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Stage 10 – Saint-Gildas-des-Bois – Saint-Malo (197km)

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 10 - Paimpont

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 10 – Paimpont

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 10 - Cancale

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 10 – Cancale

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 10 - La Pointe du Grouin

Tour de France 2013 – Stage 10 – La Pointe du Grouin

Towns & Villages:
St-Malo-de-Beignon, Paimpont, Dinan, Cancale, Saint-Malo

Landscape:
Etang de Paimpont, La Rance (River & Estuary), La Pointe du Grouin

Other:
L’Abbaye Notre-Dame de Paimpont, Le Chateau de Beaumont, Le Chateau de Lehon, Le Chateau de Chateauneuf, Le Fort de Guesclin

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Bonneval – Chartres (53.5km)  Click for route map

Tour de France 2012 – 19 Chartres – Picture: Eurosport & hopeeternal

Chartres

My first memory of Chartres from years ago was seeing the distant cathedral towering above the flat terrain around when we were still miles away.  It is an attractive town on the river Eure with ancient buildings as well as the cathedral, a delightful place to wander and enjoy.  Chartres Cathedral is famed for its mediaeval stained glass, including a famous rose window, the Belle Verrière window depicting the Virgin Mary and another of a Jesse Tree, the oldest example of its type and dating from around 1145.  There is also a fascinating stained glass workshop very close to the cathedral that is well worth a visit. Last time we discovered some lovely medieval carvings around an arch over one of the cathedral doors depicting the traditional labours of the months of the year.  I am looking forward to an overnight stop there again in August this year, en route to the west coast and Medoc region.

The cycling today was a Time Trial, with Bradley Wiggins a convincing winner setting a blistering pace and setting a time that was well over a minute shorter than his team mate Chris Froome who was in second place.   Only a disaster can now prevent him from crossing the line in Paris tomorrow and climbing the winner’s podium.

The top five of Stage 19

1. Bradley Wiggins (GBR) SKY
2. Christopher Froome (GBR) SKY at 3’21”
3. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) LIQ at 6’19”
4. Jurgen van den Broeck (BEL) LTB at 10’15”
5. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC at 11’04”

Team placings after Stage 19

1. Team Radioshack
2. Sky Procycling

Jerseys for Stage 20

Yellow – Wiggins (2nd overall Froome)
Green – Sagan
Polka Dot – Voeckler
White – Van Garderen

For more information on the cyclists, their teams and how they were placed see the Tour de France official site.

Read my TDF posts covering this and previous years.

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Blagnac – Brive-la-Gaillarde (222.5km)  Click for route map

Tour de France 2012 – 18 Souillac – Picture: Eurosport & hopeeternal

Souillac

The town of Souillac has at its centre the 12th Century Benedictine Abbaye Sainte-Marie de Souillac, famed for its Romanesque carvings, which is topped by three round grey slate roofs, shaped like little lids.  The Byzantine style of architecture reminded us a little of the impressive cathedral at Perigueux, seen in the 2007 Tour and visited by us on holiday a year or so later.   On a different note, one of the quirks of the Tour are the lengths that local people go to to attract the attention of the cameras as the cyclists pass.  Today was no exception with three puzzled donkeys dressed in yellow, green and polka dot jerseys (we wondered what had become of the white jersey donkey!)  A few years ago I sat by the television drawing a series of thumbnail pictures of the Tour de France scenes and riders, although I never got round to posting them here.  Maxine Dodd is doing something very similar this year and I have been following and enjoying her artistic impressions of the race and route: here is her delightful sketch of les ânes en maillots.

Cycling has long been a minority sport in the UK but with the success of our riders, Wiggins this year in particular, viewers of sport are beginning to see and understand what the excitement is all about.  (We have been following the Tour for 10 years now and cannot understand why the rest of the UK is so slow to catch on to such an amazing annual event, as well as the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta d’Espagne!)  There was extensive coverage today on the BBC news of Bradley Wiggins, looking unassailable in yellow and set to become the first ever British winner of the Tour providing he reaches the finish in Paris.  A pity however that the BBC made absolutely no mention in the broadcasts we saw of Mark Cavendish’s incredible stage win today, although it was given plenty of coverage by Eurosport.  Within  the last half kilometre he stormed past the remaining breakaway riders, who almost appeared to go backwards, a win that means he now equals both Lance Armstrong and André Darrigade’s record of Tour stages.  Retaining the green jersey, which will almost certainly go to Peter Sagan, is now impossible, but Cavendish is on very good form and taking the final stage win in Paris to overtake Armstrong and Darrigade’s record is a distinct possibility.

