- The race 2011
- All about the race
Place de la Promenade© Mairie d’Aigurande
• Stage town on 1 previous occasion
• 1, 700 inhabitants
• Cantonal subdivision of Indre (36)
Principal town of the canton, Aigurande is situated on the administrative border between the Indre and Creuse departments, and has spent a long time playing hide-and-seek between the Marche and Berry regions. With a high point of 440 metres, the municipality enjoys the fresh open air of the lush and varied landscape of the Berrichonne countryside so dear to the writer George Sand. Two rivers – the Bouzanne and the Vauvre – have their source in Aigurande, and the number of wells in the town remind you that Aigurande got its name from the old Gallic word ’equoranda’, meaning ’the end of the water’.
From its past, Aigurande has kept the ruins of its feudal castle, the Notre-Dame church (eleventh-fourteenth century) and the eighteenth-century Notre-Dame de la Bouzanne chapel. But Aigurande is also about living in the present, and boasts a number of shops and small businesses, an ultra-modern printing press and a dynamic environment in which to live. And it’s looking to the future, too, of course: recent additions to the town include a new nursery school, a new public services building and a new health centre.
The small village of Indre has only been part of the Tour de France route in recent years. But it can already pride itself on the particular link that it has established with Mark Cavendish, who holds the exceptional record of having won 15 stages of the race in three years. Indeed, in 2008 the peloton set off from Aigurande for the 6th stage, just after the first victory of Cavendish on the Tour in Châteauroux. And although it was not mentioned as one of the stages of the 2009 Tour, the race’s cyclists passed through the village once more on the route between Limoges and Issoudun where «Cav» raised his arms yet again!
Lake Pavin - The 7,000-year-old Lake Pavin is the youngest crater lake in metropolitan, but one of the Auvergne’s deepest, most beautiful and most mysterious lakes© OT Sancy
• Stage site on 3 previous occasions
• Winter sports resort of Puy-de-Dôme (63)
• Part of the commune of Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise (1, 700 inhabitants)
This year, the Super-Besse ski resort, in the massif du Sancy, at an altitude of 1,350-1,850 metres, celebrates its 50th birthday. The resort boasts 45 kilometres of ski-run (with nearby Mont-Dore’s 43 kilometres also within easy reach) and 260 snow canons, as well as offering cross-country skiing. During the summer, its position at the heart of the Auvergne national park opens it up to a host of other sports: horse-riding, fishing, swimming, as well as hiking and mountain biking on the newly improved tracks. And in winter, apart from the skiing, Super-Besse is also home to the final round of the Andros Trophy ice-driving championships. Situated seven kilometres down from the resort, the maze of narrow cobbled streets that is the mediaeval and Renaissance town of Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise celebrates its rich history. The ski museum here displays a large collection of wooden skis collected from all over Europe, while each summer the Fête des Estives attracts thousands of visitors to watch the Salers cattle being led through the streets to finish up on the plateau next to Lake Pavin.
The finish will be judged at the end of a very steep slope as it was in 2008. Thirty years earlier, the Tour first visited Super-Besse, and this marked the start of Bernard Hinault’s long relationship with the Grande Boucle (Big Loop). The stage was won by Paul Wellens, but the young French cyclist was already lying in ambush, in second place in the general classification, behind Joseph Bruyère. In 1996, Rolf Sorensen won the second stage of his career on the Tour de France in Super-Besse.