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Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: Albertville to St-Gervais Mont Blanc (Le Bettex)

Ermitage St Germain, Talloires 

Ermitage St Germain, near Talloires, by HedgehogCycling

A guide to Stage 19 of the Tour de France 2016. Stage 19 of the 2016 Tour de France is from Albertville to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc (Le Bettex). The first (uncategorised) climb is the Collet de Tamié, then the race descends to Faverges, and makes its way along the shore of Lake Annecy to Talloires. The next climb is the Col de la Forclaz de Montmin. After a descent to Ugine, the riders will ascend the Col de la Forclaz de Queige. Next up is the steep Montée de Bisanne, to the high point of the day (1723m). After passing through the ski resort of Les Saisies, the race goes to Megève, then down the Côte de Domancy. It heads towards the finish at Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, with a climb of the Côte des Amerands and the Montée du Bettex to the finish line at Le Bettex. Read about Stage 19 of the Tour de France 2016 here.

Read the Stage 19 race report.

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: facts, figures, and map

Stage 19 of the Tour de France 2016 is 146km from Albertville to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc (Le Bettex).

Stage classification Mountain
Distance 146km
Intermediate sprints Doussard (after 25.5km)
Climbs Col de la Forclaz de Montmin (Category 1)
Col de la Forclaz de Queige (Category 2)
Montée de Bisanne (hors catégorie)
St-Gervais Le Bettex (Category 1)

There's an official map of Stage 19, Tour de France 2016.

This is the official Tour de France stage profile:

Stage 19 Tour de France 2016 stage profile

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: timings

These are some of the timings on Stage 19 (based on the medium estimated speed of 35kmh):

Km Place Time
Départ fictif in Albertville 1255
0 Départ réel in Mercury 1310
8.5 Collet de Tamié 1324
19 Faverges 1342
25.5 Doussard (intermediate sprint) 1351
32.5 Talloires 1402
42.5 Col de la Forclaz de Montmin (Category 1) 1428
64 Ugine 1456
73.5 Col de la Forclaz de Queige (Category 2) 1515
76.5 Queige 1519
83.5 Villard-sur-Doron 1530
96.5 Montée de Bisanne (hors catégorie) 1605
111.5 Notre Dame de Bellecombe 1619
121.5 Megève 1634
146 Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc le Bettex ( Category 1) 1723

See the full timings for Stage 19 on the Tour de France website, based on average speeds of 37, 35, and 33kmh.

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: video of the route

This video shows the route of Stage 19 of the Tour de France 2016:

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: the start at Albertville

Albertville

Albertville from Conflans, by HedgehogCycling

Stage 19 starts in Albertville, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1992. 

From Albertville, the race heads west, into the Bauges mountains, with the riders going over the Collet (and Col) de Tamié.

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: le Collet de Tamié and le Col de Tamié

Collet de Tamié

Collet de Tamié, by HedgehogCycling

Although not a categorised climb, the riders will definitely have to go uphill to the Collet de Tamié, from 420m in Albertville to 960m at the top of the Collet (on the D104). The Col de Tamié (907m, on the D201C) comes 1.2km further on, as alpes4ever explains. 

The Tour de France has climbed the Col de Tamié on nine previous occasions, with Thomas Voeckler (winner of the Tour de Yorkshire 2016) first to the top in 2007, and Pierre Rolland taking that honour in 2013.

There's skiing on the Col de Tamié, with just one draglift. (Until 1976, there were four draglifts). 

Fort de Tamié

Fort de Tamié, by HedgehogCycling

Close to the Col de Tamié is the Fort de Tamié. It was built for the French army in 1872, to command Albertville. Now, it's open to the public, and as well as admiring the architecture and the views of the Alps, you can walk the botanical path, or ride a zip wire in the adventure park.

Abbaye de Tamié

Abbaye de Tamié, by HedgehogCycling

A short distance from the Col de Tamié is the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Tamié. It's a Cistercian-Trappist monastery, founded in 1132 by Pierre II de Tarentaise, and occupied by monks since then, except for a period during and after the French Revolution (1793-1861). The current buildings date from 1677.

There are guest rooms for people who wish to join the monks for a spiritual retreat. The Abbey produces Abbaye de Tamié cheese, using milk bought from local producers. It's a cheese made with unpasteurised cows' milk, similar to Reblochon. The sale of the cheese is the Abbey's main source of income.

