- The Race 2010
- All about the race
Only ten minutes from the town centre by tramway and a few yards from the L’Peau Abbey, the Arch of Nature domain is a large natural space showcasing the diverse landscapes of the Sarthe region. Along the footpaths, visitors will discover the river, the forest, the farmlands but also the House of water and the Prairie farm. Greens and playgrounds also allow the practice of sport in these lungs of the city. In all 450 ha of nature are open permanently to the public.
Since 1998, the Arch of Nature has been host to several events attracting more than 100,000 spectators each year.
The House of water is equipped with large aquariums showing the different ecosystems of the river and its fish: trout, barbell and bream. Smaller aquariums are dedicated to smaller species like blobs or minnows. An old water mill, built in 1906, retraces the history of the treatment of water.
The Prairie farm also tells the history of the local agriculture in a kitchen garden, an orchard and a space dedicated to chunks. The whole park can be ridden in thanks to a bicycle renting programme called Vel Nature.
The alliance treaty signed in 836 between Le Mans and the German town of Paderborn is considered as the first twinning in Europe. It was first an oath of alliance an mutual support between two dioceses discussed when relics of St Liboire were moved to Germany. The tie survived and developed through history and became an official twinning in 1967. In 815, bishop Badarud, a Saxon friend of King Louis the Pious, became bishop of Paderborn. In 822, a close firend of his, Aldric, was named bishop of Le Mans. At the Aix synod in 836, the two friends were reunited and Badarud asked Aldric to lend him St Liboire relics as Paderborn had no patron saint. The transfer of the relics in 836 was the occasion to swear mutual allegiance.
It was a real treaty as History proved. In 1204, Le Mans officially expressed concern at rumours that Paderborn might lose its bishop see. In 1648, citing the treaty, Louis XIV personally intervened for Paderborn to remain Catholic in spite of Protestant pressure. During the French Revolution, several Le Mans priests found refuge in Paderborn. After the official twinning in 1967, a road in the Le Mans centrer was named after Paderborn.
The French capital of motor sports, Le Mans is home to one of the most legendary town circuits in the world, the Bugatti circuit. It is on a part of its course that the day’s stage will finish, a lap of honour that is rather frequent in the Tour history. The race visited several other car tracks like Spa-Francorchamps, Zolder, Dijon, Pau, Rouen-les-Essarts or the Monaco paddock area which served as the finish zone in the 2009 prologue. The Bugatti circuit was first visited by the peloton in 1975 and the stage was won by French sprinter Jacques Esclassan, who rode for team Peugeot: “With my chequered jersey, I had to win in Le Mans,” he joked.
Another famous circuit is part of the Le Mans cycling tradition, the Circuit de la Sarthe. An amateur race up to 1974, it opened to pros the next year for two successive victories by Bernard Hinault. Greg LeMond, Jean-François Bernard, Melchor Mauri, Piotr Urgrumov, David Millar or Luis-Leon Sanchez are among the other famous winners.
Local hero Laurent Brochard, the 1997 world champion, never managed to win on home soil, finishing on the podium in 1994, 2000 and2003. While several tragedies sturck the Le Mans 24 Hours, cycling also mourns Gerard Saint, one of France’s brightest prospects, who was killed in a crash in town in 1960.
|56 BC||The Romans conquer the town of Vindunum, capital of the Cenomans, who gave their names to the town.|
|5th century||Clovis topples King Rignomer and names friendly bishops to the see of Le Mans.|
|836||Le Mans and Paderborn in Germany sign the first cross-border treaty of alliance since then dubbed “light of Europa”.|
|1066||Seized by William the Conqueror, Le Mans becomes the first commune in France.|
|1130||Birth of Henry II, King of England in 1154. The town remains the fief of the Plantagenet dynasty until defeat by Philip II Augustus in 1189.|
|1448||Under British rule from 1420, Le Mans returns to France and the Maine becomes a property of Ling Louis XI at the death of the last Count of Maine, Charles V, in 1481.|
|1547||Joachim du Bellay writes “To the town of Le Mans”. The town becomes a major cultural centre of Renaissance.|
|18th century||The town extends outsides its walls.|
|1873||Amédée Bollée creates his first car, l’Obéissante, and launches the automobile industry in Le Mans.|
|1906||First French motor racing Grand Prix.|
|1923||First edition of the Le Mans 24 hours.|
The old town is the medieval city as it was when it was confined to the walls which gave him its nickname of Red City. Inside the walls, most building date from the Renaissance period. The most famous are the house of Adam and Eve, and the Clairaulnay and Vaux mansions. The whole town is extremely well preserved and untouched by modern life. Au unique setting, it was used by many films as a décor.
