- The Race 2010
- All about the race
The capital of aluminium since the 1970s, Issoire adapted to innovation to retain its pole position in the field. In 1974, Soviet engineers started work on a huge press of a 65,000 tons power. Inaugurated in1977, it is still the biggest aluminium press in Europe. Fortech (formerly Forgeal), a company specialised in equipment for aeronautics, also has four presses, the most powerful reaching 20,000 tons.
Issoire became at the time the European leader for the production of thick sheet for the aeronautics industry.
Since then, the aluminium complex has seen the introduction of more companies (Aclan Rhénalu, Aubert & Duval) and focuses on the production of advanced materials for air and land transport.Alcan Rhenalu is the main employer in the area. It produces spare parts for EADS (Airbus, Ariane).
Since Decmeber 1, 1999, nine communes from the Auvergne joined forces to give a new impetus to tourism by promoting an exceptional Romanesque heritage. Auzon, Blesle, Brioude, Issoire, Lavaudieu, Orcival, Mailhat-Lamontgie, Saint-Nectaire and Saint-Saturnin regrouped to create Terres Romanes d'Auvergne associaition (Auvergne Romanesque lands). On this Romanesque map, Issoire takes one of the central stages thanks to the abbatial St Austremoine but also to its Romanesque Art Centre.
In 816, Benedictine minks coming from Charroux in Poitou and fleeing the Borman invasions found refuge in St Yovine. One of them, called Gislebert, went to Issoire to build a new monastery. In the 12th century, the building and its abbatial church are completely rebuilt and it is the monument we can still visit today. With its harmonious proportions, the abbatial is one of the gems of Roman art in the region. The Romanesque Art Centre has taken its quarters in the buildings of the old abbey.
It aims at enhancing the knowledge and the promotion of the Romanesque heritage with dedicated spaces for video, research and documentation. Restoration campaigns on the old vaulted rooms of the abbey have made it possible to host visitors. Every summer at the end of July a Romanesque festival is held including concerts, shows, exhibitions, excursions and workshops. An international congress traditionally marks the end of the Romanesque season.
For long ignored by the Tour de France, whose course tended to follow the outskirts of the Hexagon, the Issoire region made a late entrance into Tour history. It however held a stage finish in 1983, won by Frenchman Pierre Le Bigault. Two days later, the peloton left town for a peculiar stage in which victory was eventually awarded tot the rider who actually finished 7th. In the final stretch in St Etienne, Michel Laurent had crashed 50 metre from the line after a ill-tempered sprint with his breakaway companion Henk Lubberding. Laurent was finally awarded the laurels yet his only stage victory in eight Tours had a bitter taste as the Burgundy-born rider was forced out the next day. Winner of the Dauphine Libere and Fleche Wallonne in his career, Laurent also finished 7th in the 1977 Tour. In 2005, the Tour left Issoire for Le Puy en Velay and the stage was won by Giuseppe Guerini.
|3rd century||Foundation of a monastery by St Austremoine.|
|937||Consecration by Clermont bishop Bernard of a new monastery dedicated to St Pierre and St Austremoine. The monastery is rebuilt in the mid-12th century.|
|1548||A Protestant is burnt alive. The Wars of Religion rage in Issoire.|
|1590||Jacques de Villelume-Barmontet, head of the fight against the leaguers, is named governor.|
|1629||Plague kills many inhabitants.|
|1831||Construction of a bridge on the Allier. The town lives on the barges, which disappear with the arrival of the railway in 1855.|
|1938||Installation of the car equipment factory Ducellier, today Valeo.|
|1974||Installation of the biggest aluminium press in the world.|
A registered monument since 1835, the St Austremoine church and his typical of the Romanesque style of the 12th century. Colour is the first striking feature on entering the church, which was painted in 1859. The capitals are decorated with scenes from the Passion of Christ and have probably been sculpted by experienced artists from Languedoc.
