A guide to the Tour de France
A guide to Stage 4 of the Tour de France 2017, which is 207.5km from Mondorf-les-Bains (Luxembourg) to Vittel. It's the 2017 Tour's thermal baths and mineral water stage. The route broadly follows the river Moselle south, and passes via the town of Toul. The stage is classified flat. It might be affected by crosswinds, but is likely to end in a bunch sprint. Read about Stage 4 of the Tour de France 2017 here.
4th July 2017
Stage 4 came to the boil in Vittel after a long, solo break by Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Wanty Groupe Gobert). Peter Sagan moved across and elbowed Mark Cavendish in the sprint, making the Manxman fall and injure his shoulder, while Arnaud Démare took the win.
|Climbs||Col des Trois Fontaines (Category 4)|
This is the official map of Stage 4.
The official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 4:
Profile of Stage 4, Tour de France 2017, © ASO/Tour de France
Stage 4 takes place on Tuesday 4th July 2017.
The publicity caravan sets off from Mondorf-les-Bains at 10h10, and arrives at the finish in Vittel at 15h23.
The peloton leaves Mondorf at 12h10 (départ fictif), and the racing starts at 12h20. The finish in Vittel is between 16h56 and 17h23 (depending on the average speed).
On Stage 4, the riders head from Luxembourg into the Lorraine region of France. (The administrative region now including Lorraine is called the Grand Est). The route of the stage is broadly south, along the course of the river Moselle. It goes through the French départements of Moselle (57), Meurthe-et-Moselle (54), and Vosges (88).
The race goes through Schengen before crossing into France. Schengen is a small wine-making village in Luxembourg, near the French and German borders, which gives its name to the Schengen Agreement.
The official Tour de France website seems to be making a political point when it states: 'Passing through Schengen and before returning to French territory, the peloton will have confirmation it can go around freely...' Those of us who value the right to move freely will agree!
Stage 4 follows the Moselle via Contz-les-Bains and Koenigsmacker to Thionville (actually its suburb of Yutz, on the right bank).
A number of forts were built around Thionville by the Germans after their annexation of this area in the Franco-Prussian War (1871). The forts, including those at Koenigsmacker, Yutz, Illange, and Guéntrange, were constructed in the early 1900s, to guard against any French attack to recover Lorraine and Alsace.
The route continues via Illange to Ay-sur-Moselle and Maizières-lès-Metz (home to the Walygator amusement park).
The riders drift away from the river to Saint-Privat-la-Montagne (the location of a battle on 18th August 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War; the Prussians won, and 20,000 people were killed). They return to the Moselle just south of Metz, and continue alongside it, leaving the Moselle département to enter the Meurthe-et-Moselle.
Pont-à-Mousson is one of the towns along the river. It suffered badly in both World Wars. The iron foundry here was established in 1856, and the factory, now owned by Saint-Gobain, continues to produce cast iron pipes for water, irrigation, and sewage.
A little further along the river is Dieulouard, which has a link with Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire.
After 129km of racing, the peloton reaches Toul.
After Toul, the race route leaves the Moselle, and travels via Thuilley-aux-Groseilles. (Groseilles are redcurrants; groseilles blanches are gooseberries). It reaches Govillier for the intermediate sprint.
Profile of the intermediate sprint on Stage 4, at Govillier, © ASO/Tour de France
After passing through Vandeléville, the riders begin the only classified climb of the stage, the Col des Trois Fontaines. There's 1.9km of ascending, at an average gradient of 7.4%. The height at the top is a modest 475m.
After the climb comes the village of Tramont-Lassus, then the race enters the Vosges département. The route in the Vosges is through gently rolling countryside and small villages. The sprinters' teams will keep the pace high as the peloton approaches Vittel.
Map of the finish of Stage 4, Tour de France 2017, in Vittel, © Vittel Tourisme
The sprinters will take note of the three sharp bends within Vittel, and try to position themselves well.
Stage 4 is a second chance on the 2017 Tour for the pure sprinters, after Stage 2. Crosswinds might create the conditions for a split in the bunch, but the chances are, it will come down to a battle among the usual suspects - Mark Cavendish, André Greipel, Marcel Kittel, and perhaps Nacer Bouhanni or Dylan Groenewegen.
Cavendish is returning from an illness which affected him this spring, and it remains to be seen whether he can be at his top level. He has his own doubts: 'I could be doing myself more damage going and not winning than not going at all. I could be setting myself up to fail.'
Stage 5 of the Tour de France 2017 is 160.5km from Vittel to la-Planche-des-Belles-Filles. This first summit finish of the race should indicate which of the GC favourites are in good form.
Read about Stage 5, Tour de France 2017.
Mondorf-les-Bains is a small spa town in the Remich canton of Luxembourg. It has Luxembourg's only casino, and is home to bike racers Andy and Frank Schleck.
The town has Roman origins (they built a castle here in 65BC, on a site already inhabited by the Celts). The name 'Mondorf' comes from Charlemagne's niece, Muomina. It was part of her possessions when she gave everything she owned to an Abbey; at this time, the town got the name Muomendorph, which evolved to Mondorf.