Built between the 11th and 15th century, the cathedral mixes Romanesque, for its nave, and Gothic for the chancel and the apse. Stained glass dates mostly from the 13th century.
Prefecture: Le Mans
Subprefectures: La Fleche, Mamers
Population : 560,000
Website : www.www.tourisme-en-sarthe.com
From the Alpes Mancelles to the Loir valley orthe Solesems abbey, Sarthe has thousands of intact landscapes, dozens of castles and preserved villages and an exceptional quality of life.
Sarthe covers for the most part the eastern part of the old province known as Haut Maine. It has always been at crossroads. As a result, the department is twofold. It has its urban side with the Le Mans agglomeration including 90 communes regrouping some 300,000 persons. It is more than half the total population of the department. The rest of the territory is mostly rural and scarcely populated.
Luce was mentioned as early as 1309 as one of the feudal mounds built by the baron of Chateau du Loir. King Francis I made Luce a barony in 1539.
From 1761 to 1764, Jacques Pineau de Viennay ordered the destruction of the old manorial houses to build a new castle. In 1781, the village was destroyed by fire and the locals found refuge in the spared catle. In 1871, the mayor convinced the Prussians not to attack the Loire army who were withdrawing and had stopped in Luce.
Le Grand-Lucé castle
It was ordered in 1761 by Jacques Pineau de Viennay, who followed the works by mail from Alsace, where he worked as governor. He came to Luce to monitor the end of the construction and died on the spot from a stroke. The castle went to the family of his son-in-law, marquis of Argence, who kepd it until 1920 when its was sold to viscount of Avenel. In 1939, the castle went into real estate and the park was dismantled to build property. During the German occupation, an officer called on the authorities to stop the process or the castle would have disappeared. At the Libetaion, he castle was used as a hospital for Allied forces. The American army handed it back to the municipality and it briefly became sanatorium. The castle went back to the municipal council then to the department council but it was too costly and it was sold to wealthy American decorator Timothy Corrigan, who turned it into a luxury hotel.
The Bercé forest
It spreads from Le Mans over to le Grand-Lucé, Saint-Mars-d'Outillé, Jupilles, Pruillé-l'Éguillé. It is one of France’s most beautiful forest for the quality of its oaks. It is composed mostly of oaks, beech and pine.
La Gidonniere castle
At the highest point of the plain at the bottom of the Loir basin, it is ideally placed to watch over one of the most beautiful valleys in the area. The garden, wood and 19 ha park surround the building and are lined by public footpaths. The castle itself was built in the 17th century under King Louis XIII. It is a rectangular one-floor building at courtyard level with two floors on the garden side. The alley is lined by beautiful walnut trees. The origin of the name La Gidonniere is unknown but it might refer to one Gideon, who was the lord of La Chartre sur le Loir in the Xth century and may have had his castle on the same spot.
Built on a hillside, La Chartre sur le Loir is a wine-growing town producing jasnieres and coteaux du loir appellations. Tourism is an increasing wealth with the development of bed and breakfasts and “green tourism”. While the castles of the Loire remain the leading attraction, angling, hiking, boating and gastronomy are other assets.
La Chartre is also a town in which riders should not fear punctures. It is the town where the puncture-repair patch “rustine” was developed by Louis Rustin, a Parisian inventor who moved to La Chartre in 1934. Rustin created a factory to manufacture the famous rubber patches by a river which was used for energy while the owner, a devout angler, could go fishing in it.
Joan of Arc tower
In 1921, a local subscription was launched to built a WWI memorial. In 1914, when the war started, it revived memories of the invasion of La Chartre by the Germans in 1871. Veterans of this war pledged to build a monument if the town as spared by the enemy this time. The idea was to honour Joan of Arc, the liberator of France during the Hundred Years War. The monument was placed at the top of the La Vierge hill overlooking the village. Inside the monument are engraved the names of all the local soldiers killed on the battlefield.
