The first key test
"After eight days of racing, we reach the Pyrenees. The scene would be a familiar one if it wasn't for the start in Corsica and the consequences that is likely to have had. Where will the contenders be placed before taking on the very difficult Col de Pailhères, the first key test of this 100th Tour? No one can say for sure, even though it's a good bet there will already be some decent gaps between them going into this stage. My worry?
That Wiggins, Froome and Porte finish one, two and three at the summit of Ax 3 Domaines, which wouldn't sit well with the glorious uncertainty of sport! But we will have to wait and see. In any case, the Spaniards will be ready. They are heading into their terrain..."
A sporting view
In the South of the Tarn, ideally situated between Albi, Carcassonne and Toulouse, Castres is a stop on the Pilgrimage Route of Santiago de Compostela and a town with a deep and subtle charm. Suspended above the River Agoût, its colourful houses in pastel shades have lent it the nickname of Little Venice. In medieval times, the river was the nerve centre of the city and these workers cottages were home to various trades in particular tanners, dyers and weavers. An absolute must is a visit to the Jardin de l'Évêché, designed in the pure tradition of 17th century French classicism. Designed by André Le Nôtre, Louis XIV's ‘gardener' at the Château de Versailles it is made up of parterre gardens with ‘embroidery' designs and its paths lead to the former episcopal palace that today houses the Goya Museum. After the Louvre, it is the second most important French museum of Spanish art and you can admire a unique collection of works by Spanish painters. Castres is also the birthplace of Jean Jaurès and his life and political journey can be retraced at the National Centre and Jean Jaurès Museum.
Sub-prefecture of Tarn (81)
Specialities: Castres honey, repountsous, wool.
Economy: textile, pharmacy, technology.
Sport: Castres Olympique (rugby)
Celebrities: Jean Jaures (politician), Pierre Fabre (laboratories), Dani (singer), Roger Peyrefitte (writer), Claude Puel (football), Yannick Jauzion, Clement Poitrenaud (rugby), Jacques Esclassan (rider), Maryline Salvetat (Cyclo-cross), Fabien Bourzat et Nathalie Pechalat (figure skaters).
Festivals: Les Extravadanses (July), A portée de rue (classical music, July), Couleurs du Monde (Folk dances, August)
Labels: ville fleurie (3), Jardin de l'Evêché listed as a remarkable garden since 2004
Ax 3 Domaines
If Ax 3 Domaines, which groups together Bonascre, Le Saquet and Les Campels, has become the resort of choice in the Pyrenees, it is firstly down to the beauty of its landscape and the charm of the pistes that wind through the fir trees. But it is also thanks to the constant evolution of the site that invests in the redesign of the pistes, modernises the ski lifts and offers the best welcome to skiers. Seven hundred metres below, linked to the resort by cable car is Ax-les-Thermes. Its medieval streets, the Lepers' pond from the 13th century, the thermal spa, the water cure centre and the casino evoke at the same time both history and relaxation. In the surrounding areas and the forty surrounding villages there are further points of interest for tourists : the mountain and the national wild fauna reserve in Orlu, local heritage marked by the Middle Ages (roman art, the Cathare epic), mountain farming (pastoralism, farm products) and a border with Andorra. All this contributes to make the Ax Valleys a major tourist destination in the Pyrenees.
Altitude: 1,400 metres
Specialities: water, mounjetado (cassoulet), azinat.
Economy: Ski, tourism, hydrotherapy.
Sport: skiing, mountain biking.
Motto: Too strong nature! (Ax valleys) The nature white (Ax 3-D)
Celebrities: Counts of Foix, Pierre Authie (cathar), Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie (French historian).
Events: Adventure film festival (May), medieval festival in Montaillou, Oxygen for the ears (music), national festival of the Merens horse.
Labels: Green resort, disables friendly resort.
Jersey wearers after the stage 20
Corporate social responsibility
Since it was founded, Amaury Sport Organisation has been involved in various sponsorship and philanthropy activities. It is the generosity of sport that can be found in a certain number of initiatives aiming to invest in the workings of the disciplines themselves (sponsorship of the French Federation of Cycling), in a humanitarian and social framework, (Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque, Actions Dakar, Un Techo Para Mi Pais) or in the environmental sphere (Madre De Dios, selective sorting, etc.). Read more
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