The riders descend the Col de Tamié with a mountain called la Belle Etoile (1841m) to their right. They come to Faverges, then Doussard at the end of Lake Annecy. The intermediate sprint is at Doussard.

Profile of the sprint on Stage 19, Tour de France 2016, at Doussard

Profile of the intermediate sprint on Stage 19, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

(Doussard is in the glacial valley of Lake Annecy. It was inhabited in neolithic times, and later by Gallo-Romans. Doussard takes its name from a C1st AD Roman chief called Dulcius. In the C14th, a toll was payable at Verthier, by travellers going from Annecy to Ugine. Doussard has a port and a beach).

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: Lake Annecy and Talloires

Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy, by HedgehogCycling

The race arrives at the southern end of Lake Annecy, Bout du Lac. Bout du Lac is a marshy area where the Eau Morte and the Ire run into Lake Annecy. It is a nature reserve. The reeds are a favourable habitat for invertebrates and fish, as well as many different species of birds, the common toad, and the European beaver.

The riders turn right on the D909A at the hamlet of Verthier, so as to go up the east side of Lake Annecy, to Talloires.

L'Abbaye, Talloires

L'Abbaye, Talloires, by HedgehogCycling

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: the Col de la Forclaz de Montmin

Col de la Forclaz Montmin

Col de la Forclaz (Montmin), by HedgehogCycling

The D909A starts to climb at Talloires, then the race branches off to the right on the D42 for the ascent of the Col de la Forclaz de Montmin. The road soon passes the Ermitage Saint-Germain (pictured below, with the Dents de Lanfon mountains behind). The Ermitage Saint-Germain is a church on the approximate site of the cave inhabited by Germain de Talloires, the first prior of the Abbey of Talloires, who lived as a hermit in the cave from 1033 to 1060.

Ermitage St Germain, Talloires

Ermitage St Germain, by HedgehogCycling

Savoie Mont Blanc's website says of the Col de la Forclaz de Montmin: 'The Col de la Forclaz is as renowned for its difficulty as for the views overlooking Lake Annecy. What's more, its summit is often covered by a cloud of multi-coloured hang gliders and parapentes.'

The route rises from 460m at Talloires to 1,157m at the top of the Col de la Forclaz, so an increase in height of 697m, over a distance of 10km. (The race organisers state an average gradient of 6.9%).

Montmin parapente centre

Montmin parapente centre, by HedgehogCycling

There's a little ski resort called Montmin-Col de la Forclaz, with two draglifts and five pistes, which is open in winter. There's also a parapente take-off site at the Col de la Forclaz, which hosted parapente World Cup events in 2004, 2009, and 2012.

The descent of the Col de la Forclaz de Montmin is steep - a gradient of 13% in places. Parts of the road have been resurfaced in advance of the Tour. The road goes through the village of Montmin, and gets back down to the valley at the village of Vesonne.

What does 'Forclaz' mean in Col de la Forclaz?

The 2016 Tour de France goes over three Cols de la Forclaz altogether - two on Stage 19 in France, and one on Stage 17 in Switzerland. 

According to Charles Marteaux in his 1918 essay on the etymology of the names of some Savoyard places, forclia or forclaz is a Savoyard dialect word which comes from the Latin furcula, meaning small fork. It signifies a passage which is quite wide to start with, and which then narrows, making a Y-shape. Forclaz can also mean two routes which join up in the mountains, forming a V.

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: Ugine and the Col de la Forclaz de Queige

Top of the Col de la Forclaz (Queige)

Col de la Forclaz (Queige), by HedgehogCycling

Stage 19 follows the N1508 - a wide, flat road - along the valley to Ugine. From the official itinerary, it looks as though the riders turn left into Ugine on the D109/avenue André Pringolliet, then right on the D71/avenue des Charmettes. They cross the river Arly by an EDF hydro-electric plant, then take the D71 then D67 up to the next Col de la Forclaz, the Col de la Forclaz de Queige.

An article in the Dauphiné says that compared with the Col de la Forclaz de Montmin, this one seems 'more discreet. First of all, because of its size. Ascending to just 870m, this Col de la Forclaz situated above Ugine and Queige is modest, and is easily accessible from the two towns...Not much happens here.' According to cyclist and fell runner Jean-Louis Perino, 'It's not a well-known place, but it's a little col with a lot of shade, which is really pleasant to do.'