Le Gast manor
Le Gast was a little fief depending from the lords of Ruille. Its history is not well documented but its existence in medieval times is attested. The manor was rebuilt during the Renaissance (16th century) and flanked with a tower with a small bell an a high chimney.
La Providence community (1820)
The nuns of la Providence were forced to leave their house that had become too small in the beginning of the 19th century. They bought the old manorial house and its enclosure just outside the village. The Grande Providence house was built on the sport in 1820. To celebrate the jubilee of their settlement, the nuns ordered eight paintings by painter Lionel Royer in 1920. They still own two of them, “The descent from the cross” and a portrait of Pope Pie X.
It is remarkable by his Renaissance staircase, its guards room, its French gardens with a labyrinth and its monumental pigeon house. The castle houses a museum recounting the rural life in Sarthe in the 18th and 19th centuries: peasant home, craftsmen shops, tools, pottery and costumes.
Il accueille un musée qui retrace la vie rurale en Sarthe aux XVIIIème et XIXème siècle : intérieur paysan, échoppes d'artisans, outils anciens, poteries, costumes et coiffes.
La Flotte castle
The site on which the castle stands appeared in 1200 with a lord named Goffridus de Flotta. Noble families lived there until the 15th century when the domain was sold to the Du Bellay family, who stayed there for 300 years before selling the castle to the Le Lecoigneux de la Roche Turpin.
The La Flotte lords were not spared by the French Revolution – the marquise of Maulevrier was guillotined.
The castle, hanging to the hillside going down to the Loir river, was restored in the 19th cenury by architect Delarue.
Prefecture : Blois
Subprefectures : Romorantin-Lanthenay, Vendome
Population : 327 000
Site web : www.coeur-val-de-loire.com
The Loir-et-Cher department is ideally placed n the very heart of the Centre region. The diversity of influences from neighbouring provinces forged its identity. Split in the middle by the Loire, it is also bathed by the two rivers which gave it its name, Loir and Cher. Most of the population lives by the Cher and around Blois and its lovely castle. The department produces wines (Touraine, Touraine Mesland, Cheverny, Cour-Cheverny, Coteaux du Vendômois, Valençay), goat cheese (Selles-sur-cher, Sainte-Maure de Touraine, Valençay), asparagus, strawberries and mushrooms. The industrial sector employs 22 pc of the population. It is based on the following trades: automobile, metal works, food processing, chemistry and cosmetics. Services account for 65 pc of the workforce and keep progressing.
Its hillside overlooking the Loir is lined by streets linked to one another by stairs, making Troo a picturesque little town. The village is also known for its caves, called Gaul holes by Julius Caesar and dens by poet Ronsard, who lived nearby. Troo (for hole) was a key defensive site in ancient times, standing 60 metres above the river. Fortifications were built around the caves dug in freestone which provided an easy way out and galleries to supply the troops. In the 12th century, Troo belonged to the County of Maine ruled by the future Kings of England, the Plantagenet. I medieval times, its population is thought to have reached 5,000.
The petrifying cave
It is filled with stalactites, remains from the old St Gabriel chapel with its petrified basin and the work of water on the freestone make it a fascinating site. It is located inside the Tourism Office.
Montoire-sur-le-Loir is world famous for the meeting in October 1940 in the local railway station between Marshal Pétain and Adolf Hitler during which was established the concept of collaboration with the enemy. The Montoire station was chosen for its isolation and its proximity with the Paris to Hendaye highroad. Hitler was returning from Hendaye, where he had unsuccessfully tired to convince Spain to join forces with the Axis. In case of an attack, the carriage in which the meeting took place could have been moved inside a tunnel close by.
Hitler also picked the tunnel as possible headquarters should the Allied Landing take place in the Atlantic. But the spot, codenamed W3, was abandoned when it was found that the landing would take place further north. A museum recounts the Montoire meetings.
The medieval castle
Ruined, it cannot be visited. It probably originated from the forts established along the Loir to protect populations against Viking raids in the 9the and 10th centuries.
