A guide to the Tour de France
Stage 4 of the Tour de France 2018 starts in la Baule (départ fictif), in the Loire-Atlantique département, and heads north east inland to Guérande (départ réel), Pontchâteau, Blain, Nozay, and Derval. After an intermediate sprint at Derval, the riders veer west to Redon, then continue into Brittany. They traverse the Breton département of Morbihan, going through Muzillac on their way to finish on the Rhuys peninsula south of Vannes, at the small town of Sarzeau. (The new President of the UCI, David Lappartient, is Mayor of Sarzeau, which explains the choice of finish town). A 4-km straight to the line will ensure that the win comes down to speed and timing. Read about Stage 4 of the Tour de France 2018 here.
This is the official map of Stage 4 (as far as Derval):
© ASO/Tour de France
The official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 4 (to follow):
Tuesday 10th July 2018. According to La Baule's website, the publicity caravan will set off at 10h30, and the ceremonial start for the riders will be at 12h40. More timings to follow.
The stage starts in la Baule, a seaside resort in the Loire-Atlantique. According to actu.fr, the départ fictif will be at place des Salines/avenue des Floralies. Avenue de Gaulle takes the riders down to the seafront, and they ride west along boulevard Hennecart and later avenue des Lilas. Leaving the coast, the route crosses salt marshes to Leniphen, then continues north in the direction of Guérande. This is the map of the Stage 4 route in La Baule, from actu.fr:
The neutralised section of the stage is quite long, at 10km, and will give lots of people an opportunity to see the peloton travelling at reduced speed; it also allows the cameras to show the attractions of La Baule, at at time when the tide is at mid-level (which gives the best images of the bay). The flag goes down and the racing starts just before Guérande.
'Paludiers' working on the salt marshes near Guérande, by Office du Tourisme de Guérande, Licence CC BY 2.0
The first town after la Baule, Guérande, marks the boundary between salt marshes to the south and peat bogs to the north.
Once the racing starts at Guérande, the route is north east through the Parc Naturel Régional de Brière. These are the peat bogs. Within the park, there are also lakes, Neolithic dolmen stones, and villages with thatched cottages. The race passes through Saint-Lyphard, la Chapelle-des-Marais, and Sainte-Reine-de-Bretagne.
Leaving the Natural Park, the race heads towards Pontchâteau. On the D33 between Sainte-Reine-de-Bretagne and Pontchâteau, the riders pass the famous Calvary of Pontchâteau - a Way of the Cross (picture at the top of this section) and Scala Santa, or holy steps (picture below).
The Stage 4 route after Pontchâteau is east via Sainte-Anne-sur-Brivet, Quilly (meaning bocage in the Breton language), and the Espace Quilly, to Blain.
The route continues via le Gâvre and Vay to Nozay. (Nozay probably gets its name from walnut trees that grew here. Historically, the local people lived from agriculture, slate quarrying, iron ore extraction, and tin mines).
The day's intermediate sprint is at the next town, Derval. Then, according to L'Eclaireur, the stage route is west via Guémené-Penfao to Redon. It seems that Stage 4 will make the briefest of incursions into the Ile-et-Vilaine département at Redon, before crossing into the Morbihan.
Stage 4 will pass through Redon, then enter the département of Morbihan near Saint-Jean-la-Poterie. Le Télégramme has a map of the part of the route in le Morbihan:
The race passes through Allaire, Caden, Limerzel, and Noyal-Muzillac, on the way to Muzillac. It then continues via Ambon, Surzur, and Saint-Colombier, before the finish in Sarzeau.
The finish of the stage is in Brittany on the little peninsula of Rhuys south of Vannes, at the village of Sarzeau. According to Christian Prudhomme at the Tour route announcement in Paris, there's a 4km straight to the finish line, which should make for a sprint royal.
More details of the finish were given by Stéphane Boury of ASO, as reported in Le Télégramme. He describes a finish on a peninsula as being like a mountain summit finish in terms of logistics. They expect 40,000-50,000 spectators on the peninsula on the day of the race.
According to Le Télégramme, the finish line is by the Casino supermarket, on the D198, just off the D780.