The top five of Stage 18

1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) SKY
2. Matt Goss (AUS) OGE
3. Peter Sagan (SVK) LIQ
4. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP) RAB
5. Nicolas Roche (IRL) ALM

Team placings after Stage 18

1. Team Radioshack
2. Sky Procycling

Jerseys for Stage 19

Yellow – Wiggins (2nd overall Froome)
Green – Sagan
Polka Dot – Voeckler
White – Van Garderen

For more information on the cyclists, their teams and how they were placed see the Tour de France official site.

Read my TDF posts covering this and previous years.

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Bagnères-de-Luchon – Peyragudes (143.5km)  Click for route map

Tour de France 2012 – 17 Cathedrale Sainte-Marie, Saint Bertrand de Comminges – Picture: Eurosport & hopeeternal

Cathedrale Sainte-Marie, Saint Bertrand de Comminges

Saint Bertrand de Comminges sounds like a fascinating place steeped in history and well worth a visit.  In 72BC the Roman General Pompey founded a Roman colony here and there is an archeological site close to the Cathedral in which it is possible to identify the remains of Roman baths and a theatre.  In 1083 Bertrand de l’Isle-Jourdain was nominated bishop of Comminges. He ordered the construction of the cathedral and its Romanesque cloister which came to be used by pilgrims as a stage on the route to Santiago de Compostela.  The village is largely medieval with a Romanesque basilica as well as the former cathedral.  A complete contrast today was the high altitude finish at Peyragudes, misty today but with the promise of good views on a fine day.

Bradley Wiggins continues in yellow and although Thomas Voeckler started the day with a lead of just four points but now all he has to do to win the polka-dot jersey is to cross the finish line in Paris.

The top five of Stage 17

1. Aljeandro Valverde (ESP) MOV
2. Christopher Froome (GBR) SKY at 19″
3. Bradley Wiggins (GBR) SKY at 19″
4. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) FDJ) at 22″
5. Pierre Rolland (FRA) EUC at 26″

Team placings after Stage 17

1. Team Radioshack
2. Sky Procycling

Jerseys for Stage 18

Yellow – Wiggins (2nd overall Froome)
Green – Sagan
Polka Dot – Voeckler
White – Van Garderen

For more information on the cyclists, their teams and how they were placed see the Tour de France official site.

Read my TDF posts covering this and previous years.

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Pau – Bagnères-de-Luchon (197km)  Click for route map

Tour de France 2012 – 16 Pic du Midi de Bigorre observatory – Picture: Pascalou petit/Wikipedia

Pic du Midi de Bigorre

We have spent a little time in the Pyrénées, driving into the foothills on both the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts of France and Spain, but a long term aim is to cross leisurely from one side to another and include visits to Andorra and Lourdes as well as the larger towns, enjoying the wonderful scenery of the high mountains.  Today the cyclists tackled four huge mountain passes: Col d’Aubisque, Col du Tourmalet (from which a track leads to the Pic du Midi de Bigorre observatory at an altitude of 2877m), Col d’Aspin and Col de Peyresourde.  Access for most visitors to the summit of the Pic du Midi is by cable car from which there are extensive views across the Pyrénées towards the Atlantic Ocean in the west.  See my previous post for the route taken in 2009.

Bradley Wiggins continues to wear the yellow jersey with Chris Froome in second place and Cadel Evans, winner last year and one of the favourites, losing time today and slipping further back in the rankings.  Mention must also be made of Thomas Voeckler, racing in his 10th Tour de France this year.  His determined ride won him not only first place in today’s race but also the polka dot jersey.

The top five of Stage 16

1. Thomas Voeckler (FRA) EUC 197km in 5h35’01” (35.3km/h)
2. Chris Anker Sorensen (DEN) STB at 1’40”
3. Gorka Izaguirre (ESP) EUS at 3’22”
4. Alexandre Vinokouorv (KAZ) AST at 3’22”
5. Brice Feillu (FRA) SAU at 4’06”

Team placings after Stage 16

1. Team Radioshack
2. Sky Procycling

Jerseys for Stage 17

Yellow – Wiggins (2nd overall Froome)
Green – Sagan
Polka Dot – Voeckler
White – Van Garderen

For more information on the cyclists, their teams and how they were placed see the Tour de France official site.

Read my TDF posts covering this and previous years.