It was probably ordered in the 15th century by Austremoine Bohier and his brother Antoine, both merchants and consuls of Issoire. The tower had several functions – watchtower, communal house - while its bell marked the hourly life of the inhabitants. Its current figure dates from an 1830 restoration. Its recent refurbishing makes it a fascinating mix of modern and ancient architecture.
Subprefectures : Ambert, Issoire, Riom, Thiers
Like most of the Auvergne region, Puy de Dome suffered a severe loss in population and has the same population of 604,000 today as in 1850. Disparities are important as 43 pc of the population concentrates around prefecture Clermont-Ferrand, the main economic and urban centre. Clermont-Ferrand is renowned as the French capital of tyres with Michelin and is also a major base for the food processing industry. The department takes increasing interest in its natural heritage and its two natural parks, Parc regional des Volcans d’Auvergne and Parc du Livradois-Foez attract more and more tourists seeking authenticity and wildlife.
Villeneuve Lembron castle
Stronghold of the Dauphins of Auvergne until the 15th century, Villeneuve later went to the Aureille family. The castel was built by Rigaut d’Aureille at the time. Born circa 1450, Rigaud became butler for Kings Louis XI, Charles VIII, Louis XII and Francis I. A diplomat and a soldier, he held a strong political position. The construction of the castle was intended to reflect his success and social status. The building was hardly altered and is now a rare instance of an early Renaissance manor-house. The square building, cornered by four towers, was originally decorated by wall paintings only parts of which are preserved. Some of them dealt with moral subjects and reveal Rigaud d‘Aureille’s misogyny.
In 1937, the State bought the castle and restored it. The stables were only acquired in the 1960s and narrowly saved from demolition.
The castle is said to be haunted by the “baraille” or “yellow woman” who wanders in the corridors at night and puts her ice-cold hands on the people sleeping in the house.
Prefecture: Le Puy-en-Velay
Subprefectures: Issoire, Yssingeaux
Site web : www.auvergnevacances.com
The Haute Loire department belongs to the Auvergne region and has a population of 217,300 spread over 260 towns and communes.
The exceptional site of Le Puy en Velay with its cathedral a listed World Heritage site nest in the green setting of volcanic mountains sculpted by water and fire. Sometimes dubbed the inland Mont St Michel, Le Puy is also the starting point of one of the main routes on the Way of St James. The ancient Benedictine abbey of La Chaise-Dieu, a real cathedral in the middle of a forest, welcomes every year a famous festival of spiritual and sacred music.
The Puy en Velay has been long renowned as an importance centre for handmade lace. Haute Loire is still widely seen a s a rural department while agriculture accounts for only 10 pc of its workforce. One of the best known speciality is the green lentil of Le Puy. Sometimes called the poor man’s caviar, it stands out for its sweet and fine taste and its green colour. Another local favourite is the Verveine du Velay liquor.
Industry is based around Yssingeaux while Le Puy is the main administrative centre.
North of Massiac stand the important remains of a 14th century castle. The building overlooking the river Alagnon belonged to the Dauphins of Auvergne, who had it built in 1261 on a site fortified as early as the 11th century. The view from the hilltop is spectacular and a small picturesque road leads to the hamlet of Lanau with views on the Alagnon valley and the Torsiac castle.
Blesle developed around the St Pierre Abbey founded in the 9th century by Ermengarde of Auvergne, the mother of Guillaume the Pious, Duke of Aquitaine and founder of the Cluny Abbey. In the late 10th century, the powerful barons of Mercoeur decided to settle in Blesle spurring a conflict with the abbesses. They had to wait for the 13th century to obtain the jurisdiction by royal support. They built a huge tower, the Tower with 20 edges, in spite of protest by the nuns. In the same period, the abbatial is rebuilt and enlarged. A prosperous town in the 17th century thanks to several local industries like tanning and breeding, Blesle was depleted by the departure of its inhabitants for big cities in the late 19th century. The extraction of antimony maintained some activity but it stopped in 1958. The towers, walls and timber frame houses remind the rich past of the village while the abbatial church attracts many tourists.
