres for antiques, furniture and restoration. Nor far from town, tourists can visit the Santa Maria di Staffarda abbey, a large monastery built by Cistercians in 1135 and the 15th century Gothic Della Manta Castle, known for its frescos inspired by epic poem the Wandering Knight.
Castello della Manta
The originary building, dating from the 12th century, was later enlarged and transformed into a noble residence by the family of Saluzzo della Manta, margraves of Saluzzo. Among the numerous halls, the Baronial Hall (Salone Baronale) has a notable relevance for the frescoes decorating its walls, a rare masterwork of Late Gothic painting in northern Italy. The work is attributed to an anonymous Master of Castello della Manta. The cycle, completed soon after 1420, portrays the Nove Prodi, the Nine Worthies a group of famous heroical figures, with their female counterparts. The artist may have used as models members of the House of the Margraves of Saluzzo. The figures are shown wearing precious contemporary clothing. Also depicted is the so-called Fountain of Youthness, a theme taken from the tradition of French medieval stories. The scene is inspired by the poem by Marquess Thomas III of Saluzzo, Le Chevalier Errant).
From the Mannerist Art of the late 16th century is instead the Sala delle Grottesche, commissioned by Marquess Michele Antonio around 1560. It has a finely painted ceiling, decorated with stuccoes, grotesques, ancient ruins and architectures, in the typical style of that age.
Annexed to the castle is the church, whose apse has a series of frescoes about the life of Christ dating from the same time of the Baronal Hall decorations.
The Romans had set a border post with Gaul but today, the village houses one of the largest collection of harps in the world in the Victor Salvetti Harp Museum. Open in 2006, the complex also includes a concert hall, archives and a restoration centre dedicated to the history and renovation of the instrument. The massive castle overlooking town is the work of Amadeo di Castellamonte, one of the great architects of the House of Savoie. In the St John the Baptist church, frescoes attributed to Pietro de Saluzzo can be found.
Population : 132 000
Website : www.hautes-alpes.net
Hautes-Alpes (High Alps) is the highest department in France in average. The Durance river is the backbone of its territory, on which live a population of 118,000. Isolated until the arrival of the train, the department has learnt through history to live on its own resources, which helped in hard times. It is a mainly farming area – forests, pastures, fruit, milk – but tourism has been developing quickly thanks to the ski resorts of Serre-Chevalier Vars, les Orres or Montgenevre and in the summer to the many campsites around the Serre-Poncon artificial lake.
Molines is a village in the Beauregard massif noted for its peculiar log homes.
In the winter, around the closed Col Agnel, Nordic skiing and alpine skiing take over.
St Romain church
Its massive 10-metres-tall spire is a singularity in the Queyras. It served as a fort in 1575 during the Wars of Religion and was burnt in 1585. The Protestants turned it into a jail. It was covered with a larch wood roof in the 18th century.
In the heart of the Guil valley, Chateau Queyras and Ville Vieille joined forces to form a new commune. History is still present thanks to Fort Queyras, locking the valley since the Middle Ages. Nature lovers will go trekking in the larch forest or in the numerous footpaths around the village. Crafts are also honoured in the Maison de l’Artisanat which showcases and sells local products. In the Middle Ages, Chateau Queyras was the military and administrative capital of Queyras and the inns were crammed with soldiers and travellers. The village was the scenes of many battles especially in 1695 against the Savoie troops. Ville-Vieille was part of the Escartons Republic and keeps one of its symbols, the “Cupboard with eight locks”, dating from 1773. In 1957, the commune was hit like all the Queyras villages by a disastrous flood of the river Guil.
It was first a medieval castle belonging to the Dauphins of Savoie. In the 13th century it protected the valley against plunderers coming from Provence. In 1692, Vauban enlarged the surface by building bastions and in late 18th century, batteries and cannons were added.
The Arvieux valley has been dubbed the Val d’Azur because of its exposition and its sunny weather. Untouched by concrete or modern buildings, Arvieux is a preserved mountain village with several gorgeous mountain pastures like Cpaleyto or Furfande.
Arvieux is a green and rural region whose name comes from Latin Arvium, meaning ploughed field.
The road to the Izoard pass was built in 1893 by soldiers based in Chateau Queyras. The Wars of Religion did not spare a village marked by the Waldensians and Protestantism. Unique in Queyras, campaniles are visible in Brunissard and Chalp.
The Izoard pass is located in the north-west of the Queyras valley, at an altitude of 2,361 metres. It links Briancon to the north-west to Chateau-Ville-Vieille to the south-east. The south side is the hardest with slopes reaching 11 pc. At the top of the climb, two kilometres from the pass, the Casse Deserte appears with its windswept rocky cliffs at 2,200 metres. At the end of the Casse Deserte is a stall dedicated to Louison Bobet and Fausto Coppi. Izoard was taken 32 times by Tour de France riders.
One of the resorts composing Serre-Chevalier, Chantemerle is the home village of skier and pilot Luc Alphand, who owns a hotel there and gave his name to the downhill piste leading do the bottom of the resort.
The Romans, fond of hot water baths, developed the village and its thermal baths and called it Stabatio. Later, the land belonged to Gontran, King of the Burgundians.
In 739, the local lord Patrice Abbon died and left his lands to the Italian abbey of Novalese, near Susa. In 860, abbot Eldrade ordered the construction of a priory and four chapels, Ste Marie, St Martine, St Andre and St Pierre. The legend of St Eldrade ridding the country of snakes dates from the period. The presence of monks gave the village its name even though the priory disappeared in the 15th century. From the 11th century, the village belonged to the Counts of Albon, rulers of the Dauphine.