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Samatan – Pau (158.5km)  Click for route map

Tour de France 2012 – 15 Pau – Picture: Eurosport & hopeeternal

Pau

The Tour travelled westwards across the Pyrénées, passing the town of Bassoues at the centre of which is a 43-metre high tower of a donjon or keep dating to the 14th century, the remains of the town’s ancient fortifications.  The finish was at Pau in the Midi Pyrénées which is dominated by its castle. The city overlooks the valley of the River Gave de Pau, originally the site of a ford used to take sheep to pasture in the high meadows of the Pyrénées.  The town of Pau has long been a centre of activity for French canoe slalom and we saw views of the Pau Whitewater Stadium, the Gave de Pau Flow Diversion located beside a small dam just upstream from the city.

Tomorrow the racers have another well earned rest day with Bradley Wiggins continuing to wear yellow when the race resumes on Wednesday in the high Pyrénées, racing from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon via the Cols d’Aubisque, Tourmalet, Aspin and Peyresourde.

The top five of Stage 15

1. Pierrick Fedrigo (FRA) FDJ – 3h36’34”
2. Christian Vande Velde (USA) GRS at same time
3. Nicki Sorensen (DEN) STB at 16″
4. Thomas Voeckler (FRA) EUC at 16″
5. Dries Devenyns (BEL) OPQ at 18″
…and Samuel Dumoulin (COF) was sixth also at 18 seconds…

Team placings after Stage 15

1. Team Radioshack
2. Sky Procycling

Jerseys for Stage 16

Yellow – Wiggins (2nd overall Froome)
Green – Sagan
Polka Dot – Kessiakoff
White – Van Garderen

For more information on the cyclists, their teams and how they were placed see the Tour de France official site.

Read my TDF posts covering this and previous years.

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Limoux – Foix (191km) Click for route map

Tour de France 2012 – 12 Montségur – Picture: Lamecast/Wikimedia

Montségur

Today’s stage commenced at Foix, which already features on this site from the 2008 Tour, although we have yet to visit.  The route was through the foothills of the eastern Pyrenees passing through the department of Ariege where we saw the hilltop fortress of Montségur.   On our holiday last year we saw a number of similar strongholds just west of Carcassonne but the route today was even further west than we had travelled.   Members of the Cathar sect, which flourished in the 11th to 13th centuries, were besieged at the stronghold of Montségur by 10,000 troops of the Inquisition during the Albigensian Crusade, eventually surrendering and dying for their faith.

The top five of Stage 14

1. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP) RAB – 4h50’29”
2. Peter Sagan (SVK) LIQ at 47″
3. Sandy Casar (FRA) FDJ at 47″
4. Philippe Gilbert (BEL) BMC at 47″
5. Gorka Izaguirre (ESP) EUS at 47″

Team placings after Stage 14

1. Team Radioshack
2. Sky Procycling

Jerseys for Stage 15

Yellow – Wiggins (2nd overall Froome)
Green – Sagan
Polka Dot – Kessiakoff
White – Van Garderen

For more information on the cyclists, their teams and how they were placed see the Tour de France official site.

Read my TDF posts covering this and previous years.

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Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux – Le Cap d’Agde  (217km)  Click for route map

Tour de France 2012 – 13 Cathédrale Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul de Maguelone – Picture: Eurosport & hopeeternal

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul de Maguelone

As the Tour reached the Mediterranean we saw views of the coastal plain with its large inland lakes, or étangs, many of which are separated from the sea by only a narrow tract of land.  This was one of the stages we had been looking forward to as the section was one we knew we would recognise from our holiday in 2007.  One place we had seen in the guide books but did not manage to get to was the Cathédrale at Maguelone which looked as if it would have been worth visiting.  Hopefully another time.  There were some very familiar sights, with impressive aerial shots of the canals and buildings of Sète, sometimes called the Venice of the Languedoc.  As the cyclists ascended the steep summit of Mont St Clair they would not have been able to enjoy the fantastic views eastwards towards the town and harbour and westwards along the coastal strip which divides the sea from the Étang de Thau, looking towards Cap d’Agde where they were due to finish.  We stayed on the Castellas campsite in the middle of the coastal strip which was very well appointed and great for the beach but a traffic nightmare with long queues every time you wanted to go anywhere.  What we were not expecting to see from the Tour de France helicopter was the new inland road running the length of the coastal strip with the former beach side road, which turned into a camping car park each evening, apparently now mostly out of use.  It was pleasing to see that most of the land close to the sea looked as if it was being given an opportunity to return to a more natural state.  Hopefully one day we will see the changes for ourselves.  Read more about our 2007 travels.

