The first French town to host a Tour de France finish for its 99th edition, Orchies is a sporting town and cycling remains one of the most popular disciplines in the city. Each year, Paris-Roubaix comes to visit Orchies on the cobbles of Chemin des Prieres and Chemin des Abattoirs. In 1962, Jean Stablinski was both winner of the Grand Prix d’Orchies and the road world champion. Orchies’s vocation as a major sports town was emphasised by the construction of a 5,000-capacity sports hall and the presence of a men’s basketball team aiming to join France’s topflight by 2013. Orchies was already known as a stronghold of women’s basketball as the local team was one of Europe’s leading squads in the 1990s. The new sports hall will host to the 2013 women’s European basketball championship finals while international badminton events are also scheduled.
1297Philip IV the Fair invaded the town, which became French in 1305 after the Treaty of Athis sur Orge.
1370Orchies is handed back to the Count of Flanders.
1477The town is plundered by King Louis XI.
1668The Treaty of Aachen hand the town back to France.
1708 to 1712Anglo-Dutch troops seized the town during the War of the Spanish Succession. It changed hands several times during the 18th century.
1858Opening of the Leroux chicory factory.
1914Orchies is destroyed during WWI.One previous finish
Head of canton of Nord (59)Economy : chicory, small industry.
Specialties : chicory.
Sport : Basket Club Orchies.
Celebrities : Fernand Herbo (painter), Alphonse Leroux (chicory manufacturer).
Festivals : Chicoriades (June), Arts Salon, Musikadonf (October).
Orchies and cycling
The riders will make their entrance back to France in Orchies, which submitted a joint candidacy with Tournai as a Euroregion, a unique happening on the Tour. But Orchies is also one of the rare towns that is a stage that does not have a winner! In 1982, only three teams had set off when the team time-trial was interrupted in Denain by strike action, as a protest against the closure of the Usinor Group. On the other hand, last year, the town may have witnessed the birth of a future great champion, with the victory of Germany’s Marcel Kittel in the 1st stage of the Four Days of Dunkirk.
Orchies is also the town of chicory manufacturer Leroux, which sponsored between 1956 and 1962 the cycling team, which included renowned riders such as Jacques Anquetil, Andre Darrigade or Jean Stablinski. Robert Leroux was instrumental in convincing Tour organisers to give up national teams in 1960.
What to see
The Town Hall
It was built in 1610 in the Flemish Renaissance style using both brick and stone. The building was seriously damaged during WWI and was rebuilt in 1926 and inaugurated by Head of government Raymond Poincaré. In 1992, the town hall became too small to host all the municipal services and a new floor was added, which respected the architectural coherence of the lot. The main square of the town, la Grand Place, was refurbished in 2007 and is the main meeting point for the locals.
The Devil’s Tower
It was built in the same times as the city’s walls in1414. It was used as a watchtower and as a prison. On the upper floor, the wall-walk can still be seen, as well as the slits from which the watch was kept.
The first chimes were installed in 1559 and destroyed by the fire that destroyed Orchies in 1914. The latest chime system comprises 48 bells made in Germany in 1995 and weighing about four tons. The new chimes replaced the old ones in 1996 in the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption church. Every year, a festival is organised to promote an instrument typical of the regional culture.
The capital of chicory
Tour de France fans know the Leroux chicory well as the company was one of the pioneers of cycling sponsorship and took over in 1955 a pro team led by Jean Stablinski. Leroux later sponsored the team of five times Tour winner Jacques Anquetil. In its 150 years of existence, the world leader for chicory was always ahead of its time in terms of technology, marketing or environment, hence its lasting success.
In 1858, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Leroux bought the Herbo manufacture, then producing chocolate, mustard and chicory. Five years later, Leroux launched the first mechanical packing machine wrapping up 200 packages per hour. In 1871, the production was reduced to chicory.
The founder’s son Alphonse Henri Eugene was also a visionary. In 1897, the company created a Mutual Assistance Society, which took over the medical costs of the workers, 32 years before the creation of France’s Social Security. Alphonse Henri Eugene was also a gifted advertiser – he launched fidelity tickets, mail orders, the company’s logo symbolised by a Breton woman, and was the first to introduce publicity on the radio as early as 1929. In 1904, he had the idea of opening a Museum of Chicory, which can still be visited today in the old family house.
In 1950, Robert Leroux started sport sponsorship with a cycling team and Leroux still supports Orchies basketball team and the RC Lens football club.
In 1998, Leroux pioneered a new organic system to recycle waters, which are used to irrigate a plantation of willow trees. The company keeps developing globally through its international branches Pacha and Molabe.
Jersey wearers after the prologue
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