Subprefectures : Mauriac, Saint-Flour
The Cantal, in the Auvergne region, is a rural, mountainous and volcanic department whose high point is the Plomb du Cantal at 1,855 metre high. With some 150,000 inhabitants, it is one of France’s least densely populated areas and a place where agriculture and green tourism dominate.
Cantal gave its name to a renowned cheese, symbolic of its agricultural vocation and its way of life. The meat and cheese from Salers are other specialities of international fame. Its climate is wrongly considered one of the coldest in France. If snow makes the department an unheralded destination for winter sports, Cantal remains a South-Western department with as much sun as its neighbours.
The town of Alanche lies at the foot of the Cezalier mountains, on the hillsides of a narrow valley by the river Allanche. The name of Allanche comes either from Atlantia, the name given to a relic of St John the Baptis kept in town or from Albantia, meaning covered with snow.
St John the Baptist church
Listed since 2002, the church keeps a Romanesque chevet in a fine state of conservation. The building is particularly rich in furniture and statues. The most remarkable features are its baroque altar from the 17th century, the treasure chapel, and a 15th century pieta.
The Gentian Express
The Gentian express is a railway tour following part of the old line between Bort-les-Orgues and Neussargues. The train rides for 39 kilometres between Bort-les-Orgues (19) and Lugarde (15), though Cheyssac, Vebret, Antignac, the Salsignac viaduct, St Etienne-de-Chomeil, Menet, Riom-es-Montagnes, the viaducts of Barajol and Chassagny, Condat-en-Feniers and Saint-Amandin. The railway winds along the high valley of Dordogne, crosses the Cezalier plateau and climbs the Pierrefitte pass (1,052 metres), allowing a splendid view on the mountainous landscapes of the Auvergne Volcanos Park from Puy de Sancy to Puy Mary. The circuit can be continued to Neussargues and Moissac and stop in Allanche for the summer festival. The Gentian Express circuit is organised by association Chemins de Fer de la Haute-Auvergne (CFHA), who aim at preserving and promoting the rail heritage of the region.
Dienne, which owes its name to a former temple of goddess Diane, is a member of the Auvergne Volcanos Natural Park.
St Cyr and St Juliette church
Listed as monument historique, the large Romanesque church, topped by an intriguing steeple was built in the late 12th century by Cistercian monks from the Obazine abbey in the Correze. A 13th century wooden Christ on the cross has made the reputation of the site.
La Cheyrelle castle
The manor and farmhouse was built in1866 in picturesque pseudo medieval style . From 1902 to 1905, the built is enlarged and refurbished by Aprisian architect Rene Dulong for the owner, banker Pierre Felgeres. The inside decoration is the work of Belgian architect Gustave Serrurier-Bovy. The original setting is intact to the exception of a few pieces of furniture kept in Paris Orsay museum. The castle was restored in 1996.
The Pas de Peyrol (1 589 m) is the highest road pas in the Massif Central. From the top, the Puy Mary can be reached by a few concrete steps. The pass is at the crossing of there roads: Aurilac to the south-west, Mauriac to the north-west and Dienne to the east. The Tour de France climbed the pass eight times and saw the most famous climbers reach it in first position: after Louis Bergaud in 1959, Federico Bahamontes, Lucien Van Impe, Eduardo Chozas and Richard Virenque led the way on it. In 2008, the first man at the top was David de la Fuente.
Mandailles spreads over the massifs of Puy Mary, Griou and Chavaroche. In the heart of one of the most beautiful beech forest in the department, the Cirque de Mandailles is a famous hiking destination, multiplying the population by five in the tourist season. One of the main villages producing the Cantal cheese, the town saw many of its sons leave for Paris where they became bar owners and returned home their fortune made.