The top five of Stage 13

1. André Greipel (GER) LTB 4h57’59”
2. Peter Sagan (SLO) LIQ
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) SKY
4. Sebastien Hinault (FRA) ALM
5. Daryl Impey (RSA) OGE

Team placings after Stage 13

1. Team Radioshack
2. Sky Procycling

Jerseys for Stage 14

Yellow – Wiggins (2nd overall Froome)
Green – Sagan
Polka Dot – Kessiakoff
White – Van Garderen

For more information on the cyclists, their teams and how they were placed see the Tour de France official site.

Read my TDF posts covering this and previous years.

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Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne – Annonay Davézieux (226km) Click for route map

Tour de France 2012 – 12 Mont Granier – Picture: Eurosport & hopeeternal

Mont Granier

At St Jean-de-Maurienne there are four routes tightly packed into the bottom of the valley: the River Arc, the railway line, the péage motorway plus the single carriageway which I drove along two years ago and which the riders followed today.   Although leaving the Alps behind, heading south towards the Ardèche and then tomorrow reaching the Mediterranean, there was still plenty of impressive scenery today.  The tour was dwarfed by the high limestone ridges of the Chartreuse Mountain range and we saw the mighty Mont Granier which straddles the Départements of Savoie and Isère and which, at 900 meters high, is one of the highest cliff faces in France.  The sheer north face was created in 1248 by a huge landslide which destroyed several villages in its path.  The Tour also travelled through an impressive gorge riding through rock arches with precipitous drops at the sides of the road. In recent years a cave was discovered in the locality which contained the bones of a large number of ancient cave bears which had died during hibernation.  Close to Mont Granier was the Monastery of the Grand Chartreuse, home since 1084, of the Carthusian Order and also of the famous green and yellow Chartreuse liqueur.  Also of note today was the quirky structure at Hauterives known as Le Palais Idéal de Facteur Cheval, an ornate building reminiscent of a Hindu temple, built by the postman Ferdinand Cheval between 1879 and 1923.  I would certainly detour to have a closer look at this unusual structure.

A terrific win for Britain’s David Millar today and Bradley Wiggins continues in the yellow jersey with Chris Froome in second place overall.

The top five of Stage 12

1. David Millar (GBR) Garmin-Sharp 226km in 5h42’46”
2. Jean-Christophe Peraud (FRA) AG2R La Mondiale at same time
3. Egoi Martinez (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 5″
4. Cyril Gautier (FRA) Europcar at 5″
5. Robert Kiserlovski (CRO) Astana at 5″

Team placings after Stage 12

1. Team Radioshack
2. Sky Procycling

Jerseys for Stage 13

Yellow – Wiggins (2nd overall Froome)
Green – Sagan
Polka Dot – Kessiakoff
White – Van Garderen

For more information on the cyclists, their teams and how they were placed see the Tour de France official site.

Read my TDF posts covering this and previous years.

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Mâcon – Bellegarde-sur-Valserine (194.5km)  Click for route map

Tour de France 2012 – 10 Col du Grand Colombier – Picture: Eurosport & hopeeternal

Col du Grand Colombier
Some wonderful scenery today but the best views of the day had to be those of and from the Col du Grand Colombier, visited for the very first time by the Tour.  The road snaked across the top of the ridge with breathtaking views all around.  Here is the view as we saw it on TV.  I have driven over the Col du Galibier, which is higher but this road looks far more precipitous and I am not sure whether I fancy driving it or not.  One to think about but it would definitely be worth it for the views, especially over the River Rhône and the distant Lac du Bourget.  En route the tour passed through a region of limestone with steep cliffs, not unlike the limestone scenery in the British Yorkshire Dales at Malham Cove, where we saw two beautiful waterfalls, Chute d’Albarine (also called La Charabotte) and Cascade de Cerveyrieu.

Thomas Voeckler, apparently sometimes called the housewife’s favourite, was outstanding today achieving his third ever Tour win as well as taking the polka dot jersey and the Fighting Spirit prize (most combatative rider).  Bradley Wiggins rode well again today, retaining the yellow jersey still 1 minute and 52 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, Cadel Evans.

The top five of Stage 10

1. Thomas Voeckler (FRA) EUC
2. Michele Scarponi (ITA) LAM at 3″
3. Jens Voigt (GER) RNT at 7″
4. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP) RAB at 23″
5. Dries Devenyns (BEL) OPQ at 30″

Team placings after Stage 10

1. Team Radioshack
2. Sky Procycling

Jerseys for Stage 11

Yellow – Wiggins
Green – Sagan
Polka Dot – Voeckler
White – Van Garderen

For more information on the cyclists, their teams and how they were placed see the Tour de France official site.

Read my TDF posts covering this and previous years.

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