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Stage 6, Tour de France 2016: Arpajon-sur-Cère to Montauban

Montauban

Montauban, by roberta, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

A guide to Stage 6 of the Tour de France 2016. Stage 6 of the 2016 Tour is from Arpajon-sur-Cère to Montauban, via Montsalvy, Flagnac, Decazeville, Aubin, Montbazens, Villefranche-de-Rouergues, Parisot, Caylus, Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, Montricoux, and Nègrepelisse. The distance covered is 190.5km. The race route is quite lumpy to begin with, as it leaves the Massif Central, then it flattens out later in the stage. There are three climbs altogether: the Col des Estaques (Category 3) and the Côte d'Aubin (Category 4) fairly early on, then the Côte de Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val (Category 3) 40km from the finish. There's an intermediate sprint at Montbazens, after 77.5km. Assuming a breakaway doesn't succeed, we can expect a bunch sprint in Montauban to decide the winner of the stage. Read about Stage 6 of the Tour de France 2016 here.

Read the Stage 6 race report.

Stage 6, Tour de France 2016: facts, figures, and map

Stage 6 of the Tour de France 2016 is 190.5km from Arpajon-sur-Cère to Montauban.

Stage classification Flat
Distance 190.5km
Sprints Montbazens (after 77.5km)
Climbs Col des Estaques (Category 3)
Côte d'Aubin (Category 4)
Côte de Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val (Category 3)

This is the official Stage 6 map. This is an earlier unofficial map of the likely route:

The unofficial map is broadly correct, except that the race will go into Villefranche-de-Rouergue, instead of skirting around it. Also, after Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, the riders will take the D958 to Montricoux, instead of following the Gorges de l'Aveyron via Bruniquel.

This is the official stage profile for Stage 6:

Profile of Stage 6, Tour de France 2016

Stage 6 profile, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

Stage 6, Tour de France 2016: timings

These are some of the Stage 6 timings (based on the medium estimated speed of 42kmh):

Km Place Time
Départ fictif in Arpajon-sur-Cère 1245
0 Départ réel on the D920 leaving Arpajon 1250
12 Lafeuillade-en-Vézie 1307
23.5 Montsalvy 1323
50.5 St-Parthem 1402
62 Col des Estaques 1419
63.5 Decazeville 1421
69 Aubin 1428
77.5 Montbazens (sprint) 1440
104 Villefranche-sur-Rouergues 1518
149 Côte de Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val 1623
169.5 Nègrepelisse 1652
190.5 Finish at Montauban 1722

See the full timings for Stage 6, based on average speeds of 44, 42, and 40kmh.

Stage 6, Tour de France 2016: the start at Arpajon-sur-Cère

Map of start of Stage 6, Tour de France 2016, in Arpajon-sur-Cere

Map of the start of Stage 6, Tour de France 2016, in Arpajon-sur-Cère, ©OpenStreetMap

Stage 6 starts in Arpajon-sur-Cère, a town on the river Cère which merges into Aurillac. The riders will set off from place de la République at 1245. They'll take rue du Docteur Félix Ramond, then avenue Jean Ferrat/D990, before joining the D920 south towards Montsalvy. 

The départ réel, when the racing starts, is on the D920 at 1250.

Stage 6, Tour de France 2016: Arpajon-sur-Cère to Villefranche-de-Rouergue

Bridge over the Aveyron, Villefranche-de-Rouergue

Pont des Conuls bridge over the Aveyron, Villefranche-de-Rouergue, by Philippe, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Leaving Arpajon-sur-Cère on the D920, the race passes through the hamlets of Senhiles and Lafeuillade-en-Vézie, and continues to Montsalvy. (Montsalvy is a village of 880 people. It began as a monastery, founded in 1070. It has a chateau, now a retirement home. Overlooking Montsalvy is the Puy de l'Arbre, a hill which gives views as far as Rodez, and which has the remains of the Chateau de Mandulphe).

Chateau de Montsalvy

Le Chateau de Montsalvy, by Bonita de Boer, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

From Montsalvy, Stage 6 heads south west on the D341. It passes through the hamlet of Aubespeyre, which has a charming little church, then descends steeply to the river Lot at la Viellevie. This is the lowest point in the Cantal département (188m above sea level). (The name la Viellevie comes from the Latin Veteri Via, meaning old route, or old road. Traditionally, wood destined to be made into barrels was loaded onto boats here. Local lords lived in the Chateau de Viellevie, an imposing Medieval castle with round towers, which dates from the C11th, C13th, and C16th).

Saint-Parthem

Saint-Parthem, by Christian van Elven, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

The race route now follows the D141 along the right bank of the river Lot to St-Projet-de-Cassanouize, a village which began as an Abbey. It leaves the Cantal département, and crosses into the Aveyron, now on the D42. After passing le Manoir des Pelies, it continues to Saint-Parthem. The D42 takes the riders past the Chateau de Gironde (which is perched up on the wooded slopes overlooking the Lot) to Port d'Agrès (which was mentioned as a river port in 755, when traditional gabarres boats were in use). Here, they join the D963 and cross the Lot to Flagnac. 

River Lot & Flagnac

River Lot & Flagnac, by Iris d'Aveyron, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

(Flagnac is a village of about 1,000 people. It originated in Gallo-Roman times, but developed under the nearby monastery of Conques from the C9th. Flagnac welcomes many visitors in the summer, and there's boating, kayaking, and canoeing on the river. At the end of July and the beginning of August, there's a sound and light show called Hier un Village à Flagnac).

