A guide to the Tour de France
Stage 15 of the Tour de France 2018 is 181.5km from Millau to Carcassonne. There are three climbs on the stage, the hardest of which is the last, the Pic de Nore, where the riders reach a height of 1,205m at the top. After that, it's downhill, before a flat finish in Carcassonne. This hilly stage should suit Classics riders, and sprinters who can climb. Read about Stage 15 of the Tour de France 2018 here.
Magnus Cort Nielsen won from the breakaway. These are the video highlights of Stage 15:
Read the Hedgehog Stage 15 diary.
|Climbs||Côte de Luzençon (Category 3)
Col de Sié (Category 2)
Pic de Nore (Category 1)
This is the official map of Stage 15.
The official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 15:
Profile of Stage 15, Tour de France 2018, © ASO/Tour de France
Sunday 22nd July 2018.
The publicity caravan sets off from the centre of Millau at 1110, and the peloton at 1310 (départ fictif). The racing starts ten minutes later. The estimated average speeds are 39, 41, and 43kmh. Depending on their actual speed, the riders are expected at the finish line in Carcassonne between 1734 and 1802.
Mark Cavendish looks forward to the Tour de France for the BBC, and names his 'one to watch' - his prediction for the stage win.
'There are other ways we could have got to Carcassonne, without going over the Pic de Nore near the finish, which will break things up for the run-in.
Hopefully, the sprinters will be ok to get to that climb, and then we can roll in, because we won't be looking to do anything, but there's definitely guys who can get over this Category 1 climb and come to the finish. If Michael Matthews [out of the race] is on a good day, surely he could do it.'
His one to watch? Peter Sagan.
The stage starts in Millau, famous for its imposing viaduct. According to Midi Libre, the stage won't start on or under the viaduct, but in the town centre. The départ fictif is at the parc de la Victoire. Millavois says the route in Millau is avenue de la République, clockwise on the boulevards around the town centre, rue Louis-Blanc, over the river Tarn on pont Lerouge (which is to be pont Lejaune for the Tour de France), and out to Creissels on the D922. Millau's tourisme website says the départ réel is on avenue de Saint-Affrique (just after Creissels, and just before going under the Viaduc de Millau).
The first part of the route is south through the Aveyron département. From Creissels, the riders head for Saint-Georges-de-Luzençon, then the first climb of the day - the Côte de Luzençon, Category 3, 3.1km at 5.9%, 538m at the top. There's a descent to Saint-Affrique.
(Saint-Affrique has a picturesque old bridge over the Sorgue, built around 1270. It's one of the sights that the winner of the Grand Prix de Saint-Affrique might have painted: it was a prize of a month's stay in a hotel here, which could be won by young Parisian artists. Roquefort is made in Saint-Affrique. It is twinned with Driffield in East Yorkshire).
Next, it's a rolling road to Belmont-sur-Rance. Shortly after Belmont, the riders must start to climb again - the Col de Sié, Category 2, 10.2km at 4.9%. (The summit seems to be a point which is not quite the Col de Sié shown on maps - the real col is just off the Tour de France route).
After the top of the Col de Sié climb, the route leaves the Aveyron and enters the Tarn; it also enters the Parc Naturel Régional du Haut-Languedoc. There's a descent to Lacaune-les-Bains.
The route continues from Lacaune-les-Bains via the Col de Bassine, then down to Brassac, on the river Agout.
From Brassac, it's still mainly downhill to Mazamet (home town of Laurent Jalabert), where the day's intermediate sprint takes place. You would think that many of the sprinters will have been dropped by this point, with the probable exception of Peter Sagan.
Leaving Mazamet, the stage takes the D54 (later D87) and heads up into the Montagne Noire. Near the summit, the riders leave the Tarn and enter the Aude département. They reach the highest point of the Montagne Noire, the Pic de Nore (1,205m).
The Tour de France graphic starts the Category 1 climb of the Pic de Nore at Moulin Maurel, a short way south of Mazamet, and gives it an average gradient of 6.3% over 12.3km.
Profile of the Pic de Nore climb, © ASO/Tour de France
The descent is via Cabrespine (where the main attraction is the Gouffre de Cabrespine). At Villeneuve-Minervois, the route begins to flatten out. The pace will pick up through Villegly and Villalier, as any breakaway, then the peloton, near Carcassonne.
Stage 15 finishes at Carcassonne, a town of about 47,000 people in the Aude département, dominated by its Medieval château surrounded by ramparts - la Cité de Carcassonne.
The riders will arrive in town on the D118 route Minervoise, alongside the Canal du Midi. They'll go anti-clockwise around the boulevards that surround the modern centre of Carcassonne (not la Cité, the historic fortress part). Boulevard de Varsovie leads to boulevard Marcou, and the finish line.
The stage will come down to a sprint among those riders who are still in the front group over the Montagne Noire, or who can catch up on the descent. Peter Sagan might be difficult to drop, and difficult to beat to the line. However, it's not impossible to imagine Thomas de Gendt being in a breakaway that stays away, and winning Stage 15 - so I'm going to bet my 50 euro cents on him.
Stage 16 of the Tour de France 2018 is 218km from Carcassonne to Bagnères-de-Luchon. The climbs are loaded towards the end of the stage, and they include the Col de Portet-d'Aspin, the Col de Menté, and the Col du Portillon.
Read about Stage 16 of the 2018 Tour de France.
Millau is a town in the Aveyron département, on the river Tarn at its confluence with the Dourbie. It is part of the Grands Causses limestone hills.
There were Celtic and Roman settlements nearby, but it was at the time of the Barbarian invasions (C4th and C5th) that a town was built at the present location of Millau.
