«I would like to thank you, Sir, for what you do for people of modest means.»
When Jean-Marie Leblanc, my predecessor, the symbolic director of the Tour for eighteen years, received this compliment from a man,
I was right beside him. It was in Liège, a stone’s throw from the Palace of the Prince Bishops, before the first, and to this day, unique «Grand Départ» (Official Start) from the Province. Jean-Marie, the staunch defender of the Tour’s social values, was deeply moved by this.
I am telling you this story because it illustrates both the ability of the “Grand Boucle”, this wonderful, free, well-known event, (open to everyone and for everyone), to bring people together, and because it highlights a key feature of the links which form the basis of the mutual understanding between the Province of Liège and the Tour de France.
Because a society without a memory is a society without a future, here I would like to pay tribute to those who were at the origin of the privileged relations between our two institutions: Paul Bolland, who today oversees the future of the Royal Cyclist’s Pesant Club Liégeois, and Jean-Marie Leblanc.
Of course , first of all, the Province of Liège has objective advantages foremostly, that have allowed it to attract the greatest race in the world for the second time in eight years- in addition to regular stages: a very enthusiastic population imbued with cycling; exceptional cultural and sports heritage, with the legendary races the Flèche Wallonne and “La Doyenne” (the oldest classic, Liège-Bastogne-Liège). It also has a landscape that is perfectly adapted to competition cycling, with the Ardennes hills which herald the arrival of spring and can of course be featured as part of the Tour de France route. Lastly it has a technical team which is devoted to and experienced in major events. We already know that in Liège, Seraing, Visé and everywhere on the route of the race’s initial stages, the keynote of the 2012 “Grand Départ” will be excitement and communicative enthusiasm. But this joint adventure is also without a doubt the story of men. And we are firmly committed, with my friend André Gilles, to continuing it.
Director of Tour de France
It is with enthusiasm and undisguised pride that once again the Province of Liège will host the “Grand Départ” of the 2012 Tour de France - after the success of the 2004 edition.
The spearhead of a leading sport, the Tour de France is a world scale event and a major popular celebration. An outward-looking attitude in addition to the bringing together of an entire population in a convivial manner around a project with major positive media coverage are in keeping with the spirit of the Province of Liège and its inhabitants. This will ensure that the Tour will receive the welcome that it deserves, which has always been the case every time that we have cooperated together on previous occasions.
A land of sport and of sportsmen and women, the Province of Liège has many excellent venues, clubs and champions in its region. We thus regularly collaborate on major sports events, but the Tour de France is of course the most outstanding and popular of these, without forgetting the international classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and La Flèche Wallonne. Moreover, this passion for sport is not only on a professional level, as the thousands of bicycle tourists present on our roads remind us.
A region of great events, the Province of Liège has acquired a certain expertise in the organisation of large-scale cultural and sports manifestations, such as the Tour de France. Modern facilities, including the new “TGV” (high speed train) station, the first Belgian cargo airport, the third European river port and a foremost motorway network, provide a perfect setting to host these events and open the Province de Liège to the world.
Lastly, the Province of Liège is a land of conviviality and celebrations, but also application and flair, that will welcome the Tour with open arms.
Let us congratulate, in this respect, the personnel who will work alongside A.S.O., the organiser of the Tour, for their expertise and availability. We have no doubts that the inhabitants of Liège, Seraing and Visé as well as the population of the whole province will make this great popular celebration outstanding with their warm encouragements.
All of them will be present to remind our French friends, and all the lovers of cycling, that the Tour de France is really at home in the Province of Liège, so that the race will get off to a good start.
The President of the College of the Province of Liège
The Province of Liège is situated in south eastern Belgium, in the Walloon Region. It has a population of slightly more than one million inhabitants and is made up of 3 “arrondissements” (Liège, Verviers, Huy-Waremme) and 84 municipalities, spread over a surface area of 3, 862 km².
The city of Liège (192, 000 inhabitants), bears the same name as the province, of which it is the county town.
Seraing has 62, 000 inhabitants and the population of Visé is almost 17, 000 inhabitants.
The Province of Liège is also a political entity, run by a Provincial College and a Provincial Council.
|Dates to remember|
|Wednesday 27th June:||the opening of the race headquarters and the press centre at the “Halles de la Foire Internationale de Liège”, (Halls of the International Fair of Liège) on the Quai de Wallonnie.|
|Thursday 28th June:||presentation of the teams of the 2012 Tour de France in Liège|
|Saturday 30th June:||prologue in Liège 6.1 km|
|Sunday 1st July:||stage one, Liège > Seraing: 180 km|
|Monday 2sd July:||start of stage two in Visé|
|Access to Liège|
|Par avion :||Liège Airport is situated 10 km from the city centre|
|Par le train :||several daily links are provided between Paris and Liège by Thalys (journey time: 2h10)|
|Par la route :||70 km from Paris on the motorway|
The 2012 Tour de France will set off from the Parc d’Avroy, in the heart of Liège. The launch ramp for this prologue will be set up on the Avenue Rogier. On a 6.1 km long flat course marked out in the city centre, identical to the one where the Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara was the winner in 2004, the cyclists will head north on the Boulevard d’Avroy and then on the Boulevard de la Sauvenière. They will then join the Quai Roosevelt, which runs alongside the River Meuse, and will then turn left at La Batte to pass through the Place Saint-Lambert in front of the Palais des Princes-Évêques. Then they will take the Boulevard de la Sauvenière and the Boulevard d’Avroy again, in the opposite direction, to reach the finish line.
