A guide to the Tour de France
A guide to Stage 12 of the Tour de France 2016. Stage 12 of the 2016 Tour is 184km from Montpellier to Mont Ventoux, via Castries, Sommières, Vergèze, Bouillargues, Beaucaire, Tarascon, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Plan-d'Orgon, Cavaillon, Gordes, Mazan, and Bédoin. The intermediate sprint is at Mollégès Gare. There are two categorised climbs before Mont Ventoux - the Côte de Gordes (Category 4) and the Côte des Trois Termes (Category 3). The stage is classified as mountainous because of the hors catégorie summit finish at Mont Ventoux. Read about Stage 12 of the Tour de France 2016 here.
Read the Stage 12 race report.
The last time the Tour de France went up Mont Ventoux was on Stage 15 of the 2013 race, when Froome shook off Nairo Quintana with a bit more than a kilometre to go to the top:
This is what Christian Prudhomme says about Mont Ventoux: 'The Mont Chauve (bald mountain) doesn't carry its name that well when the Tour comes to visit, with its hundreds of thousands of spectators coming along. The French National Day will really be a moment of truth for the candidates for yellow jersey glory, whether they're French or not. To reach the Observatoire as a winner is the best possible preparation before the remaining part of the event.'
|Sprints||Mollégès Gare (after 102.5km)|
Côte de Gordes (Category 4)
Côte des Trois Termes (Category 3)
Mont Ventoux (hors catégorie)
There's an official map of Stage 12, Tour de France 2016.
This is the official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 12:
Stage 12 profile, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers
These are some of the Stage 12 timings (based on the medium estimated speed of 37kmh):
|Départ fictif in Montpellier||1145|
|0||Départ réel Castries||1215|
|131.5||Côte de Gordes (Category 4)||1532|
|135.5||Côte des Trois Termes||1538|
|184||Finish at Mont Ventoux (hors catégorie)||1710|
See the full timings for Stage 12 on the Tour de France website, based on average speeds of 39, 37, and 35kmh.
Stage 12 starts in Montpellier, the capital of the Hérault, the 8th largest city in France, and a stone throw's from the Mediterranean.
Montpellier tourist office has details of the start of Stage 12, with a map. The race starts at place de la Comédie in Montpellier, and leaves via rue Foch, rue Pitot alongside the promenade du Peyrou, boulevard des Arceaux, avenue de l'Ecole d'Agriculture Gabriel Buchet, avenue Henri Marès, rue Henri Dunant, and avenue de la Justice de Castelnau. This map shows the first part of the route in Montpellier:
The riders then pass the Cimetière Saint-Lazare, cross the river Lez near Castlnau-le-Lez and continue on avenue de l'Europe. It becomes the route de Nimes/D613, and takes the riders out of Montpellier via le Crès, and Vendargues (on the Roman Via Domitian, and perhaps getting its name from a Roman legionnaire called Venerianicus who had a villa here). At Vendargues, the route forks left on the D610 to Castries (with its chateau and aqueduct).
The départ fictif is at 1145. The départ réel, when the racing starts, is beyond Castries, at 1215.
Leaving Montpellier on the D610, the first village after Castries is Restinclières. (Restinclières has a population of 1,642. The main staples of the economy are limestone quarrying, grapes, and olives. The village probably gets its name from restincle, a word for pine resin which was used as chewing gum in Roman times).
A little further up the road is the village of Boisseron (at the confluence of the Bénovie and the Vidourie; it has a Roman bridge). After Boisseron, the race leaves the Hérault département, and crosses into the Gard.
The riders continue to Sommières, where they cross the Vidourie.
(Sommières is a historic village of 4,536 people in the Gard département. Its bridge over the Vidourie was built in the C1st under the Emporer Tiberius. When it rains in the Cévennes, the river can flood here, and those floods are called les Vidourlades. Next to the Hôtel de Ville is a tower which was one of the gates through the Medieval ramparts, with a belfry added on top - photo above. On the far side of the river are the remains of Sommières' Medieval château, dominated by a square tower known as the Tour Bermonde.)
From Sommières, the race takes the D12 south east, following the course of the Vidourie river, to Gallargues-le-Montueux. (Gallargues gets its name from a Roman legionnaire called Gallus who was given land here. Montueux indicates that it is on a hill. Gallargues was a stop on the pilgrimmage to Santiago de Compostella, and has a C13th Hôpital Saint-Jacques in the centre.)