The favourites for the stage win include Marcel Kittel, riding for Katusha-Alpecin in 2018, and Fernando Gaviria, who is Kittel's successor as the top sprinter at Quick-Step Floors. Mark Cavendish is often good at choosing a wheel to follow, and he frequently chooses Kittel's. He could emerge from the big German's slipstream just at the right moment to take the stage win.
Stage 5 of the Tour de France 2018 is 203km from Lorient to Quimper.
Read about Stage 5 of the 2018 Tour de France.
La Baule-Escoublac is a seaside resort in the Loire-Atlantique département, and the Pays de la Loire region. This stretch of coastline is known as la Côte d'Amour.
La Baule owes its existence to the moving sand dunes. In the late 1700s, storms moved sand and buried some houses at Escoublac. Locals feared that the salt marshes would advance as the sand dunes moved. A dyke was built, but many locals moved inland, where a new village was built on the road to Guérande in 1779.
The site near the dyke became known as la Bôle (a coastal meadow liable to be flooded), later la Baule. In the years that followed, trees were planted to help stabilise the sand dunes.
In 1878, Parisian industrialist Jules-Joseph Hennecart bought up dunes here, and in 1879, the railway link with Paris was completed. Hennecart commissioned a local architect to design a town based along a Promenade. Later, luxury hotels and a casino were added.
La Baule was a centre of German navy activity during World War II, because it was close to the U-boat station of Saint-Nazaire (at the mouth of the estuary of the river Loire). It was part of the Poche de Saint-Nazaire in 1945 - the Nazis held out longer here than in the rest of the département.
The year-round population is around 16,000, but in summer, there can be 150,000 people here including visitors. Since September 1989, the TGV Atlantique has linked Paris and la Baule, with a journey time of less than 3 hours.
There are festivals of chamber music, jazz, and European film in la Baule.
La Baule is twinned with another destination for sun-worshippers, Inverness in Scotland.
Guérande is a walled Medieval town. The circumference of the ramparts is 1,434m; there are four gates. The town walls were begun in 1343 but only inaugurated in 1488. The old town within the walls is referred to as intra muros.
The salt marshes around Guérande are part nature reserve and partly used for production of fleur de sel.
Pontchâteau originated in the C11th, when the local barons built a castle by a bridge over the river Brivet, and a town grew up around the castle. It was a centre for exchanges of produce from the marshes to the south, and the plateau inland.
At around the same time, the monks of Marmoutier founded a Priory. Pontchâteau was on one of the routes to Saint-Iago-de-Compostella.
It was the missionary Grignion de Montfort who built a Calvary in 1709, but Louis XIV had it destroyed. The current Calvary dates from the C19th, and has around thirty statues. Visitors and pilgrims can climb the hill, which represents Mount Golgotha, following in the footsteps of Christ to his crucifixion. There's also a Scala Sancta and pilgrims' chapel, which are C19th constructions too.
Pontchâteau today is a town of around 10,000 people.
There's a cyclo-cross circuit just south west of Pontchâteau, at Coët-Rotz. The French National Championships have been held there on five occasions, as well as four World Cup events, and two World Championships. There's to be another World Cup event there in 2019.
Sarzeau is a small town of about 7,800 people in the Morbihan département of Brittany. It's on the Rhuys peninsula, which forms the southern shore of the Gulf of Morbihan. Sarzeau's economy is largely dependent on tourism.
The coastline of the Rhuys peninsula on the northern (Gulf of Morbihan) side is granite, and features sheltered bays and rocky points. There are sandy beaches on the southern (Atlantic) coast of the peninsula.
Several islands in the Gulf of Morbihan belong to the Sarzeau commune. They include the Ile des Oeufs and the Ile de Godec.
Near to the town of Sarzeau and within the commune is the Château de Suscinio, built in the C13th and fortified in the C15th - a favourite haunt of the Dukes of Brittany in the day when they ruled here.
Other sights include prehistoric standing stones, like the menhir de Kermaillard, and a bird reserve at Duer.
Suscinio is one of the last places on the Rhuys peninsula where Breton is still spoken as a first language by the older residents. Around 7% of children in the commune of Sarzeau study in bi-lingual (Breton and French) classes.
David Lappartient, elected President of the UCI in 2017, is also the Mayor of Sarzeau.
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