Over 1,200 metres in altitude, on the La Planeze plateau, dozens of small cabins of stone covered by slates can be found. They are called burons and were the places where the Cantal cheese was made in the past. They were also the homes of farmers watching over their cows during the summer season.
The locality draws its names from its presence on one of the routes of the Way of St James, the Via Arvenha, which starts in Clermont-Ferrand, goes through Rocamadaour and crosses the border at the Ronceveaux pass. On the commune’s territory are most of the mounts of Cantal like the 1,690 metres Puy Griou ,which is not a volcano like it was previously believed.
Le Lioran is one of the oldest ski resorts in Auvergne as skiing was practised here as early as 1906. Its ski domain is one of the largest in Auvergne. The village developed thanks to the arrival of the train in what was at the time the highest railway station in Europe. The first hotel opened in 1898. But the real start of the resort was the inauguration in 1967 of the Plomb du Cantal lift by then Prime minister Georges Pompidou. The lift was replaced in 1989. Super Lioran is above all a family resort but will please Nordic and alpine skiers, as well as hikers of all levels. Its patron is downhill Olympic champion Carole Montilllet.
In 1975, a Tour de France stage finished in town and was won by Belgium’s Michel Pollentier.
The town’s name means steep rock and it is surrounded by three basaltic pikes. To the north, the Bonnevie Rock holds the finest columnar basalt in Europe. To the South, the Bredons Rock is topped by a lovely 11th century church. To the North-East stands the Chastel Rock.
The diatomite site in Auxillac-Foufouilloux is another remarkable spot. A few million years ago, the sea reached as far as here and left tiny plankton fossils in think layers of silicon. The fossils are used to filter beer.
In the 14th century, the fortified town was leaning on the Murat rock. Within its walls, it was a busy city with fairs, markets, inns and craftsmen. The town was fortified several times as three rows of walls are still visible. The powerful Bonnevie castle on the eponymous rock was demolished by Richelieu in 1643.
In 1944, Murat was one of the strongholds of the local Resistance. In the summer, Murat hosts classical music master classes with concerts by both teachers and pupils as well as a popular festival of world music.
Among the personalities inked to Murat are the parents of French president Georges Pompidou, who were schoolteachers in town, an former rugby union international Olivier Magne.
Maison de la faune (Wildlife house)
A cosy 17th century townhouse is host to a fascinating museum of wildlife showing a range of animals from the tinest flies to the biggest Cantal deer. The insect collection is especially impressive with some 6,000 items.
The Prat de Bouc pass, topping at 1,392 metres, is on the East flank of the Plomb du Cantal (1,835 metres) and is well known locally as the starting point of the ski slopes of the Super-Lioran resort. In 1975, in a stage leading to Super-Lioran, Eddy Merckx was first at the top.
Plomb du Cantal is the highest point in Auvergne at 1,855 metres. Its almost as high as the Massif Central highest summit, the Puy de Sancy (1,866 metres).
The Grandval dam is located over the river Truyere, an affluent of the Lot. It was the site of a scene in 1965 movie La Grande Vadrouille.
It is a ruined medieval castle, flanked by the 15th century St Illide chapel. Owned in later the 12th century by Beraud VIII of Mercoeur, constable of Auvergne, the castle became the property of the bishops of Clermont. It was an outpost of the St Flour citadel. In the Hundre Years War, Bernard de Garlan (who had sized with the English), took it over. He ravaged the land and his memory was so painful that St Flour inhabitants burnt the place down in 1405. The lord of La Tour, who owned the castle, forced them to rebuilt it anew.
The saying goes that only mountains never meet but St Flour has been contradicting it for ten years in organising the Festival des Hautes Terres (Highlands festival) dedicated to the culture of mountain areas all over the world. For three days in the end of June, the festival is a showcase of the cultural identity of the Massif Central though music, tales, theatre and dance. Crafts, gastronomy and the mountain way of life are not forgotten either.
