Oyonnax > Le Grand-Bornand
07/03/2021 - Stage 8 - 150,8 km - Mountain
On the road
DEPARTMENT OF AIN (01)
Population: 643,350 spread over 393 communes.
Prefecture: Bourg-en-Bresse (41,530).
Sub-prefectures: Belley, Gex, Nantua.
Specialities: frogs, diot dombiste (sausage), Bresse poultry, Nantua sauce, cheeses (bleu de Gex in the Bugey, ramequin, chevret, sometimes called tome de Belley, tracle, pourri bressan).
Tourist sites: industrial heritage (Génissait dam, Bonnet silk factories, the Grande Vapeur in Oyonnax, the ice houses of Lake Sylans and the spinning mills of Trévoux), the Royal Monastery of Brou in Bourg-en-Bresse, the Historial of the Holy Curé of Ars, the thermal baths of Divonne-les-Bains, the Cerdon caves in La Balme.
Economy: woodworking and plastics processing, agricultural activities (cattle breeding), France's leading industrial department (share of industrial employment in total employment), international competitiveness clusters (Plastics Valley; Alimentec; the Industrial Park of the Ain Plain, etc.)
Sport: Oyonnax Rugby, JL Bourg (basketball), USBPA (rugby), FBBP01 (football). Tour de l'Ain (cycling), Bourg-en-Bresse International Show-jumping (CSI 4****), Bourg tennis Open de l'Ain, L'Ain'ternational Rhône-Alpes Valromey Tour (International junior 1 and 2 team event), Mondial de Quad in Pont-de-Vaux, ULTRA 01 (international ultra-trail race), La Forestière UCI, La Bisou (cyclosportive), L'Aindinoise.
Culture: Ambronay baroque music festival, Printemps de Pérouges (music), the musicals of the Parc des oiseaux, the Ain comic book festival, the AOC - AOP - IGP market, Entretiens de Belley (gastronomic event), Domaine des Saveurs - Les Planons, a cultural site dedicated to gastronomy, the Ain Resistance and Deportation Museum, a living witness to the Second World War in the Ain and in France, Maison d'Izieu.
Échallon (Pop: 750)
The Échallon meadow
In 1944, on August 1, the Échallon meadow was the scene, in broad daylight, of a parachute drop of arms and munitions by the Allied forces. Some 300 to 400 tons of equipment were dropped from 3.30 to 4 pm in three successive waves of 12 Boeing B-17 flying fortresses escorted by four groups of four P-51 Mustang fighters (with an extended range due to additional drop tanks). Those deliveries were made possible by the long-standing presence of Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent Richard Heslop (1907-1973), who met and collaborated with local Resistance leader Henri Romans-Petit (1897-1980). The agents of the Special Operations Executive who came to help the Ain and Haut-Jura maquis in 1943 and 1944: British Colonel Richard Heslop "Xavier" (1907-1973), American Captain Owen Dennis Johnson "Gaël" (1918-1993), French Captain Raymond Aubin "Alfred" (1909-1991), Canadian Lieutenant Marcel Veilleux "Yvello" (1921-2004), have their ashes resting in the monument symbolising Allied help.
Saint-Germain-de-Joux (Pop: 500)
Saint-Germain-de-Joux is the birthplace of poet Jean Tardieu, a close friend of Raymond Queneau, who was awarded the Académie Française poetry prize in 1972 and was often inspired by the landscapes of his childhood in the region.
Plateau de Retord
Plateau of the Jura massif, in the Haut-Bugey, 7 km by 3 km, vast area of meadow and forest, natural zone of ecological, faunistic and floristic interest (ZNIEFF) of type 1. It was the stronghold of the Maquis of the Ain, led by Colonel Henri Romans-Petit.
All winter sports are practised here, especially cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and during the rest of the year, all outdoor sports such as hiking, horse riding and mountain biking.
Luc Jacquet's film The Fox and the Child (2007) was shot largely on the plateau as were many shots in Jacques Perrin's film, Seasons (2016).