The website alpes4ever says that the altitude at the bottom is 390m, and the altitude at the top 870m, making a gain of 560m, over a distance of 6.8km. This makes an average gradient of 8.2%, and alpes4ever identifies that the steepest section is 10.5%. (The race organisers state an average gradient of 7.8%).

The descent to Queige is quite steep. When I looked at it in May 2016, I was sent on a diversion, because it was being resurfaced - at a cost of €65,000, according to the sign. The name Queige comes from the Latin quietus, meaning rest. When they exit Queige, the riders will turn left on the D925 (route de Beaufort), which takes them the few kilometres along the valley, by the Doron, to Villard-sur-Doron.

Queige

Queige, by HedgehogCycling

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: the Montée de Bisanne and the Col des Saisies

Villard-sur-Doron

Villard-sur-Doron, at the foot of la Montée de Bisanne, by HedgehogCycling

The next climb starts from the village of Villard-sur-Doron. (In the Middle Ages, Villard-sur-Doron was home to travelling jewellers, some of whom made a lot of money and built beautiful houses). 

Montée de Bisanne climb profile

The official Tour de France climb profile for the Montée de Bisanne, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

Montée de Bisanne, La Nuaz

La Nuaz, on the Montée de Bisanne, by HedgehogCyling

The D123 goes up the Montée de Bisanne, to the ski resort of Bisanne 1500, in the Beaufortain range. It's unlikely to be as easy as 1,2,3, however, nor indeed A, B, C or do-re-mi. The slope is very steep, although of course the road uses hairpin bends (thirteen of them, by my count). Anyone who suffers from vertigo would be well-advised to avoid looking down over the side of the road, which has no barriers in most places.

Montée de Bisanne

Looking down on one of the hairpin bends on the Montée de Bisanne, by HedgehogCycling

Apart from the gradient, the other main hazards are the highly territorial sheepdogs belonging to the farms on the climb. They chase and harry vehicles and, presumably, cyclists. I'd speculate that the owners don't often throw tennis balls for their dogs to fetch: the risk of a ball rolling all the way down to Villard-sur-Doron would be too great, with the dog returning a week on Wednesday. Or maybe they attach strings to their tennis balls.

Les Saisies

Les Saisies, by HedgehogCycling

The top of the Montée de Bisanne is 1723m. The road then goes down a little, before climbing to the ski resort of Les Saisies and the Col des Saisies (1650m). 

(Les Saisies is a family ski resort, with views of the Mont Blanc range. Although its altitude is modest, the snow record is very good. Its name refers to seizures of contraband which were made at a time when it was at the frontier between Savoie and Haute Savoie, in the 1860s. An Austrian ski instructor, Erwin Eckl, was central to the development of the resort between 1937 and 1961. He thought the landscape was similar to the Tyrol, and called it 'le Tyrol français'). 

Notre Dame de Bellecombe

Notre Dame de Bellecombe, by HedgehogCycling

The riders descend from Les Saisies on the D218B to Notre Dame de Bellecombe. (Notre Dame de Bellecombe is a village and ski resort in the Val d'Arly. Until 1471, it was called Sainte-Marie-des Déserts, and was home to monks. The first hotel, the Mont Charvin, opened in 1902, and welcomed tourists in the summer. Winter sports began to be developed from the 1920s, and the first mechanical ski lift in Notre Dame de Bellecombe was built in 1948. The ski area is now part of the Espace Diamant, which includes 5 resorts and 84 lifts. In summer, Notre Dame de Bellecombe is popular with walkers). 

After Notre Dame de Bellecombe, the race descends a little further to join the N212 to Praz-sur-Arly and Megève.

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: Notre Dame de Bellecombe to Domancy

St John the Baptist church, Megève

St John the Baptist church, Megève, by HedgehogCycling

The N212 is fairly flat through Praz-sur-Arly. (Praz is a Savoyard variant of prés - meadows; the Arly is the river that flows here, and the root of the name is ar, running water, and ly, height. The inhabitants of Praz-sur-Arly are called Pralins. The first farms here appeared in the C14th. The church, of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, dates from 1881. Praz-sur-Arly has a ski resort, which is part of the Espace Diamant. There's an international hot air balloon event, les Montgolfiades de Praz-sur-Arly. It's also a well-known place for dog-sledding).