The riders pass close to a village called Aigues-Vives, for the third time in three days (each time a different Aigues-Vives). They skirt Mus (D742/D842/D1), then the D139 takes them into Vergèze.
In the past, Vergèze was mainly a wine village, and wine is still produced, including by the Cave Coopérative, but these days water is more important. The mineral spring within the commune of Vergèze has been used since Roman times, but from the C20th, it has been exploited in industrial fashion, with the water bottled under the Perrier brand, and 1,500 people working in the bottling plant.
From Vergèze, the riders head south east on the D139 past the Perrier mineral water source and bottling plant, then alongside the Canal Philippe Lamour. At the next junction, the race follows the D135/Chemin des Canaux, which skirts around Aubord and continues to Caissargues, on the outskirts of Nimes.
The race leaves Caissargues on the D135, and heads for the centre of Bouillargues. It then takes the D346 to Manduel.
(The name Manduel comes from a Gaul called Manduos who settled here in the C4th BC, and called the place Mandolios, meaning the clearing of Manduos. It's in a wine-producing area, and the wine is sold under the label 'Costières de Nimes'. Manduel has a Roman milepost, called the borne milliaire d'Antonin le Pieux. It was on the Via Domitian between Narbonne and Arles; the Romans put such markers every 1000 paces. The inscription shows that it was put up by Antonin the Pious, and that it marked 7,000 paces from Nimes on the way to Beaucaire.)
The race continues on the D403 and D3 to Redessan, where it turns right on the D999, which takes the riders to Jonquières-Saint-Vincent. (Jonquières gets its name from the word jonc, which means reeds or rushes; there was once a little fishermen's lake in the vicinity, where the reeds grew). The D999 goes on to Beaucaire.
The pont de Beaucaire takes the riders across the Rhone and the Rhône-Canal de Beaucaire. At the other end of the bridge, the race leaves the Gard département, and enters the Bouches-du-Rhône. The town on the other side of the river is Tarascon.
From Tarascon, the race follows the D99 to Saint-Etienne-du-Grès. (Saint-Etienne-du-Grès is called the Porte des Alpilles, after the hills which are visible to the south east of the village. Grapes and olives are grown in the stony soil here. Wine is sold under the AOC Coteaux des Baux-de-Provence label.)
The riders continue via Mas-Blanc-des-Alpilles to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where they go into the centre, then back out onto the D99.
The D99 out of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is a straight road, ideal for the intermediate sprint just before Mollégès-Gare.
Profile of the intermediate sprint on Stage 12 at Mollégès-Gare, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers
The riders continue on the D99 to Plan-d'Orgon. A short distance further, they reach the river Durance and cross it. As they do so, they leave the Bouches-du-Rhône and enter the Vaucluse. On the other side of the river is Cavaillon.
The race leaves Cavaillon on the D2, which goes east to Robion (a village set between the Coulon & the Canal de Carpentras to the north, and the Montagne du Lubéron to the south; the village developed in the Middle Ages, and ramparts and a castle were built for protection).
The D2 crosses the river Coulon (or Cavalon), and passes through the hamlet of Coustellet. (Coustellet is the place made world-famous by Peter Mayle's book, A Year in Provence. It has a Lavender Museum).
The route passes les Imberts, then forks left on the D15 to Gordes, one of the most beautiful villages in France. The first categorised climb of the day begins almost as soon as the riders turn onto the D15.
The Côte de Gordes is a climb over a distance of 3.3km. It
begins on the D15 before Gordes, and continues on the D177/route de
Sénanque beyond Gordes. The
height at the bottom is about 290m, and at the top it is 449m,
height gain of 159m, and an average gradient of 4.8%.
Another 1.5km after the top of the Côte de Gordes, the riders pass the Abbaye de Sénanque, which marks the start of the next climb, the Col des Trois Termes.
The Col des Trois Termes is a climb over a distance of 2.5km. The height at the bottom is about 390m, and at the top it is 577m, giving a height gain of 187m, and an average gradient of 7.5%.
After the Col des Trois Termes, there's a descent to the river Nesque near Venasque. (Venasque is a perched village overlooking the Nesque. It's known in France for its 'Monts de Venasque' cherries).
Bell tower, Venasque, by Véronique Pagnier
The riders then leave the Nesque on the D77 to Malemort-du-Comtat. (Malemort-du-Comtat is a village amongst vineyards growing grapes for Ventoux wines, as well as cherry and olive trees).