Châtillon-en-Michaille (Pop: 4,000)
Attached since 2019 to the commune of Valserhône (Pop: 16,000)
Pertes de Valserine
A small river in the Ain which rises north of the Faucille pass on the border between the Ain and the Jura. After 48 km, it flows into the Rhône at Bellegarde-sur-Valserine. Since the disappearance of the glacier that covered the Jura during the Würm ice age, 15,000 years ago, the Valserine has carved its bed in the limestone strata deposited during the Jurassic period.
In the commune of Lancrans
Nowadays it feeds an electric micro power station. It is located on the site of former mills and has had to be rebuilt several times. This site of former mills was submerged in February 1758 when the hill which supported the ruins of the Ballon castle, eaten up by the river, collapsed.
Bellegarde-sur-Valserine (Pop: 11,000)
On January 1, 2019, it became a delegated commune of Valserhône.
Founded in 1859 following the creation of a railway station on the Lyon-Geneva line. Very quickly the town gained importance through the installation of various factories on the Rhône and became one of the very first towns in France to have public electric lighting, thanks to the Swiss industrialist Louis Dumont, who built a dam on the Valserine in 1853.
In 2012, Bellegarde-sur-Valserine was the finish of a stage of the Tour won solo by Thomas Voeckler, who took the polka dot jersey. Bellegarde has also hosted two stages of the Tour de l'Avenir.
Castle of Musinens
Foundation: 13th century
Style: medieval fortress converted to Renaissance style
Characteristics: castle composed of four buildings and curtain wall bases delimiting a rectangular courtyard.
History: the site was formerly the home of the Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem
Current use: owned by the commune of Bellegarde, the castle was renovated in the early 2010s and now hosts exhibitions, conferences, etc.
Sub-prefectures: Bonneville, Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, Thonon-les-Bains
Surface area: 4 388 km2
Specialities : Tartiflette, raclette, fondue savoyarde, diots (sausages), atriaux (pork with liver), crozets, polenta, farcement (grated potato and dried fruit), potato fritters, cardoons (vegetables), tome des Bauges (cheese), bugnes, bescoins (biscuits with aniseed), milk jam, la grolle (gnole with coffee), Savoy cacke, rissoles (pastries with puff pastry), roseaux du Lac (dark chocolates filled with liqueur), génépi.
Sports clubs: Evian-Thonon Gaillard (football), Chevaliers du Lac Annecy (ice hockey), Hockey Club du Mont-Blanc Saint-Gervais-Megève, FCS Rumilly (rugby), alpine skiing.
Competitions: Lake Annecy International Triathlon (June), Lake Annecy International Marathon, swimming across the lake.
Festivals: Venetian Carnival, Annecy International Animation Film Festival (June), "Les Pontons flingueurs" detective film festival (June), Lake Annecy Festival, Italian Film Festival (October), St André Fair (December), OH2 Festival in Saint-Gervais (6 July), Megève Jazz Contest, Pays du Mont-Blanc Baroque Festival.
Main tourist sites: Lake Annecy, Annecy Castle, Mont Blanc and the Sea of Ice, Aravis, winter sports resorts of Chamonix, Saint-Gervais, Megève, Les Gets, Morzine and Avoriaz.
Economy: watchmaking (Cluses), screw-cutting, mechanics (Dassault, Alcatel), agriculture and agri-food (Reblochon milk production, tome, Evian water), mountain tourism, sports industry (Dynastar, Salomon, Mavic)
Websites: www.hautesavoie.fr, www.haute-savoie-tourisme.org
Frangy (Pop: 2,100)
Has a "Cow" museum on the mountain pastures. Since 2015, a reggae festival, the Nomade Reggae Festival, has been held every year in August (Alpha Blondy, Taïro, Touré Kunda, Yaniss Odua...).
Sallenôves (Pop: 745)
Foundation: end of the 11th century
Style: medieval fortress
Characteristics: built at an altitude of 400 metres on a rocky spur overlooking the Grandes Usses.
History: in the Middle Ages, it was an obligatory ford on the road linking Geneva to Chambéry, which brought in income from tolls. It was a fortress that controlled this important communication route for over four centuries.
Special feature: one of the few castles considered to be haunted in Haute-Savoie. A room called the "Devil's Chamber" is said to be haunted by a spectre described as "an armed, caparisoned, foaming horse that disappeared at the last stroke of midnight".
Current use: private property.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1931
Cruseilles (Pop: 4,500)
The actor André Dussolier spent his childhood in Cruseilles.