It's about 5km from Praz-sur-Arly to Megève. A local speciality, seen outside many of the shops and businesses along this road, is wooden carvings of bears.

Combloux

Chalets near Combloux, by HedgehogCycling

Beyond Megève is Demi-Quartier, then the road descends through Combloux. The riders will turn right down the Côte de Domancy (D199) - which they will have climbed the previous day on the Stage 18 time trial

Animals on the Cote de Domancy

Animals on the Côte de Domancy, by HedghogCycling

From Domancy, the race takes the N1205 a short distance along the Arve valley to Vervex, where it turns up to the right to begin the final climb.

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: the final climb in St-Gervais Mont Blanc

Le Bettex, St-Gervais Mont Blanc

The final climb combines the Côte des Amerands and the Montée du Bettex. 

Map of Cote des Amerands & Montée du Bettex on Stage 19, Tour de France 2016

The riders will turn off the N1205 at Vervex, going up the route de Lardin, by the ruisseau de Vervex, to the hamlet of Les Amerands. They then do a little dog-leg to cross the D909, and take the route d'Orsin/route du Bettex for the final 7.5km - the Montée du Bettex. The finish is at Le Bettex, a ski village on the edge of St-Gervais Mont Blanc. The map (above) shows the route from Vervex to Le Bettex, highlighted in yellow.

Profile of the Montée du Bettex, Stage 19 Tour de France 2016

The official Tour de France profile of the climb to St-Gervais Mont Blanc Le Bettex (above), © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

What will happen on Stage 19? There could be a breakaway, including riders who want to go for the stage win, and Rafal Majka looking for King of the Mountains points. Any breakaway will splinter, as the climbs take their toll - particularly the Montée de Bisanne, which is fearsome.

In the GC race, Team Sky will look to set an infernal pace, to deter anyone from attacking. If a rider has the legs and the courage, they could try to break away on the Montée de Bisanne, perhaps join up with a teammate who is already up the road, and hold an advantage all the way to the finish. More likely, the contenders behind Froome will wait for the final climb up to le Bettex. The first section, up from Vervex, is the steepest. If Stage 19 follows the pattern on the other mountain days on this Tour, one or two of Froome's rivals will get a little gap, then Wout Poels will ride back up to them with Froome on his wheel.

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: Geraint Thomas's view

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas, by Dacoucou, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

Geraint Thomas, speaking to Peter Scrivener of the BBC, gave his view on each stage before the Tour began. This is what he said about Stage 19: 'This is a dangerous stage. There will be a strong breakaway on that first climb, and if the team of the yellow jersey wearer are having a bad day, their leader could easily be isolated, as happened to Chris Froome on Stage 9 in 2013. The leader might be strong enough to follow on a climb, but if somebody goes on the flat, it's harder. You could have the strongest guy in the race, but if he's on his own early on, it will be tough for him to keep the jersey.'

Who does he tip for the win? Fabio Aru.

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Stage 20, Tour de France 2016

La Clusaz

Stage 20 is an Alpine stage from Megève to Morzine. It's regarded as the Queen Stage of the 2016 Tour de France. 

There are four main climbs - the Col des Aravis, the Col de la Colombière, the Col de la Ramaz, and the Col de Joux Plane. It finishes with a 12km descent to Morzine. 

After Stage 20, only the processional ride to Paris remains, so the rider leading the Tour in Morzine will be the winner of the race.

Read about Stage 20, Tour de France 2016.

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: sights and attractions on the route

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: Albertville

Albertville

Albertville, by HedgehogCycling

Albertville is a town on the river Arly, near its confluence with the river Isère. It is surrounded by mountains - the Bauges to the west, the Beaufortain to the north, and the Chaine de la Lauzière to the south.

Albertville was on the Roman route from Milan to Vienna (which crossed the Alps via the Col du Petit St-Bernard). Because of the confluence of the Arly and the Isère, the Romans called the higher part of the town ad confluentes. (This part of Albertville is called Conflans today). There was a customs post lower down, referred to as ad publicanos

At the end of the C12th, the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem founded a hospital for travellers and pilgrims down near the river, and the village which developed around it was called l'Hopital.

