Bellegarde-sur-Valserine

Ideally placed

Bellegarde-sur-Valserine is a small town with a tremendous potential. Its situation at the crossroads of France and Switzerland place it in the heart of the arc between France, Geneva and the canton of Vaud. It is only 20 minutes away from Geneva, 40 minutes from Annecy and an hour from Lyon. Thanks to its new TGV railway station Paris is only 2:40 hours away while Italy, by the Mont Blanc tunnel, can be reached within 90 minutes.

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Town path

At the foot of the railway viaduct, the path of the Valserine banks goes down to the oldest hydroelectric plant in France, dating from 1884. 

Overview of Bellegarde-sur-Valserine - © Ville de Bellegarde-sur-Valserine
No previous stage
Population: 11,800
Ain department (01)Economy : plastic industry, Aerosols Aerocan, MGI Coutier (automobile spare parts), transports.
Specialties : dumplings with Nantua sauce, Bugey wines, river fish.
Sport : Union sportive Bellegarde Coupy (rugby)
Celebrities : Louis Dumont (industrialist) , David Venditti (rugby union), Younes Kaboul (football), Nelly Moenne-Loccoz (snowboard).
Festivals : Comics festival (November), Estivals, Musinens castle festival. 

Timeline

  • 13th century

    A castle is built in Musinens.
  • 1601

    Musinens, loyal to the Dukes of Savoy, is the last stronghold to resist the French but the castle surrenders by order of the Duke.
  • 1858

    Bellegarde-sur-Valserine is established in a former hamlet of Musinens by decree of Emperor Napoleon III.
  • 1858

    Opening of a railway station which boost business and industry fuelled by the waters of the Rhone and Valserine rivers.
  • 1883

    Bellegarde becomes one of the very first towns in France equipped with public electricity thanks to the construction of a dam on the Valserine.
  • 1948

    The Genissat dam and the flooding of parts of Bellegarde result in the steep decline of the town.
  • 1966 and 1970

    Bellegarde absorbs Coupy and Arlod, two nearby villages
  • 1980

    The TGV brings new life to the old industrial town.
Bellegarde-sur-Valserine train station - © Ville de Bellegarde-sur-Valserine
No previous stage
Population: 11,800
Ain department (01)Economy : plastic industry, Aerosols Aerocan, MGI Coutier (automobile spare parts), transports.
Specialties : dumplings with Nantua sauce, Bugey wines, river fish.
Sport : Union sportive Bellegarde Coupy (rugby)
Celebrities : Louis Dumont (industrialist) , David Venditti (rugby union), Younes Kaboul (football), Nelly Moenne-Loccoz (snowboard).
Festivals : Comics festival (November), Estivals, Musinens castle festival. 

Bellegarde-sur-Valserine and cycling

The Tour has left Switzerland, but it will draw near to it again by stopping off in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, which is situated about twenty kilometres from the border. Although the river which gave the town its name also acts as a boundary with Savoie, the finish of the stage will actually be judged in Ain. Before this, the Col du Grand Colombier will have impressed the riders, as much by its fearsome gradients as the picture postcard scenery which it boasts. While the Grand Colombier has never feature don the Tour course, it is familiar to riders of the Tour de l’Ain. In the last two editions, France’s Thibaut Pinot was first at the top. Bellegarde hosted a Tour de l’Avenir stage in 2004 and several Tour de l’Ain finishes.

Thibaut Pinot won a Tour de l’Ain stage close to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine - © Presse Sports
No previous stage
Population: 11,800
Ain department (01)Economy : plastic industry, Aerosols Aerocan, MGI Coutier (automobile spare parts), transports.
Specialties : dumplings with Nantua sauce, Bugey wines, river fish.
Sport : Union sportive Bellegarde Coupy (rugby)
Celebrities : Louis Dumont (industrialist) , David Venditti (rugby union), Younes Kaboul (football), Nelly Moenne-Loccoz (snowboard).
Festivals : Comics festival (November), Estivals, Musinens castle festival. 

What to see

Pertes (losses) of the Valserine

The Valserine stream goes winding down steep gorges, falls in cascades and suddenly disappears beneath the rock. The spot where the river “loses itself” was called Les Pertes (the losses) of the Valserine and was used from the most ancient times as a natural bridge used by farmers, migrants and soldiers alike until the 10th century when a proper bridge was built. The spot also became a frontier post and the sight of the water crashing down into deep crevasses is a spectacular one. All around the gorges, deep holes (called “oulles”) were dug by the stream throughout the years.