Listed as a historic monument in the 19th century. From its real name, Charles-Albert bridge. A 192 m long suspension bridge built between 1837 and 1839, straddling the communes of Allponzer-la-Caille and Cruseilles. Doubled with the Caquot bridge, called the new bridge, built between 1924 and 1928, which was at the time one of the largest vaults in the world.
Fillière (Pop: 9,500)
The merger in 2017 of the communes of Aviernoz, Evires, Les Ollières, Saint-Martin-Bellevue, and Thorens-Glières made Fillière the second largest commune in Haute-Savoie after Annecy. Fillière - from the name of the river that runs through it - has the particularity of being only a provisional name. The communes concerned wanted to call themselves Val-de-Glières, a name rejected by the State. The new commune is served by the Léman Express, the new cross-border train line to be introduced in 2019.
Thorens-Glières is the birthplace of St Francis de Sales, very popular in Savoy, who became the patron saint of journalists.
Saint Francis de Sales
Born in 1567 at the Château de Sales to a family of rural nobility, Francis was sent to Paris to study law. At the same time, he took courses in theology. After his degree, he went to Padua where he obtained his doctorate. He was admitted to the bar in Chambéry, but finally decided to devote himself to his faith in a region disrupted by the struggles between the Calvinists, omnipresent in the Alps, and the Catholic Church.
Francis de Sales renounced all his titles of nobility as well as his mandate as senator of Savoy to devote himself to the reconquest of souls. Charged by the bishop of Geneva, in exile in Annecy, to evangelise the Chablais region, which had been won over by the Reformation, he travelled the territory and had texts printed which he sent to places that were out of reach, distributed them and had them posted. These publications were similar to a newspaper and made St Francis de Sales the colleague and precursor of Henri Desgrange, Félix Lévitan, Jean-Marie Leblanc or Christian Prudhomme, all journalists who ended up managing the Tour!
To reach the illiterate, Francis de Sales preached in the towns and villages, in the squares, and his eloquence was such that he succeeded in his mission in two years and spent Christmas 1596 in Thonon. Settled in Annecy, he undertook a thorough reorganisation of his diocese, trained priests, re-established monasteries while carrying out diplomatic missions. He never stopped writing and his influence on the believers of his time was immense. In 1610, with one of his followers, Baroness Jane Frances de Chantal, he founded a new congregation, the Order of the Visitation. Exhausted by the energy deployed for his mission, he was struck by apoplexy and died three days after Christmas 1622, at the age of 55.
La Roche-sur-Foron (Pop: 11,200)
One of the town's great historical events dates from 1885, when La Roche-sur-Foron became the first town in Europe to be equipped with public electric lighting. For the record, on 16 December 1885, La Roche-sur-Foron surprised the whole of France, thanks to the enthusiastic pen of Pierre Giffard, special correspondent for the Figaro newspaper - and a great cycling fan! - who wrote: "This is neither Paris, nor London, nor Berlin, nor Moscow, nor anything similar. It is a very small town in Savoy (...), ten leagues from Mont Blanc; it is not even a county town, it is a county town called La Roche. Do you know La Roche? La Roche-sur-Foron, in Haute-Savoie? No. Well, this town, which I would like to call the City of Light, has just decreed, the first in Europe, electric lighting in its streets, squares, monuments and houses. "Twenty public candelabras and six hundred Edison bulbs light up the houses of the small market town, which is already growing bigger than its shadow.
In 2020, La Roche-sur-Foron hosted the Tour de France for a stage won by Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos-Grenadiers) at the end of a great breakaway with his Ecuadorian teammate Richard Carapaz.
A medieval town, La Roche-sur-Foron is part of the network of the Most Beautiful Detours in France. Its medieval enclosure, the Plain-Château district, is worth a visit for its 16th and 17th century noble houses, but also for the 12th century Counts of Geneva Tower, the last vestige of the castle perched on the rock that gave its name to the town. The Château de Saix (private property) and the Château de l'Échelle, now a municipal cultural space, complete this walk through the past.