The cultures of “other mountains” are also invited to the festival. In 2010, Corsica topped the bill with local bands and artists. Since the festival was launched in 2000, Madagascar and the Reunion Island (2009), Spain (2008), Corsica (2007), Scotland’s Highlands (2006) the Alps, Galicia, Asturias, Sardinia and the Pyrenees were all honoured.
Anchorites and anchoresses are one of the most bizarre institutions of the Middle Ages and the most famous in France were probably St Flour’s. They were pious persons, mostly women, who decided to live as a recluse in a cell for the rest of their lives. These cells, called recluseries in France, were placed at the entrance of villages and towns, and often on bridges. The English words anchorite and anchoress come from the Greek word anachoretes, meaning a person living in isolation. The recluse’s function was to pray God to protect the city against evils and plagues. The St Flour’s recluserie was on the banks of river Ander under the St Christine bridge and its location can still be seen today. These hermits lived a miserable life as they remained locked in their cells in the humidity and cold (temperatures can reach –30 C in the winter in St Flour). Their agony was witnessed by the inhabitants but it was out of the question to release them before they achieved their goal of a holy death. Anchorites and anchoresses were only fed if charitable souls brought them supplies. They were frequently widows, encouraged by their families as a recluse brought fame to the name. The St Flour cell was probably established in the 12th century. Most recluses were women because they resisted the ordeal better than men.
Two stages ended up in St Flour but the 2004 finish remains a date in the history of French cycling. That year, Richard Vienque stole the show on Bastille day with a 208-kms break, first with Axel Merckx, then on his own for the last 67 kilometres. On the finish line, Virenque bagged his 7th stage victory and the points collected allowed him to conquer a record-seventh polka dot jersey. It was also Virenque’s last stage victory and the proof that the man’s climbing flair had not been diminished by the Festina doping scandal. At the finish, two fingers pointed to the sky, Virenque was paying homage to two of the most important persons in his life – his recently deceased grandmother and his soigneur Joel Chabiron, who had died two days before.
|4TH century||Evangelisation of the city by bishop St Florus, later named St Flour.|
|1095||Odilon de Mercœur, the town founder, creates a priory following the rule of Cluny.|
|1317||St Flour has more than 8,000 inhabitants and reaches its peak. A bishop see is created.|
|14th century||The town is surrounded with walls.|
|15rh century||Construction of a new cathedral which becomes Cathedral St Pierre.|
|1790||The town becomes prefecture of the Cantal department until 1795 (Aurillac)|
|WWII||St Flour resists bravely to the German occupation. Poems by Paul Eluard, who had sought refuge in the area, are printed in St Flour.|
The history of the bridge is linked to the anchorites and anchoresses who spent their lives as recluses beneath it praying for the town to be spared by eveils and plagues.
Formerly known as Grant Plassa, Place d’Armes is the main square of the town centre and most streets end in it. Mostly built in basalt, the square draws most of its charm to the peculiar colour of the stone.
Proclaimed religious capital of High Auvergne in 1317, the town built its famous cathedral only in the 15th century on the ruins of a priory founded by Cluny abbot Odilon de Mercoeur. Inside, the Black Christ, the stained glass windows telling the tale of St Florus, the frescos of Hell and the purgatory and the organ are the most interesting features.
EA volcanic stage for the 8th day on the road since riders will find on their route the biggest volcano in Europe, Cantal, which covers more than 3,000 km2.
Springing from the Earth 13 million years ago, its eruptions formed a huge massif reaching 3,000 meters in altitude. Its summit later collapsed in a huge landslide which cut its height down to 1,855 metres today at the Plomb du Cantal.
Extinct for the last two million years, the volcano was later sliced by deep valleys dug by the glaciers which covered the Massif Central in the age of mammoths a million years ago. Fortunately for riders, mammoths are no longer with us but the climbs remain.