The race leaves Mazan on the D163. The riders are now on the approach to Mont Ventoux. They go through la Souquette (near Saint-Pierre-de-Vassols), then continue on the D974 to Bédoin.
In Bédoin, they turn right, still on the D974, passing the church of Notre-Dame-du-Moustier on the way to the hamlet of Sainte-Colombe. After that, they pass through les Bruns and Saint-Estève. The climb of Mont Ventoux is regarded as starting at Saint-Estève.
Profile of the climb of Mont Ventoux, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers
The climb is over a distance of 15.7km. The altitude at the start is 536m, and at the summit, it is 1,912m, giving a height gain of 1,376m, and an average gradient of 8.8%.
When the riders reach Chalet Reynard, they are 6km from the finish of the climb and the stage. They arrive on the bald mountain-top, the desert de pierre (desert of stone), where they'll be encouraged by big crowds - in the 2009 Tour de France, there were more than 500,000 spectators on Mont Ventoux.
The Col des Tempêtes (1,841m) comes shortly before the Observatory on the summit of the mountain.
What will happen on Stage 12? If all goes to plan for Team Sky, they will keep the pace high, stifling attacks from the more explosive climbers, then Chris Froome will finish off the teamwork by winning the stage. If Froome isn't on form, other candidates for the stage win will almost certainly also be GC contenders such as Nairo Quintana, Adam Yates, Richie Porte, Bauke Mollema, and perhaps Romain Bardet.
Geraint Thomas says, 'It's Bastille Day and that means one thing: a lot of fighting amongst the French riders to get in the break. Not that the break will stay away because the general classification riders will come to the fore on the legendary ascent of Mont Ventoux. Hopefully, I'll be feeling good and going well and be one of the last guys in front of Chris Froome, who will be setting the pace - assuming he's got the yellow jersey at this stage. I want to be controlling my effort, in case there are attacks I need to follow, and not necessarily riding until I blow. If I'm still up there on GC, then I will keep fighting, but if I'm not, once my job is done, I'll sit up and save as much as I can for the next day.'
Who does Thomas think will win? Quintana.
Stage 13 of the 2016 Tour de France is a 37.5km individual time trial in the Ardèche from Bourg-Saint-Andéol to la Caverne du Pont-d'Arc. There's some climbing at the start, a descent with a technical section, a flat part in the Ardèche Gorge past the Pont-d'Arc, and another 5km steady climb from Vallon-Pont-d'Arc to the finish line. Despite the climbing, it's likely to suit the time trial specialists more than the climbers. Read about Stage 13, Tour de France 2016.
Montpellier is the capital of the Hérault département, and the 8th largest city in France, with a population of 272,084 in the city, and more in the greater metropolitan area. It's on the river Lez, and 6 miles inland from the coast. A third of the population is students, and Montpellier has the second-highest student population as a percentage of total population of any French town, after Poitiers.
The name Montpellier comes from Monspessulanus, meaning naked hill (because the vegetation was poor), or the mount of the hill, or the hill where woad (pastellum) grows.
It was never a Roman settlement. It developed around 985AD, when pirate raids on the adjacent coastal town of Maguelone forced people to move further inland. It became a trading centre in the C12th.
The University was founded in 1160, and was given a Charter by Cardinal Conrad van Urach in 1220. The law and medecine faculties were important from the early days of the University. Francois Rabelais (a major French Rennaissance writer) took his medical degrees at Montpellier.
The historic centre of Montpellier is known as l'Ecusson, and dates largely from the C13th. The Tour de la Babotte is a Medieval tower which was modified in the C18th to become an Observatory. The city walls no longer exist, as they were taken down on the orders of Cardinal Richelieu in 1622. There are now circular boulevards instead.
There was a big increase in Montpellier's population in the 1960s when French Algerian settlers came here after Algeria's independence.
Montpellier's economy is diverse. IBM has been here since the 1950s, and employs over 1,000 people. There's also employment in biotechnologies and pharmaceutical products, and Bausch & Lomb (opthalmology) has a plant here. Wine-making has been going on for centuries, and continues today.
Montpellier is twinned with Louisville (US).
Castries gets its name from a Roman castrum on the Via Domitian, the Roman road which linked Italy to Spain.