Historically, Millau was known for its tanneries, producing leather gloves, particularly sheepskin gloves. Another local agricultural product is Roquefort cheese, made from raw sheep's milk.
The most famous landmark here is the Viaduc de Millau, the world's tallest cable-stayed road bridge. It carries the A75 across the valley of the river Tarn.
Millau is twinned with Bridlington (UK).
Mazamet is a town on the little river Arnette, and on the northern slopes of the Montagne Noire.
The traditional industries which continue today are wool, socks, leather, gloves, and military clothing.
Laurent Jalabert was born in Mazamet.
The Montagne Noire is a mountainous area split between the Tarn and Aude départements.
The northern side is steeper, and covered in forests of oak, beech, pine and spruce. This northern side could be the origin of the mountain's name ('black'). On the less steep southern slopes, there are holm oaks, olive trees, vines, pines, and garrigue - Mediterranean scrub. From the south side, there are great views of the Pyrenees.
Wild animals living here include roe deer, wild boar, hares, and rabbits.
There are lakes on the Montagne Noire, which serve as reservoirs for the Canal du Midi.
The Pic de Nore is the highest point of the Montagne Noire, at 1,211m. It has a TV and radio transmitter on the top.
Carcassonne is a town of 46,724 people in the département of the Aude, on the river Aude and the Canal du Midi. It's dominated by the Medieval château surrounded by ramparts, la Cité de Carcassonne.
According to legend, it got its name from Carcas, the wife of a Saracen king. The Saracens in the city were beseiged by Charlemagne. The king of the Saracens was captured and put to death. His wife, Carcas, continued to hold out. Her soldiers were dying of starvation, so she put scarecrows on the ramparts, and changed their hats ever 2 hours, to make it look as though the sentries were changing over. Then she killed the last remaining pig, stuffed its belly with the last of the corn, and threw it over the walls. When it landed, the belly burst open to reveal the corn. Charlemagne's soldiers were amazed. They thought that even after the long seige, the Saracens were feeding their pigs with corn. Defeated, they packed up and began to leave. Carcas had the victory trumpets sounded, and Charlmagne's soldiers said 'Ecoutez, Carcas sonne' (listen, Carcas is sounding [the trumpets]). So the town got its name. Probably.
Carcassonne started as a Roman camp in the C1st AD. The Visigoths captured it as the Roman Empire crumbled, and it became part of the Visigoth kingdom of Toulouse. In 725, the Saracens took it from the Visigoths, and in 759, the Saracens were defeated by the Franks, under Pepin the Short.
Carcassonne belonged to the Counts of Toulouse, within the Frankish Empire, from the 800s to the 1200s. Peace and prosperity was disrupted from 1208, with the Albigensian Crusades. Catharism was a dualistic form of Christianity - there was a spiritual world ruled by God, and a material world governed by Satan. Cathars were regarded as heretics by the Roman Catholic church. When a Papal legate was assassinated in 1208, the Pope began a Crusade against the Cathars in the south west of France. In 1209, the Viscount of Carcassonne was defeated by Simon de Montfort.
The King of France exiled the inhabitants of Carcassonne for 7 years, and at the end of this time, he allowed them to build a fortified new town, or ville bastide, known as the Ville Basse (to the west of the river Aude), and to repair and strengthen the original fortress (to the east of the Aude). The fortress to the east of the river is what is known as la Cité de Carcassonne, and is the largest Medieval fortress in Europe. It was restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the C19th.
La Cité has a double curtain wall, with 14 towers on the outer wall, and 24 towers on the inner wall. Inside is the C12th Château Comtal, which was the home of the viscounts of Carcassonne, and the Basilique Saint-Nazaire, begun in 1096 in a Romanesque style, and completed in the 1200s and 1300s in a Gothic style.
Il ne faut pas mourir sans avoir vu Carcassonne
Je me fais vieux, j'ai soixante ans;
J'ai travaillé toute ma vie,
Sans avoir, durant tout ce temps,
Pu satisfaire mon envie.
Je vois bien qu'il n'est ici bas
De bonheur complet pour personne.
Mon voeu ne s'accomplira pas:
Je n'ai jamais vu Carcassonne.
On voit la ville de là-haut,
Derrière les montagnes bleues:
Mais pour y parvenir il faut,
Il faut faire cinq grandes lieues;
En faire autant pour revenir!
Ah! si la vendange était bonne!
Le raisin ne veut pas jaunir:
Je ne verrai pas Carcassonne.
On dit qu'on y voit tous les jours,
Ni plus ni moins que les dimanches,
Des gens s'en aller sur les tours,
En habits neuf, en robes blanches,
On dit qu'on y voit des châteaux
Grands comme ceux de Babylone,
Un évêque et deux généraux!
Je ne connais pas Carcassonne!
Le vicaire a cent fois raison.
C'est des imprudents que nous sommes,
Il disait dans son oraison
Que l'ambition perd les hommes.
Si je pouvais trouver pourtant
Deux jours sur la fin de l'automne...
Mon Dieu que je mourrai content,
Après avoir vu Carcassonne!
Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, pardonnez-moi
Si ma prière vous offense;
On voit toujours plus haut que soi,
En vieillesse comme en enfance.
Ma femme avec mon fils Aignan,
A voyagé jusqu'à Narbonne:
Mon filleul a vu Perpignan.
Et je n'ai pas vu Carcassonne!
Ainsi chantait, près de Limoux,
Un paysan courbé par l'âge.
Je lui dis: 'Ami, levez-vous,
Nous allons faire le voyage'
Nous partîmes le lendemain;
Mais - que le Bon Dieu lui pardonne -
Il mourut à moitié chemin.
Il n'a jamais vu Carcassonne.
Il ne verra pas Carcassonne.
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