A guide to the Tour de France
Stage 4 of the Tour de France 2018 starts in la Baule, in the Loire-Atlantique département, and goes inland through Guérande, Pontchâteau, Blain, and Nozay. It continues into Brittany, and veers back west to finish near the coast at Sarzeau. A 4-km straight to the line should ensure that the win comes down to pure speed, not positioning. Read about Stage 4 of the Tour de France 2018 here.
Stage 4 of the Tour de France 2018 starts in la Baule (départ fictif) and heads north to Guérande (départ réel). It then goes east north east, to leave the Loire-Atlantique after the town of Derval - marking the end of the 2018 Grand Départ. The route continues into Brittany, inland at first, then veering west 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 may explain the choice of finish town).
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. Timings to follow.
The stage starts in la Baule, a seaside resort in the Loire-Atlantique.
The neutralised section of the stage is north on the D92 towards Guérande. The flag goes down and the racing starts at Guérande.
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. Before reaching the town, it passes 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 Grand Départ finishes at the next town, Derval, but Stage 4 continues into Brittany.
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.
The favourites for the stage win include Marcel Kittel, riding for Katusha-Alpecin in 2018. One of his main challengers is likely to be Fernando Gaviria, who is Kittel's successor as the top sprinter at Quick-Step Floors.
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.
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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