Heritage

Despite the fact that Ferdi Kübler conquered in 1954 the first of his five Tour stage wins in Millau, it was in 2004 that the préfecture of Aveyron claimed its worldwide notoriety with the unveiling of its viaduct that remains the highest on earth. The peloton has since then had the opportunity to salute the concrete giant on several occasions, riding along the Tarn river that it passes over, at an altitude of 230m. This time, the competitors will have the privilege of actually riding under the viaduct.

The lighting up of the city, a fireworks show attracting over 500 000 people each year on the evening of the 14th of July, will be even more impressive as it coincides in 2018 with the 20th anniversary of it becoming a UNESCO World heritage site. Among the riders who put Carcassonne on fire, Jean Stablinski had triumphed in 1962, between a stage success on the Vuelta that he had finished in 6th spot, a French national champion’s title and of course his crowning at the World Championships.

On the road

AVEYRON (12)

Population: 277,740 (2013)
Prefecture: Rodez
Sub-prefectures: Millau, Villefranche-de-Rouergue
Surface: 8735 km²

Specialties: Aligot, estofinade, Roquefort, Fleur d'Aubrac (meat), Veal of Aveyron, farcous, truffade, fouace, soleil of marcillac, tripous, cheese soup, flaune, échaudés ...

Sporting events: Roc lassagais (26th edition), Trans Aubrac (trail and ultra-trail), Rouergue Rally (44th edition), Marmotte d'Olt (gran fondo, 21st edition), Natural Games, 100 km of Millau (long distance running), Festival of Templars (trail), L'Aveyronnaise Classic

Festivals: CapMômes Festival (theatre, music, circus), Sylvanès music festival (sacred music, world music), Millau in Jazz

Economy: Livestock market in Laissac Séverac (2nd market of France), Rodez University, Bosch (1,600 employees), RAGT (1,261 employees), Caves of Roquefort (1,210 employees).

Website: www.aveyron.fr

Km 5

SAINT-GEORGES-DE-LUZENÇON (Pop: 1,600)

A few remarkable sites are visible in the village like the castle of Saint-Geniez-de-Bertrand, a 15th century military building and the attached chapel or the ruins of the old castle of the Counts of Toulouse and the St Martial chapel in Luzencon.

Brouzes du Larzac farm
The spectacular fortified farm of Brouzes du Larzac was assembled in the early 15th century. It took its name from the Brouzes family who acquired it in 1490. It remained in the family until 1700. From 1922 to 1970, the farm was uninhabited and plundered. The roof collapsed in 1945. It was bought in 1969 by Elisabeth and Claude Baillon, who restored it. It is now listed as a Historical Monument.

Parc Naturel Régional Grand Causses

Km 26

SAINT-AFFRIQUE (Pop: 8,250)

Once a sub-prefecture of Aveyron, Saint-Affrique – named after a bishop persecuted by Visigoths in the 5th century – retained from his past grandeur several high schools, administrative buildings as well as fairs and markets. Its prosperity depended on textile for a long time and it now thrives mainly on tourism and the food industry, especially Roquefort cheese. Among the many elements of its historical heritage, the most striking is the rock of Calylus, overlooking the city, and the ruins of the chateau of the Caylus lords who were the local lords. Saint-Affrique is in the heart of the Grands Causses Regional Nature Park. One of the famous personalities born in St Affrique is former 400 m hurdles world champion Stephane Diagana, who still holds the distance European record on 47.37. Motorcyclist Richard Sainct, who won the Dakar rally three times, also hails from St Affrique.

Km 30.5

VABRES-L’ABBAYE (Pop: 1,200)

Home to an abbey and a bishop-see in the 14th century, Vabres-l’Abbaye saw its cathedral and monastery destroyed and plundered by the Calvinist troops of the Duke of Uzes in 1568 and by General Lamarque’s Revolutionary army in 1790. The St Sauveur cathedral and the bishops palace still remain today and are both listed as Historical Monuments.