Pierre de Ronsard
A few kilometres to the west of Montoire, in the village of Couture sur Loir is the LA Possoniere manor, the family home and birthplace of Pierre de Ronsard, the most famous French poet of the Renaissance. He was born there in 1524 in a family of low nobility and spent his childhood walking around the Gatines forest. With Jean Antoine de Baif and Joachim du Bellay he was taught in Paris by Jean Dorat. The teachings led to the creation of literary school La Pléiade. Ronsard published his first odes in 1550 and became instantly famous. Seriously involved in the Wars of Religion he was named at the head of a priory in St Cosme in 1555. He died in the priory in 1585 and is buried there.
First the site of a lordship depending on the Count of Vendome, the castle later became direct property of the County. The impressive building stands on a mound overlooking the Loire valley. King Charles VII resided here in 1448 and signed a peace treaty with the English. Held by the Catholic Leaguers during the Wars of Religion in 1589, the fortress is besieged by the Prince of Conti on behalf of King Henry IV. The castle is then dismantled and abandoned.
The Lavardin village keeps many mediaeval houses. The St Genest church is also noteworthy for its frescos. Painted between the 13th and 16th century, they were later painted over when tastes changed. They were rediscovered in the early 20th cen tury.
A charming village on the banks of the Loire, Chaumont is listed as a World Heritage site by the UNESCO. It is renowned for its feudal castle watching over the village and the valley. Between the castles of Blois, Chambord and Amboise, the historic town is also an ideal spot to walk along the Loire and in its gardens, hosting every year an international festival of parks and gardens.
Chaumont’s history coincides with that of its castle. In the 10th century, Odo I, count of Blois, builds a fotress to protect the town against attacks by the counts of Anjou. Norman knight Gelduin later received Chaumont and strengthened the fortress. In 1455, King Louis XI demolished Chaumont to punish Pierre of Amboise, who revolted against the royal power. His son Charles I of Amboise rebuilt the place while Chales II, in the early 16th century added Renaissance elements to the fortified site. In late 1559, Queen Catherine de Medici swapped the castle with her rival Diane of Poitiers against Chenonceau.
The castle kept changing hands and in 1750 belonged to Jacques Donatien Le Ray, who founded a big ceramics manufacture inside it. Benjamin Franklin was a geust at the castle and obtained support from Le Ray to the American independence. The De Broglie princes acquired the castle in the late 19th century and built the most luxurious stables in France at the time, equipped with electricity. In 1938, the castle was sold to the State.
2011 Park and Garden festival
The 20th edition of the Park and Garden festival is themed “Gardens of the future and the art of happy biodiversity”. From April to October, innovative gardening techniques and projects will be on display, offering new leads for the gardens of the future.
The Pontlevoy abbey was founded in 1034 by Guelduin, lord of Saumur, Amboise and Chaumont. It is amirable for its abbatial chapel, a Gothic masterpiece from the 14th century, Charles VII tower (15th century) and the convent (15th century). It kept an educational vocation until the 20th century when it housed a reputed boys high school. The village practically grew around it. Even the railway station is contiguous.
A village was formed in Gaul times near the Nantueil fountain. In 360, St Martin of Tours baptised Christians on the spot. Later a sanctuary was built. In the late 10th century, Fulk Berra, count of Anjou, was at war with the count of Blois. He built a first keep on the hill overlooking the Cher and a chapel dedicated to the Holy Cross. His successors built the stone keep and the fortifications in the 13th century. When Anjou became English, Montrichard followed suit for 35 years, until Philip Augustus seized the fortress in 1188 to add Montrichard to the French crown.
Before the Revolution, the Duke of Penthievre became lord of Amboise-Montrichard And built the Town Hall. In the 19th century, the walls and gates of the city were demolished.
Beauregard park and castle
On the land of Beauregard in the early 16th century stood a small manor used by King Francis I as a hunting lodge. In 1545, Jean du Their, secretary of state of King Henry II, bought the place. He built the current castle now belonging to the Chevron du Pavillon family. Since 1925, the family lives here and keeps pars of the castle open to the public.
Nested in its wooded glen, the Gue-Pean castle recounts 20 centuries of history: built on the ruins of a Roman camp turned mediaeval fortress, it became a manor-house at the Renaissance.
The castle now belongs to a visionary architect who put his projects on display in a model room.
Subprefectures: Chinon, Loches
Population : 597 000
Website : www.cg37.fr
Indre et Loire is more or less the old province of Touraine, rich of an heritage symbolised by the some 80 castles which made the region famous. In the Centre region, it has 600,000 inhabitants, half of them in the agglomeration of Tours, a town of 130,000. Services took over from industry and agriculture, even though the Loire vineyards are among the prestigious in France.