Musinens castle

A church had for long been standing on the top of the rocky hill overlooking Musinens when the Hospitallers of Jerusalem built a hospital for the travellers taking the bridge over the Valserine in the 13th century. In the same period, Guichard of Musinens built the stronghold with its two towers which became the basement of the current castle.

A century later, the castle passed to the Chatillon family, who embellished it in the Renaissance style and added lodgings. It was the golden age of the castle as Louis of Chatillon, lord of Musinens, became the Grand Esquire of Duke Charles III of Savoy in 1504. In 1601, Jean-Amedee of Bouvens, the Musinens lord at the time, resisted alone against the troops of King Henry IV but finally obeyed the Duke’s orders to surrender. The castle then lost its importance and Musinens its influence.

In 1970, the castle was bought by the municipality of Bellegarde. In 2001 the Musinens Castle festival was launched to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the town’s integration to France.

Mussel castle

The lords of Mussel were mentioned as early as 1349 and were loyal to the Dukes of Savoy. The picturesque castle, with its two towers, changed hands many times and is now the private home of a German family. It cannot be visited.

Painted walls

Painted walls across town tell the history of Bellegarde and its most illustrious moments. The paintings are the works of comic book illustrators, a reference to the Comics Festival taking place in the department for 17 years. One of the paintings, the Tour in Bellegarde, was made before the town knew it would be hosting the world’s most famous race!  

Pertes of the Valserine - © Ville de Bellegarde-sur-ValserineMusinens castle - © Ville de Bellegarde-sur-ValserinePertes of the Rhone - © Ville de Bellegarde-sur-ValserineVanchy - © Ville de Bellegarde-sur-ValserineLe Tour in Bellegarde - © Ville de Bellegarde-sur-Valserine
No previous stage
Population: 11,800
Ain department (01)Economy : plastic industry, Aerosols Aerocan, MGI Coutier (automobile spare parts), transports.
Specialties : dumplings with Nantua sauce, Bugey wines, river fish.
Sport : Union sportive Bellegarde Coupy (rugby)
Celebrities : Louis Dumont (industrialist) , David Venditti (rugby union), Younes Kaboul (football), Nelly Moenne-Loccoz (snowboard).
Festivals : Comics festival (November), Estivals, Musinens castle festival. 

The first electrified town in France

In the middle of the 19th century, several factories settled in Bellegarde, attracted by the power generated by the waters of the Rhone and Valserine rivers. At the time, plants worked thanks to a sophisticated system inspired by old mills, using the energy of waterfalls and called telemechanics.  In 1883, when Swiss industrialist Louis Dumont was given the go-ahead to build an electricity plant, the town went up a gear. In spite of a historical flood, the factory proved solid enough and by 1884, a first turbine was installed, producing power for the factories in Bellegarde and Arlod. In August 1884, Louis Dumont went a step further by introducing electricity in the streets of Bellegarde and in the homes of a few lucky locals. The city created by imperial decree in 1858 became the fist electrified town in France, quickly followed by La Roche-sur-Foron and Bourganeuf. According to sources, 30 to 90 lamps were set up in town and not everything went perfectly right from the start. At first, lamps could only be lit and taken out all together and the intensity varied with the strength of the flood. The introduction of accumulators solved the problem. In a very short period of time, the dam transformed Bellegarde, attracting businesses and workers. This golden era lasted until WWII but in 1948, the creation of another dam, higher up the river in Genissat led to a rapid decline. Harmed by the blow, Bellegarde was boosted again by the arrival of the TGV in 1980. “Bellegarde has changed already but only its inhabitants know it,” said his mayor Regis Petit. The Tour de France will be a way to show the rest of the world. 

Valserine falls
No previous stage
Population: 11,800
Ain department (01)Economy : plastic industry, Aerosols Aerocan, MGI Coutier (automobile spare parts), transports.
Specialties : dumplings with Nantua sauce, Bugey wines, river fish.
Sport : Union sportive Bellegarde Coupy (rugby)
Celebrities : Louis Dumont (industrialist) , David Venditti (rugby union), Younes Kaboul (football), Nelly Moenne-Loccoz (snowboard).
Festivals : Comics festival (November), Estivals, Musinens castle festival. 
video11/07/2012 

The towns 2012 : visit Bellegarde

Jersey wearers after the stage 5

Classifications after the stage 5

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