Tower of the Counts of Geneva
The last vestige of the fortress of the Counts of Geneva, this 13th century tower is perched on a boulder and dominates the banks of the river Le Foron, which probably explains the origin of the town's name. The tower was in fact the keep of the fortress. It is one of the first circular towers built in Savoy. This new architecture was an important step forward because it eliminated the dead angles. Very fine examples of this type of military architecture exist in Savoy, notably at the castle of Thorens, a few kilometres from La Roche-sur-Foron. The isolated circular master tower of the Counts of Geneva is built astride the natural fault of a very imposing rock. This erratic block, transported by the Mont Blanc glacier, was laid down about 10,000 years ago when the ice melted. This fault was walled up on the outside by the keep's builders, who subdivided it on the inside to form four superimposed natural cellars. Above the rock, the keep itself had three floors.
Bonneville (Pop: 12,600)
The commune is part of the cross-border conurbation of Greater Geneva. At the confluence of the Arve and Borne rivers, situated at the foot of the Môle and the Pointe d'Andey, the town is perched at an altitude of 477m and culminates at 1,877m.
Former administrative capital of the barony of Faucigny.
Castle of the Sires of Faucigny
Foundation: 13th century by Peter II of Savoy
Style: medieval fortress
Characteristics: the site was composed of two enclosures, the lower one surrounding the plain castle. A fortified gate was set up between two square towers, preceded by a portcullis and a drawbridge.
A little history: from the 16th century, the castle became a prison until 1934 and during the Second World War.
Current use: now in ruins, the site is open to the public.
Classification: Historical Monument in 1987
Mont-Saxonnex (Pop: 1,700)
Ski resort located in the northern foothills of the Bargy massif. It has a fairly extensive ski area situated between 1,100 and 1,800 m in altitude. Its Mont-Saxonnex slope, rated as a first category climb, is one of the new features of this edition.
Scionzier (Pop: 8,800)
An industrial centre and the capital of the canton. It is the birthplace of former international striker Stéphane Paille, a stalwart of FC Sochaux who was selected eight times for the French national football team and died of cancer in 2017.
Cluses (Pop: 17,500) (see next stage)
Located in the Arve valley, in the largest cluse in the Alps, Cluses is considered the capital of Faucigny. It became an independent town on 4 May 1310, when Baron Hugues de Faucigny signed a charter of franchise with the Clusiens. As early as the Middle Ages, there was already talk of a bridge over the Arve. The first village was built near this bridge, at the entrance to the cluse, nestled between the mountains and the river. The Pont Vieux, built in Roman times and then rebuilt in the Middle Ages, is now a listed monument. It spans the Arve at the beginning of the geographical cluse. In 1720, Claude-Joseph Ballaloud introduced watchmaking to a valley that lived solely on agriculture. Very quickly, family workshops multiplied and supplied the large firms in Geneva and Switzerland. The acquisition of know-how was accompanied by the creation of the Royal School of Watchmaking in 1848. In order to meet the needs of the major industrial sectors, watchmakers diversified into the manufacture of small micro-mechanical parts in series. The techniques of screw-cutting were born and will continue to evolve to be recognised worldwide today. Four years after Sallanches, in 1844, the village of Cluses, built of wooden chalets, was completely destroyed by fire. The town was again rebuilt by the architect François Justin in the Turin style of Piedmont. Cluses is the home town of swimmer Catherine Plewinski, an Olympic bronze medallist at the Seoul and Barcelona Games. In 2002, a Tour de France finish in the town was won by Italian rider Dario Frigo. In 1994, another stage saw the victory of Latvian Piotr Ugrumov. In 2016, Cluses was the start of a stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné won in Saint-Vulbas by Nacer Bouhanni.
Col de Romme (1,297 m)
Col de Romme will be ridden for the third time after 2009, when Andy Schleck was in the lead, and 2018, when Julian Alaphilippe led the way.
Le Reposoir (Pop: 500)
Nestled in the Arve valley, the Carthusian monastery of Le Reposoir, built in 1151 and restored in 1671, is home to a community of Carmelites. Listed in 1995, it is open to visitors every Wednesday and has a shop where you can buy the products made by the nuns.
Col de la Colombière (1,618 m)
Climbed 22 times by the Tour de France between 1960 and 2018, when Julian Alaphilippe was in the lead at the top.
Receive exclusive news about the Tour