- The race 2011
- All about the race
The Limoux carnival – the longest in the world – at the Place de la République© Service communication ville de Limoux
• Stage town for the first time
• 10, 300 inhabitants
• Sub-prefecture of Aude (11)
Throughout its history, Limoux spread out from the church at its centre before striking rich with its linen and leather trade. Limoux is famous for its Blanquette sparkling wine, its ’Toques et Clochers’ auction, its carnival and its gastronomy.
Blanquette is the oldest sparkling wine in the world. Discovered in 1531, the winemaking method used to create it was later used to make Dom Pérignon champagne. It is the main industry of the town and the region, as is the Anne de Joyeuse cave, which also produces top-quality wines.
The “Toques et Clochers” wine auction is organised each spring in order to raise money to restore old church steeples – clochers – in the area. After the auction, dinner is cooked by a top chef – a ’toque’, which is in fact the name of the traditional white chef’s hat.
Each winter, the Limoux Fécos, or carnival, is celebrated for a period of three months. Festivities commence twelve weeks before Palm Sunday, making it the longest carnival in the world.
And as for gastronomy, take your pick from pébradous (biscuits), salted liver artichokes, duck, fricassee, limos (brioche), pescalhos (pancakes), nougat...
The town is very renowned for Blanquette, a sparkling wine which inspired the famous monk Dom Pérignon to create the méthode champenoise (the traditional method used in the Champagne region of France to produce the sparkling wine known as champagne). In terms of cycling, the town is welcoming the Tour de France for the first time this year, but it is already familiar with prestigious podiums. In 1976, during a stage of the Grand Prix du Midi Libre, Lucien Van Impe, a future winner of the Tour, finished first in Limoux, ahead of Bernard Hinault and Raymond Poulidor. As for women riders, Limoux is also one of the regular stage sites of the Tour de l’Aude. Mariane Vos, the Women’s World.
Place de la Comédie© Ville de Montpellier
• Stage town on 29 previous occasions
• 260, 000 inhabitants
• Prefecture of Hérault (34)
It has taken centuries – a thousand years, even – for the agricultural area of ’Monte Pestelario’ to become the Montpellier of today, with its magnificent mansions, the Place de la Canourgue, Saint-Peter’s cathedral, and the Peyrou royal garden bearing witness to its past greatness. Historical figures such as Jacques Coeur, finance minister to King Charles VII, have done much for the city’s reputation. The Peyrou royal garden is at the highest point of the city, and is home to a magnificent bronze statue of Louis XIV – the so-called Sun King – in whose honour the garden was built. While still boasting a sumptuous historic centre, Montpellier has had to grow and adapt to accommodate an unprecedented growth in population. New neighbourhoods include Antigone, Malbosc, Odysseum, Ovalie and Port Marianne, helping to make Montpellier the eighth largest city in France, and one of Southern Europe’s economic capitals.
France’s most dynamic city in terms of its population is also used to seeing the Tour’s riders come out of nowhere, who typically fight it out there in a sprint. In any event, this was the scenario of the last two straight stages, which were won in 2005 and in 2007 by Robbie McEwen and Robert Hunter respectively. As luck would have it, Montpellier has become an unusual feature in statistical terms in the history of the Tour de France. Indeed, the prefecture of Hérault hosted the 500th stage of the Grande Boucle (Big Loop) in 1936. Almost 30 years later, in 1963, another Belgian cyclist, édouard Sels, won the stage there, on the day that the 1000th stage took place!