The rocky mound on which stands the Montpoupon castle was chosen by the Germanic clan of Poppo in the time of Charlemagne. The name of the castle derives from them: Mount Poppo became Montpoupon. In 1840, the castle was considerably altered. Mr de Farville, its owner, built the new quarters such as they are today. In 1857, Jean Baptiste de la Motte Saint Pierre acquired the domain and gave it the Renaissance aspect it kept to this day. Inside, the hunter Museum recounts the family history.
Jean Fouquet’s Pieta
Painted by Jean Fouquet circa 1450, the descent of the cross is unique by its exceptional dimensions. Jean Fouquet was the most famous painter in France in the 15th century and he was called to Rome in 1460 to paint the portrait of Pope Eugene IV. The pieta was inherited by the landlady of Nouans les Fontaines, the wife of Guy de la Rochefoucauld. It is now in the St Martin church. Next to it, a Jean Fouquet museum was created displaying reproductions of his most famous paintings.
Subprefectures: Le Blanc, La Châtre, Issoudun
Population : 232 000
Websites : www.berryprovince.com / www.indre.fr
The Indre department takes advantage of his position in the very centre of France and managed to reconcile a preserved environment, a dynamic agriculture and an adaptable industry. A quarter of its 232,000 inhabitants live in the main town of Chateauroux. Issoudun, with a population of 14,000, is the second biggest town in he department. With 17 pc of its territory covered by forest and a natural park in the Brenne, Indre retained the wild aspect which appealed so much to George Sand. Yet 60 pc of the population work in services while some 14,000 businesses have been attracted by the quality of life and cheap rents. Tourism is also growing fast.
In 1875, Estelle Faguette, 32, affected by an incurable disease, wrote a letter to the Virgin Mary asking her to help her recover so that she could look after her aging parents. The Virgi Mary replied by appearing to her 15 times between February and December 1876. On February 19, 1876, Estelle is definitely cured. In 1877, the archbishop of Bourges allowed a public cult to be held in Notre-Dame de Pellevoisin and Estelle’s bedroom is turned into a chapel.
In 1940, several personalities were jailed in Pellevoisin, including President of the council Paul Reynaud, future French president Vincent Auriol, senator Marx Dormoy and En 1940, plusieurs personnalités furent emprisonnées à Pellevoisin, dont le président du conseil Paul Reynaud, le futur président Vincent Auriol, le sénateur Marx Dormoy or aircraft manufacturer Marcel Dassault.
Pellevoisin is also known thanks to two famous writers: Georges Bernanos lived in the village and is buried in the churchyard. As for playwright Jean Giraudoux, he went to school in Pellevoisin, his father being the schoolteacher.
A fortified manor in the 12th century, the imposing castle was refurbished in the 16th century by Charles de Brillac before his death in Italy in 1509. The architecture reflects the tastes of this noble family of French Renaissance. Several owners took over afterwards until WWII when the castle was abandoned. An association is now restoring the building inside a nature park in which many animals can be seen around a lovely 3 ha pond.
The town was first established near the St Etienne church until the construction of the castle. The village then shifted towards it and the original settlement is now a hamlet.
In 1847 took place an incident known as the Buzancais jacquerie, seen by Victor Hugo as a prelude to the 1848 uprising in the whole of France. In January 1847, the Buzancais inhabitants, who were starving, seized a cartload of wheat. An intervention by the prefect failed and the repression was merciless: 26 villagers were detained, three were killed and the rest sentenced to labour camp. The incident was cited by Hugo, Gustave Flaubert and Karl Marx as an example of the people’s oppression.
At the end of WWII, Americans made the fortune of Chateauroux when they installed a huge military base in town. Today, sign of the times, the Chinese are the ones investing in the area to create jobs. A business district, funded by Franco-Chinese promoters, is currently planned to host Chinese companies employing French staff.
The plan, made public, when Chinese president Hu Jintao visited France at the end of 2010, should see the light of day in five or six years. A dozen Chinese companies expressed an interest in the plan. More than half the surface of the new compound is located on the premises of the old American war base. The industrial complex will be destined to high-tech Chinese companies using Chinese spare parts but French employees. Some 4,000 jobs could be created.