Castries has a château which has existed since the C11th. In 1520, the Medieval castle was razed to the ground, and the current building erected. The castle grounds are in the French garden style, designed by André Le Nôtre (landscape gardener who also designed the grounds at Versailles). These gardens are supplied with water by an aqueduct which was built in 1676 by Pierre-Paul Riquet. Riquet also built the Canal du Midi.
Beaucaire is a town of 16,036 people on the river Rhône, and at the edge of the Gard département.
It was a staging post and crossroads on the Via Domitian. The first ramparts were built in the Middle Ages, as an extension of the castle. Between the C17th and C19th, there were commercial fairs in Beaucaire, and some of the town's finest houses were built.
Miscellaneous facts: the drink Get 27 is made in Beaucaire; the town has elected a National Front mayor; there's a quarry and cement plant at Beaucaire.
Tobias Smollett (Travels through France and Italy, 1766) passed this way, and wrote: 'On the second day of our journey, we passed the Rhône on a bridge of boats at Buccaire, and lay on the other side at Tarrascone. Next day we put up at a wretched place called Orgon, where, however, we were regaled with an excellent supper; and among other delicacies, with a dish of green pease.'
Tarascon is a town of 13,941 people, in the Bouches-du-Rhône, facing Beaucaire across the river. Being in the Rhône valley, it is affected by the Mistral wind.
The Medieval château by the river dominates Tarascon. It was built from 1400-1449, on the site of a Roman castrum and an earlier Medieval castle. It is known as the château du roi René, after Good King René, King of Sicily and count of Provence.
Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is a typical Provencal village, with plane trees and fountains.
Saint-Rémy has Roman ruins 1km south of the village, in an area called the Plateau des Antiques. This was the Roman city of Glanum, which was abandoned at the time of Barabarian invasions in the C3rd. A Mausoleum, and a commemorative arch indicating the entrance to Glanum, remain.
Saint-Rémy is also known for its connection to Vincent van Gogh. The old Monastery of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole (so-named because of its proximity to the Roman mausoleum) was a convalescent home, and van Gogh asked to be interned there, which he was from 3rd May 1889 to 16th May 1890. He did a lot of painting at this time, including Starry Night.
Cavaillon is a town on the river Durance, and at the foot of the Montagne du Lubéron (which is to the east). The Colline Saint-Jacques (182m) is immediately north of Cavaillon. The area is known for its melons.
Cavaillon was a staging post on the Via Domitian, and was called Cabellio in Roman times. (In 2010, a local resident found 20 Roman silver coins from the C1st & C2nd, when pulling out an acacia tree). Cavaillon became the seat of a Bishop in the C4th.
Cavaillon has a Cathedral (Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Véran), and a suspension bridge dating from 1839.
Gordes is a 'perche' village in the Vaucluse, one of the most beautiful villages in France.
The Celtic Vordenses people founded the village. They built an oppidum in this location, and the name Gordes is a corruption of the name Vordenses.
A Benedictine Abbey dedicated to Saint-Chaffret was built in the C8th. The castle which crowns the village dates from the C11th. Ramparts were built in the C14th, as a consequence of the fears generated by the One Hundred Years War.
Gordes was a centre of Resistance during World War II, and in retaliation the Nazis executed some inhabitants, and bombarded the village. Gordes was repaired and rebuilt in the aftermath of the war.
Mont Ventoux is 1,912 high, with a rocky top, known as the desert de pierre (the stone desert). The stone makes it look snow-capped from afar, even when it isn't.
It has an Observatory on the top. Views from the summit of Mont Ventoux are over Provence and the southern Alps.
The mountain's forests were felled 400 years ago for ship building, but there has been some reforestation. Some species of animal are found only on Mont Ventoux (not the rest of Provence) - including the snake eagle, and some spiders and butterflies.
It's very windy at the top. Winds have been recorded at up to 300kmh. It is also much colder than on the surrounding plains. The normal rule is that you lose between 0.5 and 1C per 100m you go up.
In the summer, there are guided night-time walks up the
mountain from Malaucènes (west of Ventoux). You set off about 9.30pm,
with torches, and after a break on the way up, you arrive at the ski
resort of Mt Serein (1,428m) at 2am. You sleep there until 3.30, then
get up and complete the ascent, arriving at 5.30 for a 6am sunrise. As
well as the views from the very top, the joys of it are the stars and
the lights of the villages, and the scent of lavender and pine.
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