Saracen Tower, Conflans

Saracen Tower, Conflans, by HedgehogCycling

Modern Albertville was formed in 1836 by King Charles Albert of Sardinia (of the House of Savoie). He merged the medieval town of Conflans with the town of l'Hopital.

Albertville's economy is largely industrial, with hydroelectricity and paper mills. Kassbohrer, who make piste bashers, have premises here.

Olympic ice rink, Albertville

Albertville Olympic ice rink, by HedgehogCycling

Albertville hosted the 1992 Winter Olympics. Many of the events took place in nearby ski resorts, including Le Praz (ski jumping), Val d'Isère (men's giant slalom, Super G, downhill, and combined), Méribel (women's Alpine skiing events), and Les Menuires (men's slalom). The skating took place in Albertville: the ice rink (Halle de Glace Olympique) remains; the speed skating venue (l'anneau de vitesse) has been given over to athletics.

There's a travel festival in Albertville at the end of October, for travel writers and photographers, called Le Grand Bivouac. Albertville Jazz Festival is at the end of July.

There's a cycle path most of the way from Albertville to Annecy.

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: Faverges

Chateau de Faverges

Chateau de Faverges, by HedgehogCyling

Faverges is between the Chaine des Aravis (to the north east) and the Massif des Bauges (to the south west). Immediately east of Faverges is the Dent de Cons (2064m). The Torrent de St Ruph runs down to Faverges. It becomes l'Eau Morte as it runs towards Doussard, Bout du Lac, and le Lac d'Annecy.

The name Faverges comes from the Latin fabrica. It dates from the C12th, and refers to a forge, factory, or workshop.

Before the Romans, the location belonged to the Celtic Allobroges tribe. The Romans appeared in the area in the C2nd BC, and Faverges was on the Roman route from Turin to Geneva. There was accommodation for travellers with baths (which have been excavated) at the mansio Casuaria, on the site of the present-day village of Viuz, on the edge of Faverges. Viuz comes from the Latin vicus, meaning a small town. 

In the Middle Ages, Faverges belonged to Geneva, then from 1316, to the House of Savoie. Its chateau dates from the C13th. It was annexed by French Revolutionary troops in 1792. Faverges was returned to Savoie after Napoleon Bonaparte's defeat in 1814. It became part of France again in 1860, when Savoie was annexed by French Emporer Napoleon III.

Faverges has an industrial heritage dating back to the Middle Ages, with iron, copper, and cutlery manufacture in the C14th. Later, there were tanneries and paper mills, and cotton and silk production. Industries in Faverges today include making prefabricated wooden chalets, mechanical engineering (Staubli), household appliances, and luxury goods (S T Dupont).

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy, by HedgehogCycling

Lake Annecy (le Lac d'Annecy, or 'le lac bleu') is 14.6km long, and has a circumference of around 38km. It's not the biggest lake in France, as it's smaller than the Lac du Bourget, but it's the most beautiful. 

The lake formed about 30,000 years ago, at a time when great Alpine glaciers were melting.

The lake is supplied with water by seven streams, and by a powerful underwater spring called the Boubioz. Water runs out of the north end of the lake, into the Thiou, which becomes the Fier, which in turn flows into the Rhone. It takes 4 years for all the water in the lake to be replaced.

The average depth of Lake Annecy is 41.5m, and it's 81m down to the deepest point. The water temperature gets up to 22C in July.

The lake narrows to 800m between Talloires and Duingt. To the north of that point is what's known as the Grand Lac, which has shallower shores dotted with villages and vineyards; to the south is the Petit Lac, with steep, wooded slopes. 

In the 1950s, Lake Annecy became quite polluted, particularly from sewage from the surrounding hotels. A decision was made to treat all sewage properly, and in 1957, a filtering plant was built at Cran. This helped the lake water to regain its purity, and over the space of 20 years, the depth of visibility increased from 4.6 to 8m. The level of nitrates in the lake water is particularly low. 

Activities on and in the lake include boating, rowing, sailing, swimming, fishing, diving, windsurfing, and water skiing. The Fête du Lac, with fireworks, takes place on the first Saturday in August.