From the 1840s, it became a spa resort. Thermal waters were discovered as a result of deep drilling for salt. Thermal baths were opened in 1847. French guests flowed to Mondorf-les-bains, until the German occupation of 1871, during the Franco-Prussian war.
Mondorf was a German spa during World War II, then after the war the Palace Hotel was used to hold senior Nazis awaiting trial at Nürnberg.
The current spa facilities date from 1988.
Andy Schleck's retirement from professional cycling aged 29, on 9th October 2014, was reported by CyclingNews. This is CyclingNews's comment: 'The arc of Schleck's career was a curious one. He turned professional under the tutelage of Bjarne Riis at CSC in 2005 and managed to finish a surprise second in the 2007 Giro d'Italia at the age of just 21, yet he won just a single race after his 26th birthday. Schleck's motivation seemed to wane following his brother Fränk's positive test for Xipamide at the 2012 Tour, though rumours of a problem with alcohol and concerns over his biological passport were both swiftly rebuffed by Schleck and his team.'
The Schengen Agreement was signed on 14th June 1985. It abolished passport and other border controls for travel between the participating European countries.
The Agreement was signed on the Princess Marie-Astrid boat, on the river Moselle, near Schengen. It was originally signed by five countries (Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and West Germany), independently of the EU. It was later adopted by the EU.
Schengen has a European Museum.
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a small country (998 sqaure miles, about the same land area as the US state of Rhode Island, or the English county of Northamptonshire). The population is about 575,000. It's a constitutional monarchy, with a Grand Duke as the Head of State.
The European Court of Justice is based in the capital, Luxembourg City.
There's a mix of French and German cultures, and French and German are official languages, along with Luxembourgish.
Luxembourg began in 963, when Siegried I acquired the rocky Roman fortifications at the heart of the country. The Counts of Luxembourg later became Grand Dukes. Luxembourg belonged to France under Louis XIV, to Austria under Maria Theresa, then to Napoleon's France. It gained its independence after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814.
At the start of the C20th, there was a significant steel industry. More recently, Luxembourg has concentrated on banking and the knowledge economy, as well as the dubious practice of helping companies like Amazon avoid tax via transfer-pricing (the practice of routing multinationals' profits through a low-tax jurisdiction).
Lorraine is an historical and cultural area of France which is now part of the Grand Est administrative region. Its name comes from the Medieval Kingdom of Lotharingia, probably named after the Emporer Lothair I, a grandson of Charlemagne, who inherited part of the Frankish Empire.
Charlemagne's son Louis the Pious was Emporer after Charlemagne. When Louis died, the Empire was split amongst his sons by the Treaty of Verdun (843).
Lorraine was annexed by France in 1766; Germany gained some of it in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871; it was regained by France in 1919, after the First World War; the Nazis occupied France including Lorraine from 1940-44, then Lorraine was freed from Occupation with the rest of the country at the end of World War II.
German is widely spoken in the Moselle département, otherwise French is the main language. However, two traditional dialects also exist: Lorrain, in south-eastern Lorraine, and Lorraine Franconian (or Platt).
The Cross of Lorraine was adopted as the symbol of the Free French during World War II.
Traditional ingredients in Lorraine cooking include the potato, smoked bacon, and the mirabelle plum. Well-known local dishes include Quiche Lorraine, pâté Lorraine, and potée Lorraine (a stew with smoked meat and sausage, cabbage, and root vegetables). Wikipedia says that there's a dish called Karotewasser, which is carrots in black tea; I'm not sure if I believe that.
The Moselle river flows south to north through France, Luxembourg, and Germany, joining the Rhine at Koblenz. There are terraced vineyards on its banks, with many of the grapes used to make Riesling wines. There's also heavy industry, with coal mining and steel-making between Metz and Thionville.
The source of the Moselle is on the Col de Bussang, on the western slopes of the Ballon d'Alsace in the Vosges mountains. It is in France for the first 314km of the total of its 544km.
Toul is an historic town, capital of the Celtic Leuci tribe, and known to the Romans as Tullum Leucorum.
It was a Free Imperial City under the Holy Roman Empire, but it was annexed to France in 1552. Thereafter, its history is the same as that as the rest of Lorraine, passing between France and Germany on a number of occasions.
In World War II, Toul was the primary base of the US Army's Air Service.
Sights in Toul include Vauban's fortifications around the old town (from 1699-1700, in the time of Louis XIV), and the Gothic Cathedral.
Vittel is a small town in the Vosges département of France, famous for Vittel mineral water.
Vittel was founded in 1854, when lawyer Louis Bouloumié bought the Fontaine de Gérémoy. He built a pavilion there, and a spa resort grew up around it.
In World War I, the US Army Base Hospital 36, from Detroit, Michigan, occupied five hotels and the casino.
In World War II, the grass airstrip at Vittel was used by the US Army Air Forces for light liaison aircraft during the Battle for France in 1944. Captured Luftwaffe aircraft were stocked in Vittel in 1945.
Vittel mineral water has been bottled since 1854. It is owned by Nestlé.
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