GEOLOGICAL HERITAGE

Relief karstique (Roquefort et mégisserie de Millau)

The limestone of the Causse only lets grow a rare and short grass which only allows the breeding of sheep. The cheeses made fromt heir milk are preserved in cavities created by dissolving the limestone. The cheeses are enriched with mushrooms which are the origin of Roquefort. In the valley, clays, the remains of the limestone dissolution, accumulate. They retain the water that allows the processing of sheep skins and turn Millau into the "leather capital".

MNHN – Patrick De Wever, professeur 

Km 50

BELMONT-SUR-RANCE (Pop: 1,000)

A Benedictine abbey was established in the village in the 9tth century by the powerful Trencavel family and a collegiate church was later built by the monks.

TARN (81)

Population: 386,543
Prefecture: Albi
Sub-prefecture: Castres
Surface: 5,758 km2

Specialties: Lacaune salting (PGI), Lautrec red garlic (Red Label), Gaillac wines (AOC), Ségala veal, croquants of Cordes (biscuits), Pumpet of Sémalens

Sport Clubs: Castres Olympique (rugby union, Top 14), Sporting Club Albi (Pro D2), ASPTT (women's football 1st division), Albi Rugby League XIII (Elite 1 men). Events: Albi Grand Prix (September), Route du Sud cyclisme (June), European Motocross Championships (April), Albi Marathon (April), Montagne Noire Automobile Rally (July) French Petanque Championships in Carmaux (July), 24 to 28 August 2017 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Albi

Main tourist sites: Albi and the Episcopal City, Toulouse-Lautrec museum, Castres and the Goya museum, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Gaillac vineyards, bastides and villages, Sidobre, Martels Garden and Tarn historical railway, Black Mountain, Sorèze Abbey-school and Dom Robert Museum, Ambialet and the Tarn Valley

Festivals: Pause Guitar in Albi (July), Musiques des Lumières in Sorèze (July), L'Eté de Vaour

Economy: Pierre Fabre laboratories, Glasswork manufacture of Albi, food industry, tourism sector

Websites and social networks: www.tarn.fr / www.tourisme-tarn.com

Km 70.5

LACAUNE (Pop: 2,700)

Inhabited since ancient times, Lacaune is renowned or its thermal waters, very popular in the 19th century, and for charcuterie, which remains its leading industry. Still the story that made Lacaune really famous was the tale of the “wild child of Aveyron”, discovered by farmers in 1798 in a wood close to the village. Exhibited around the region, the child fled and found shelter in Aveyron, where he was placed under the protection of the bishop of Rodez. He was later sent to Paris to study at the Institute for the Deaf and Dumb. His story inspired a film by François Truffaut. The Lacaune thermal baths were launched in 1874 when the Count of Naurois acquired the Bel Air spring in order to exploit it. WWI put and end to its brief period of success but a new spa opened in 2005 and the thermal activity is back in town. Meanwhile, pork – pigs have been bred in the mountains forever – is Lacaune’s main source of wealth and the local ham is especially renowned. The history of this activity can be discovered at the Maison de la Charcuterie.

SIGHT

The pissers fountain
The fountain, known locally as La Font dels Pissaïres glorifies the diuretic virtues of the Lacaune waters, known since Antiquity. The consuls of Lacaune built it in 1399 and it was completed in 1559.

Km 90

FONTRIEU (Pop: 940)

Fontrieu was born in 2016 from the fusion of communes Castelnau-de-Brassac, Ferrières and Le Margnès. Its history was marked by the Wars of Religion.

SIGHTS

Château de Ferrières
Château de Ferrières combines a powerful military aspect with a refined Renaissance decoration. It was built in the 16th century around an older keep by the Guilhot family, Protestants who were ruling the region during the Wars of Religion. It later fell in Catholic hands and turned against its founders. It was used as a state prison in the 18th century.