The investment by local authorities to develop the site is estimated at 100 million euros. A research unit and a Franco-Chinese university are also part of the project.
Chateauroux was chosen because of its airport and the facilities of the military base, which will lose its last regiment by mid2012.
Chateauroux’s most famous son had an extraordinary destiny from his buoyant childhood, when he was nicknamed Petarou (Crackers) to an acting career which led him to become Depardiou (the way the Americans pronounce his name), arguably France’s most renowned living film star.
Gerard Depardieu was born on December 27, 1948, in Chateauroux, the son of Rene Depardieu, a sheet-metal worker, and Alice Marillier, housewife. He grew amidst five brothers and sisters but spent more time in the streets than at school, which he left at the age of 13. In his teens, he lived from petty theft and various deals with GIs from the American base. He took several jobs, played football but the death of his best friend at the time, Jean Mervelle, convinced him it was time to leave Chateauroux for Paris. With a Chateauroux friend, he started to attend comedy classes led by Jean-Lauren Cochet, who took him under his helm. He met his wife, Elisabeth Guignot, at the class.
While his fame was growing, Depardieu never forgot his hometown. He was made a citizen of honour in 1980, inaugurated a garden in the town centre and returned home for the shooting of 2006 movie Michou d’Auber.
While the Wild West feared Billy the Kid, the Tour de France loved its own Chateauroux-bound hero, Marcel “the kid” Dussault. Born in the nearby town of La Chatre, the 1949 yellow jersey holder now lives in Chateauroux in the avenue bearint the name of his birthplace. In 1998, he had not missed the chance to see Mario Cipollini win a stage in front of the Chateau Raoul. Ten years later, he was still around to see the victory by another turbulent kid, Mark Cavendish. The finish line, that day, was just in front of his house! Dussault took the yellow jersey after the first stage of the 1949 Tour but lost it the next day.
“I punctured twice and I had to change my tyre. I made it back on the bunch but still lost the jersey by a few seconds,” he told a local daily.
Marcel Dussault won two more stages, in Pau in 1950 and in Rouen in 1954.
The town of Chateauroux was preceded in history by the locality of Deols, occupied since the Gallo-Roman period.
|937||Local lord Raoul the Large leaves his palace in Deols. He builds a fortress on the left bank of the Indre river.|
|1112||The castle is named Château Raoul after its founder.|
|1176||Death of the last lord of Deols.|
|1188||Philip II Augustus seizes the castle but is not recognised as its owner before a treaty signed in 1200.|
|1356||The Black Prince, son of the King of England, fails to seize the castle and burns the town in retaliation. It is not rebuilt before the 15th century.|
|1519||Chateau Raoul goes to the house of Maille, and Chateau du Parc to the house of Aumont. The dispute is only settled in 1612 when Henry, Prince of Conde, buys the two lots and turns the domain into a Duchy. His son, the Great Conde, never lived in the castle but retained his wife in custody for 24 years.|
|1737||– Louis XV acquires the castle. In 175A, the royal administration started a linen factory and built a section of the Paris –Toulouse road.|
|1790||Chateauroux becomes the prefecture of the department of Indre. Early 19th century - The linen factory is bought back while a military supply factory is created, giving jobs to the population and soldiers.|
|1863||A tobacco factory marks the start of the industrial era in the region.|
|1936||Installation in Deols of an aeronautics plant.|
|1945||A major American base settles in town.|
The castle which gave its name to the town now houses the Prefecture
Built in the park of an old tobacco factory, the castle is an ideal setting for a stroll while the old factory has been turned into a business centre.
It is housed in the former mansion of General Henri-Gatien Bertrand, marshal of the palace and a faithful aide of Napoleon Bonaparte. The archaeology rooms specialised in the Gaul and Gallo-Roman periods are especially remarkable with 21 funeral stalls discovered in 1908 in St Ambroix.
The long ride across the Paris Basin takes the riders on chalky soil which earned the area the nickname of Chalk Sea. The crumbly stone which used to squeak on blackboards appeared 100 million years ago from the accumulation of shells at the bottom of a warm sea which covered most of the centre of France as far as England. Halfway down the stage in Pontlevoy, the peloton rides on younger terrain, dating from 15 million to 20 million years - the Touraine shelly sands. They were formed by fossil shells among which more than 1,000 different species were identified.