Mark Twain wrote of Lake Annecy, 'It is a revelation. It is a miracle. It brings the tears to a body's eyes it is so enchanting. That is to say, it affects you just as all things that you instantly recognize as perfect affect you - perfect music, perfect eloquence, perfect art, perfect joy, perfect grief. It stretches itself out there in the caressing sunlight, and away towards its border of majestic mountains, a crisped and radiant plain of water of the divinest blue that can be imagined. All the blues are there, from the faintest shoal water suggestion of the color, detectable only in the shadow of some overhanging object, all the way through, a little blue and a little bluer still, and again a shade bluer till you strike the deep, rich Mediterranean splendor which breaks the heart in your bosom, it is so beautiful. 

And the mountains, as you skim along on the steamboat, how stately their forms, how noble their proportions, how green their velvet slopes, how soft the mottlings of sun and shadow that play about the rocky ramparts that crown them, how opaline the vast upheavals of snow banked against the sky in the remoteness beyond - Mont Blanc and others - how shall anybody describe? Why, not even a painter can quite do it, and the most the pen can do is to suggest.'

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: Talloires

L'Abbaye, Talloires

L'Abbaye, Talloires, by HedgehogCycling

Talloires is on the east side of Lake Annecy, below the rocky peaks of the Dents de Lanfon. 

The origin of the name Talloires is unknown, but the settlement is first mentioned in documents in the 800s. In 1018, it was given by Rudolph III of Burgundy to the monks of Savigny. The first prior of the Abbey, Germain de Talloires, lived as a hermit from 1033 to 1060, in a cave above the town. The Ermitage de St Germain is built on the approximate site of the cave.

The Abbey buildings were burned by French Revolutionaries in 1792, and later rebuilt. L'Abbaye is now a hotel, which has hosted a number of well-known guests including Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, and Richard Nixon. Twain said of the two women who had the Abbey then, 'They fed us well, they slept us well, and I wish I could have staid there a few years and got a solid rest.'

The chemist Claude Louis Berthollet (1748-1822) was born in Talloires. He discovered the composition of bleach.

Paul Cézanne painted Le Lac Bleu at Talloires. The work is in the Cortauld Institute in London. 

Le Père Bise, Talloires

Le Père Bise, Talloires, by HedgehogCycling

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: Ugine

Ugine from le Col de la Forclaz

Ugine is a town in the Savoie département of France, near the confluence of the Chaise and the Arly, and on the southern slopes of Mont Charvin. The name could derive from auge, meaning a canal or other artificial watercourse, with the diminutive suffix -ine

Ugine was first mentioned in documents in the C11th. Its golden age was in the C13th, when prince Boniface of Savoie lived there, and built town walls, and four chateaux. In the C14th it suffered, since it was a frontier town during hostilities between Savoie and the Dauphiné.

A steel factory was built in Ugine in 1903, specialising in ferro-alloys. After World War I, many Belorussian and Polish workers were employed there. That's why there's a wooden Orthodox church, dedicated to St Nicholas, by the works. Today, the site employs 1200 people, and specialises in long stainless steel products.

Following the German invasion of 1940, Ugine was in the zone libre under the Vichy government until November 1942. It was directly occupied by the Germans thereafter. Resistance actions included sabotaging the steelworks using explosives, so that steel could not be produced to support the German war effort. Local fighters, using weapons dropped by the Allies at the Col des Saisies, liberated Ugine on 23rd August 1944.

There's a cycle route from Albertville to Ugine.

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: Megève

Télécabine, Megève 

Megève is a fashionable ski resort - perhaps better known for celebrity clients and expensive restaurants than for extreme skiing. It is at an altitude of 1,113m, so not one of the higher resorts.

Mairie de Megève

The name Megève comes from the Celtic Mageva, meaning village in the middle of waters. Before winter sports tourism, it was a peaceful agricultural village. The first tourists came in the C19th - pilgrims who came to visit the Stations of the Cross erected by Reverend Ambroise Martin from 1840, then tourists hoping to benefit from the pure air. 

The first ski competition took place in 1914. Local farmers created ski tows, and the arrival of the Rothschild family at Mont d'Arbois hastened the development of the town and ski resort. The first téléphérique was built in 1933. 