Museum of Protestantism
Founded in 1968, the museum welcomes visitors since 2010 in a building in front of the town hall. It belongs to a network of museums on Protestantism implanted in the main regions marked by the Reformation: Poitou, Béarn, Languedoc, Vivarais, Dauphiné, Alsace. It is dedicated to the impact of the religion in the region but is of course open to visitors of all confessions and beliefs. The history of the Protestant minority is a perfect introduction to a vast number of issues from religious peace to pluralism. Hence the main theme of the exhibition: from the Reformation to secularism.

LANDSCAPE OF THE DAY 

Pic de Nore

By crossing this high point of the Noire mountain, the cyclists will switch from a northerly slope, influenced by a distinct abrupt Atlantic climate, covered with dark oak, beech, pine and spruce forests, to a more gentle southerly slope, more open and with fewer undulations, covered with Mediterranean vegetation. This summit, known as the Petit Ventoux due to its exposure to a strong wind and its TV transmitter, offers, under optimum conditions, a vast panorama across the Pyrenees.

Km 112

NOAILHAC (Pop: 900)

Noailhac was the parish of the famous abbot Henri Pistre, aka as “the Pope of rugby”, who was a priest here from 1946 until his death in 1981. He was buried in the churchyard. A passionate rugby fan, he played as a flanker for Albi between 1928 and 1922 before becoming the coach of current French Top 14 champions Castres and founding the club of Noaihac, which he chaired. He was also briefly a television consultant. Antoine Blondin dedicated his novel Monsieur Jadis to him.

Km 121.5

MAZAMET (Pop: 10,000)

Halfway between Toulouse and Beziers, Mazamet is known to the cycling fan as the birthplace of Laurent Jalabert and his brother Nicolas, who was also a pro rider. The Jalabert granfondo has been held for 17 years around Mazamet to celebrate the former Vuelta winner (1995), who also won two KOM and two green jerseys on the Tour de France. Fleche Wallonne, Tour de Lombardie and 25 grand Tour stages complete the record of a versatile rider who is now a television and radio consultant. While he cannot claim the same record, his brother Nicolas took part in 10 Tours de France between 1997 and 2008. The Tour de France came to Mazamet in 2007 for the start of a stage to Plateau de Beille won by Alberto Contador. Some 150 years before the Jalaberts, the industry of wool-spinning and especially the technique of “délainage” used to remove wool without damaging leather, made the town’s fortune. In the early 20th century, Mazamet had more than 50 factories using this technique. The decline of this activity resulted in the decline of the population, which went from 17,000 in 1962 to 10,000 today. A museum is dedicated to the wool industry in town. Mazamet was also a rugby union town thanks to French legendary player Lucien Mias, dubbed Doctor Pack, who led France to it first straight victory in the Five Nations Championship in 1959 and to the nation’s first victory in South Africa in 1958.

Village of Hautpoul
Perched on a rocky peak overlooking the town of Mazamet from 300 metres, the village of Hautpoul was guarding the entrance into Montagne Noire and its vast forests. According to legend, the village was founded in 413 by a Visigoth king. The village paid a heavy toll the successive wars of religion (crusade against the Cathars, wars between Catholics and Protestants) and lost its inhabitants, who settled down in the valley and founded Mazamet. The village has been rejuvenated in recent years with shops and craftsmen settling into the old houses. A Medieval Festival is taking place during the summer.