In 1332, the villagers took advantage of the ruin of Dauphin Humbert III to negotiate the Escartons Charter, awarding them great freedom and autonomy. This early form of democracy lasted until the French Revolution. In the 19th century, means of communication improved – the train came to Briancon and the road to Grenoble bythe Lautaret was improved under Napoleon III. Graphite is exploited in the hamlet of Le Lauzet, but the 20th century was the age of tourism. In 1941, the first telecabin in Europe was inaugurated.
Le Monetier was the start of a Tour stage in 1996.
Since 2008, the village of Monetier les Bains has revived the second part of its name and offers skiers and hikers alike a brand new thermal complex, Les Grands Bains, boosting Serre-Chevalier’s ancient thermal vocation.
The very name of Monetier les Bains comes from its spring, known for its virtues to treat gastric, rheumatologic and dermatologic problems. The spring was known by the Romans when the village was called Stabatio. It became Monestier because of the presence of a monastery. In 1893, “Les Bains” (The Baths) was added to the village name to emphasize its thermal vocation and the Rotonde building was built. After a period of decline, the spa was revived with the creation of a thermal water pool. The locals have long been dubbed “hot guts” because they used to heal their stomach pains by drinking hot water.
The new establishment of Les Grand Bains fits perfectly into its setting with its structure of wood, stone and glass, spreading over 4,500 m2 besides a lovely pond.
Luc Alphand, Serre-Chevalier’s best known son – a resort with sky dynasties like the Mequionds or the Brechus) – is a special case in the history of French sport. A lover of speed and wide open spaces, “Lucho” has had a unique career from best skier in the world to Dakar rally winner, Le Mans 24 Hours contenders and transatlantic skipper. His versatility is quite similar to the all-round passion of sports pioneers of the early 20th century, among them the creators of the Tour. Alphand started his World Cup ski career in 1984 but learnt his trade the hard way. Often injured, he had to wait for 11 years to win his first race but what a race! The Frenchman won two back to back downhills on the infamous Streif in Kitzbuehel. From 1995, the Serre-Chevalier-born skier became the best downhill specialist in the world, winning three downhill globes and the overall World Cup in 1997, 30 years after the last Frenchman to do so, Jean-Claude Killy. Alphand retired at 32, without a world championship or Olymoic gold medal. He could have relaxed in his beautiful home village of Vallouise, but his taste for adventure was too strong. He started a new career as a rally pilot which led him to win the Dakar in 2006. Since 2001, he has also taken part in the Le Mans 24 Hours, finishing 7th in 2009. In June 2009, a serious motorcycling accident in the Auvergne rally forced him to retire from the sport. Alphand saw the crash as an incentive to change directions again and he turned towards an element that always fascinated him, the sea. He willl make his debut in the Transat Jacques Vabre in October with experienced skipper Marc Thiercelin.
The Tour de France celebrates in 2011 the first passage of the peloton on the Galibier, the alpine pass most often visited by Tour riders. The finish line will be at the top, at an altitude of 2,645-metres.
At the start of the 1911 Tour, the peloton was still shocked by the previous race and the discovery of the dreadful Aubisque and Tourmalet passes in the Pyrenees in 1910. And now the organisers were talking about another summit to climb, a new fantasy from the wicked minds of Henri Desgrange and Alphone Steines, always looking to break new ground. In 1911, the riders would tackle the Galibier: higher, colder and harder than anything they had ridden so far.
Beneath the irritation and revolt at being so badly treated, the cyclists were also thrilled by the challenge ahead. “It leaves you dumbfounded, doesn’t it? “ said Emile Georget when he reached the top in the front on July 10, 1911. The Galibier pioneer rode the 34 kms from St Michel de Maurienne without putting the foot down. Stunned by the feat, Henri Desgrange said the Tour had signed with the Galiber “an act of adoration”.
“Do they not have wings, our men who managed to rise to heights where even eagles do not go? Oh Sappey, oh Laffrey, oh col Bayard, oh Tourmalet! It is my duty to proclaim that compared with the Galibier, you are but tasteless and vulgar plonk; in front of such a giant, you can only take your hat off and salute.”
Respecting the Tour founder’s prophecy, most riders kneeled in front of the giant. But some managed to conquer it and to use it to built their own destiny. Gino Bartali, for one, got rid of Louison Bobet on its slopes in 1948. Four years later, it was Gino’s turn to bow to his younger compatriot and rival Fausto Coppi. Later, Bahamontes, Gaul, Merckx, Zoetemelk, Ocana and Pantani also added their names to the Galibier roll of honour. In 2011, another champion will tame the giant and win the highest ever stage finish in the history of the Tour, at 2,645 metres.
|9TH century||Creation by St Eldrade of a monastery in Monestier.|
|12th century||Construction of the St Marcellin church in La Salle-les-Alpes.|
|16th century||Opening of anthracite mines.|
|1893||Monêtier becomes Le Monêtier-les-Bains to showcase the thermal baths.|
|1941||Inauguration of the Chantemerle lift, the longest in Europe at the time.|
|1968||The name Serre-Chevalier is adopted to regroup the villages of the valley: Chantermerle, Villeneuve-La Salle, Puy Saint-Pierre, Puy Saint André.|
|1984||Le Monêtier-les-Bains joins “Serre-Che” and the resort becomes the Great Serre-Chevalier.|
|1990||Briancon’s ski hub is included in Serre-Chevalier.|
The Tour is back on the traces of the ocean which ran as far as the Himalaya and disappeared when the Alps became a chain of mountains. It is difficult to realise that the Galibier, a huge limestone wall topping at 3,228 metres, used to be a large submarine plain. Rocked by the African push, sediments were lifted and tangled into the Brianconnais chains.