Emile Allais

Megève is known as the home town of famous skier Emile Allais, born here in 1912 (and who died in Sallanches in 2012). He learnt to ski when helping Baron Rothschild's Austrian ski instructor, as a porter. He broke a leg in 1933, while doing his military service with the chasseurs alpins, and it was then slightly shorter than the other; when he later broke the other leg, the doctor was able to make it the same length as the first. 

He was the first Frenchman to win a medal in downhill skiing, and he won gold in downhill, slalom, and combined at the 1937 World Championships in Chamonix. He invented the 'French skiing method', published with Paul Gignoux at the end of 1937, and taught (in an updated version) at the French ski schools (Ecoles du Ski Francais) throughout ski resorts in France. In December 1937, he became the first French ski instructor, with medal number 1. After the Second World War, he became technical director at ENSA (Ecole Nationale de Ski et d'Alpinisme, which trains instructors). He was still skiing at the age of 100.

A Allard, boutique in Megève

Amongst Megève's attractions other than skiing, there's a museum (Musée du Haut Val d' Arly); a replica of the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem, with fifteen oratories and chapels; and plane trips from the altiport at Côte 2000. There are also plenty of high-end shops, like A Allard. Armand Allard was a tailor in Megève from 1926, and Emile Allais asked him to create ski trousers which would be practical for competition. The result was the fuseau - tight fitting trousers, which Allais wore when winning his gold medals in 1937.

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: Comboux & Demi-Quartier

Chalets near Combloux

Chalets near Combloux, by HedgehogCycling

Victor Hugo called Combloux 'the pearl of the Alps'. It was a summer tourist destination from the 1920s, and attracted visitors for winter sports from the 1930s. Today, it has around 12,600 tourist beds. One of the summer attractions is an outdoor swimming pool which only uses aquatic plants and animals to filter and treat the water.

The ski resort is sometimes called 'Combloux 360°', because of the views in all directions to different mountain ranges. It has 100km of pistes, and is one of the cheapest resorts in Europe. 

Combloux's C18th church, the Eglise Saint-Nicolas, is classed as a historic monument.

Demi-Quartier was originally a suburb of Megève, but is now a commune in its own right. Its Town Hall is in the Place de l' Eglise in Megève, though. It's unusual that the Town Hall of one commune should be in another commune.

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: Côte de Domancy

Wood store, Domancy

Domancy is a village and a commune, with 1,904 people living in the commune. It has an attractive church, the Eglise Saint-André de Domancy, which dates from 1717, and has an older clock tower.

The Côte de Domancy was the scene of one of Bernard Hinault's triumphs. Here, he dropped Baronchelli, and went on to a solo victory in the road race, to become the 1980 World Champion. See the report in this video:

Stage 19, Tour de France 2016: St-Gervais Mont Blanc

Saint-Gervais

Ski - Saint Gervais, by Manon Fockedey, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

St-Gervais is the highest commune in France and in Europe, since the summit of Mont Blanc is within its territory (although the Italians on the other side of the mountain dispute this). The town is referred to as St-Gervais Les Bains, or St-Gervais Mont Blanc. The stream or torrent running down le Val Montjoie and through St-Gervais is called le Bon Nant. The inhabitants are called St-Gervolains. 

The St Gervais after whom the town is named was a Christian who was martyred together with his twin brother Protais in the reign of the Roman Emporer Nero.

Val Montjoie has been inhabited since Neolithic times. A Celtic people called the Ceutrons lived here immediately before the arrival of the Romans in the C1st AD. Val Montjoie became part of Savoie in 1355.

Hot springs were discovered at Le Fayet in 1806, and St-Gervais subsequently developed as a spa town. It is still popular with invalids seeking a cure, and in 2011, a new spa area called 'les Bains du Mont Blanc' was opened.

The most popular route to the top of Mont Blanc (4810m) is from St-Gervais, on the Tramway du Mont Blanc to the Nid d'Aigle, then to the Dôme du Goûter and past the Vallot cabin and the Arête des Bosses. The route up Mont Blanc from St-Gervais is called the Voie des Cristalliers, or the Voie Royale. Marie Paradis, the first woman to reach the summit of Mont Blanc (1808) was from St-Gervais.

St-Gervais is a ski resort, with skiing on the Mont d'Arbois, and le Prarion. 

There's bungee jumping from the St-Gervais viaduct, with a 65m fall into the Gorges du Bonnant.

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