AUDE (11)

Region: Occitanie
Population: 374,868
Prefecture: Carcassonne
Sub-prefectures: Narbonne - Limoux
Number of communes: 436
Surface: 6,139 km2

Specialities: cassoulet of Castelnaudary, bourride d’anguilles (eels soup), Lucques olive, limos (bun), fricassée de Limoux, Leucate oysters, truffle, rice, Marseillette apple, écu of Pays Cathare (goat cheese), nougat of Limoux, wines of Aude (7 AOP), Blanquette de Limoux (sparkling wine), micheline (spirit), cartagène (liquor), marble  in Caunes-Minervois, boudegue (Occitan bagpipes)

Sport clubs: Rugby union clubs RCNM Narbonne and USC Carcassonne, Rugby League clubs Lézignan-Corbières, Limoux and Carcassonne, Volleyball (Narbonne, Gruissan), women’s handball (Narbonne). Competitions: Mondial du vent (Leucate), Défi Wind and Défi Kite (windsurf, Gruissan), kite-surf junior World Cup (Saint-Pierre-la-mer), Grand Raid des Cathares, Cross de la Cité (running, Carcassonne), Audoise granfondo (Villeneuve Minervois), Mountain bike Cap Nore / Déval’ Nore (Aragon), Critérium de Quillan (cycling).

Culture: Citadelles du vertige, Canal du Midi, abbeys of Lagrasse and Fontfroide. Carnival of Limoux, Montolieu book village, Scènes d’enfance (Children Stages), Artistes à suivre, Fête du Cassoulet, Limoux brass Festival, Jazz in Conilhac, Festival d’été (Lézignan-Corbières), Barques en Scènes Festival (Narbonne), festival de la Cité (Carcassonne). 

Economy: viticulture, fishing, agriculture, breeding, maritime trade, seaside tourism, green tourism, thermal baths, truffles and wines. 

Websites and social networks : www.aude.fr / www.audetourisme.com / www.payscathare.com / www.payscathare.org  / citadellesduvertige.aude.fr / www.facebook.com/departementdelaude / www.instagram.com/citadellesduvertige 

Aude’s cultural diversity is marked by the presence of medieval castles, vertiginous citadels from the Cathar period, Romanesque abbeys and cloisters, the medieval City of Carcassonne, Roman Narbonne, prehistoric caves or the famous Canal du Midi lined by centenary plane trees. Aude also has a varied and rich wildlife and natural environment. Its biodiversity is among the richest in France and it is preserved in 17 protected natural areas and footpaths. In the field of sport, this results in a number of open-air activities appealing both to locals and to visitors (raids, trails, treks, windsurfing, kite-surfing...) Aude is also a land of authenticity and good living. It remains a territory of gastronomy as Languedoc cuisine is peerless. Its local products like cassoulet make a perfect combination with the strong and characteristic wines of the region.   

Km 156.5

CABRESPINE (Pop: 170)

Cabrespine gigantic cave
The gigantic abyss of Cabrespine is unique by the immensity of the main hall accessible to the public, which is 80 metres wide and 220 metres high, making it one of the largest caves open to tourists in the world. It is also remarkable by the variety of its crystallisations due to a special geological environment and by a strict preservation policy since the cave was discovered in the 1970s. The visit lasts 45 minutes and is done one foot. Beyond the section open to the public, a vast underground network stretches for miles. An underground river springs to the surface at the foot of the medieval castle of Lastours.

REGIONAL NATURAL PARKS

Ride a bike in Haut-Languedoc

Far from the roads and automobiles, the Voie Verte Passa Païs is perfect to enjoy all the views. From Mazamet to Bédarieux, this former railway was restored in 2003 to travel across the Park over 77 kilometers. Only for non-motorized vehicles, it offers a flat way which is ideal for family outings. Local inhabitants enjoy this track for their sporty day, or even to go to school or work. A real alternative to the car, every day!
For the sportiest people and mountains bikers, the Park of Haut-Languedoc, in relief, is rich of circuits for every level.
Although its wideness, the Park is engaged in favor of a softer and greener mobility: since 2017, electric bikes are rented to the inhabitants for free… When some people thought that car was indispensable in a natural regional park, a new generation proves that a respectful mobility is possible.

Km 171.5

VILLALIER (Pop: 990)

Poet Joe Bousquet is buried in the local cemetery s well as Republican militant Armand Barbes, who gave his name to famous Paris boulevard.

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