The Parc d’Avroy will once again be the meeting point for the peloton before going to the Place Saint-Lambert for the official ceremony to mark the start of the race in front of the Palais des Princes-Évêques. Then the peloton will travel along hilly roads, the routes taken by the Ardennes Classics, and will head for the south east of the Province passing by Spa-Francorchamps in particular and its motor racing circuit. The race will then make a detour through the Province of Luxembourg, via the Baraque de Fraiture, one of Belgian’s highest bridges (652m) and Hotton, before going to north to Seraing where the finish will be judged in front of the Val Saint-Lambert Glassworks.
The third and final day in the Province of Liège. The race will set off from Visé which will be hosting a stage of the Tour de France for the first time. The peloton will head for…
In 1919, the year of the creation of the Yellow Jersey, Firmin Lambot (at the left) was the first rider to win in Paris, wearing the famous garment. He is one of the ten Belgian riders to have won the Tour de France.
The history of cycling owes a great deal to Liège, of which the name is associated with the most demanding round trip of the season for the world’s elite cyclists, Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But beyond the oldest of the Classics, Belgium is above all a land steeped in the culture of cycling. The peloton of the Tour de France is expected there in 2012 for a “Grand Départ” (the nineteenth one to be held outside of France) which will be the fourth one hosted by the country, after Brussels in 1958, Charleroi in 1975 and Liège, already in 2004.
In 1947, the first post World War Two edition of the Tour was held and the race adopted an international standing. For its first trip beyond the French borders, the Tour de France naturally turned towards its northern neighbour. After all, the Belgian riders were, in the pre-war years, the most fearsome opponents of the French riders – with 12 victories including those of two Walloon cyclists, Firmin Lambot and Léon Scieur versus 15-, and their most titled representative, Philippe Thys, was the only three-time winner of the race in those days. Since this pioneer post-war day which finished victoriously for René Vietto in Brussels, 37 Belgian towns in total, of which 7 are in the Province of Liège, have hosted stage starts or finishes. And their champions have constantly livened up the discussions on the Tour de France. Although Eddy Merckx was the most prolific in terms of records during his five victories, his fellow countrymen sprinters also proved themselves to be very accomplished during the “Grande Boucle” (Big Loop) (19 green jerseys won in the general points classification since its creation in 1953), and some have also managed to excel in the mountains such as Lucien Van Impe, the last Belgian winner of the Tour (1976) and the six-time winner of the best climber classification.
|Metz > Liège||Gino Bartali|
|Metz > Liège||Adolfo Leoni|
|Metz > Liège||Fritz Schaer|
|Reims > Liège||André Darrigade|
|Nancy > Spa||Rudi Altig|
|Cologne > Liège||Rik Van Looy|
|Liège > Liège (contre-la-montre par équipe)||Équipe Ford France Gitane|
|Louvain > Verviers||Miguel Maria Lasa|
|Metz > Liège||Henk Lubberding|
|Spa-Francorchamps > Spa-Francorchamps (contre-la-montre)||Bernard Hinault|
|Luxembourg > Spa-Francorchamps||Raul Alcala|
|Charleroi > Liège||Johan Bruyneel|
|Huy > Seraing (contre-la-montre)||Miguel Indurain|
|Anvers > Seraing||Erik Zabel|
|Liège > Liège (prologue)||Fabian Cancellara|
|Bruxelles > Spa||Sylvain Chavanel|
|Morever Liège (1989), Huy (2001, 2006), Wanze (2010) have been start towns.|
Le château de Jehay
Les Cristalleries du Val Saint-Lambert
The Province of Liège is located between Germanic Northern Europe and Latin Southern Europe and has contrasting and varied landscapes. In the West, the plateaux of the fertile Hesbaye and green Condroz regions are separated by the Valley of the River Meuse. In the North, the Herve region resembles a miniature Normandy, with its groves and hedges. In the East are the High Fagnes with their exceptional natural setting. Lastly, in the South, the rugged valleys of Ourthe and Amel are one of the most beautiful sights in the Belgian Ardennes.
The capital of this region, Liège, also known as “the Ardent City”, has a glorious past with a heritage that is particularly rich in churches and museums. Situated at the crossroads of Europe, it is a prime tourist, cultural and economic area. With the remarkable renovation of the Museum of Walloon Life and that of the Grand Curtius, the new and grandiose “TGV” (high-speed train) station designed by the architect Santiago Calatrav, the Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Opera of Walloonia, Liège has become internationally renowned, allowing it to rival with the other great major European cities. But it is also a warm and traditional city, with its historical centre, its characteristic districts, its gastronomy, its renowned “Carré” with its cosmopolitan atmosphere, without forgetting its famous “péket” (a spirit made from juniper berries)!
Apart from the undeniable and uncontested advantages of the Ardent City, globally the Province of Liège boasts a quality tourist offer, making it Wallonia’s most popular province for tourists. It is the only province that has thermal springs, Spa and Chaudfontaine. Additionaly, it has other exceptional attractions, such as the very famous Spa-Francorchamps motor racing circuit, renowned as the most beautiful one of its kind in the world, Blegny-Mine, the only mine that can be visited in Europe, a choice of more than eight hundred walks, as well as a great number of castles which have been magnificently preserved.