Col (or Côte) des Estaques (Category 3)

The D963 leaves Flagnac and the river Lot. Now comes the first climb of the stage, the Col des Estaques (Category 3). The road goes from an altitude of 200m by the river Lot, to 322m in les Estaques, giving a height gain of 122m. The distance is 2km, which means an average gradient of 6%. From les Estaques, there's a short descent to Decazeville.

Decazeville

Decazeville

(Decazeville is a C19th coal and steel town. Coal was extracted from the C16th, and transported on the river Lot to Bordeaux. Duke Elie Decazes inherited the mines, and built (1826) collieries and iron foundries. The town developed around these industries, and it is named after Decazes. At the height of the steel industry in Decazeville in the C20th, 9,000 steelworkers were employed here. The steel industry has become smaller and more specialised, and the coal mines have closed - underground mining stopped in 1996, and open cast mining ended in 2001. Decazeville is on a route of pilgrimmage to Santiago de Compostela. There's an international fireworks festival at Decazeville, which takes place on the site of the old open cast mines - la Découverte de Lassale).

Tourisme Aveyron has the itinerary in Decazeville. The riders arrive at la Vitarelle roundabout, and turn left on the D840, which runs along the bank of the riou Mort to the next roundabout by the Gendarmerie Nationale. Here, they turn right on rue du Maréchal Foch, then left on rue Cayrade, and right on rue Lassale/D221 towards Cérons and Aubin.

Musée des Mines, Aubin

Musée des Mines, Aubin, by Thierry Llansades, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

(The commune of Aubin has 3,944 inhabitants. It may have begun with a Roman military camp on a rocky spur overlooking today's village. A Medieval castle was built up there, some of which remains, at the Site du Fort. Like Decazeville, Aubin expanded its population during the Industrial Revolution, with coal mining and steel works, but more recently these industries have declined. Aubin has a mining museum. Two factory chimineys, dating from the mid-C19th, have been preserved).

Cheminées d'usine, Aubin

Cheminées d'usine, Aubin, by Thierry Llansades, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Côte d'Aubin (Category 4)

Stage 6 leaves Aubin, heading south on the D5. The road climbs a little, then descends to the riou Viou. The Côte d'Aubin starts from the riou Viou (265m), and finishes at 335m. This means a height gain of 70m over a distance of 1.3km, so an average gradient of 5.4%.

The road then levels off, and goes into Montbazens, location of the day's intermediate sprint. 

Profile of the sprint on Stage 6, Tour de France 2016, at Montbazens

(Montbazens is a village of 1,418 people. There was a Gallo-Roman settlement at nearby Montfalgous, but Montbazens developed in the Middle Ages. In 960, it belonged to the Counts of Rodez, but by 1289, it was a possession of the Abbey of Aurillac, and the priory church of St Géraud was built about this time. The town hall is in the centre of the village, in the Prior's Lodge, which dates from the C16th. Tourism is promoted in the village and the surrounding area, the Plateau de Montbazens).

The D5 passes the hamlets of la Carreyrie and Cavagnac. The route reaches a crossroads, where it goes right on the D1 to Lanuéjouls (a village of 730 people, which has a model railway museum). Continuing on the D1, the race route arrives at a major junction at Farrou, just outside Villefranche-de-Rouergue.

place Notre-Dame, Villefranche-de-Rouergue

Place Notre-Dame, Villefranche-de-Rouergue, by Stephen Colebourne, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

The town of Villefranche-de-Rouergue persuaded the Tour de France organisers to modify their original plans for the route. Stage 6 was to skirt around the town; now, it will go along the Aveyron river, and right by the central bastide part of town. I sometimes wonder if this kind of thing is part of a deliberate PR strategy by the Tour organisers: you suggest an unsatisfactory route, then you demonstrate how popular the race is when the local people plead with you to send it through their town. Probably not though.

The race goes into Villefranche-de-Rouergue on the route basse de Farrou (the D922), on the other side of the Algouse stream from the one square tower that remains of the Chateau de Veuzac. The Algouse flows into the Alzou. The D922 continues along the bank of the Alzou to its confluence with the Aveyron, and the edge of Villefranche's centre. Here, the road between the river and the town is called Quai de la Sénéchaussée. The riders pass the pont des Consuls, then turn right, away from the river, on the promenade du Guiraudet/boulevard Charles de Gaulle. They then go left on the avenue Vincent Cibiel, left on the avenue de Toulouse, and join the route de Montauban/D911.

Bridge over the Aveyron, Villefranche-de-Rouergue

Pont des Conuls bridge over the Aveyron, Villefranche-de-Rouergue, by Philippe, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Stage 6 Tour de France 2016: Villefranche-de-Rouergue to Montauban

Overlooking Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val

Overlooking Saint-Antonin, by Tony Hisgett, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

At a junction outside Villefranche-de-Rouergue, the race goes left on the D926. It passes close to Loc-Dieu fortified Cistercian Abbey, then through the village of Mémer. Soon after Mémer, it leaves the Aveyron département, and enters the Tarn-et-Garonne. The road now passes close to the village and lake of Parisot.

View from hill overlooking Caylus

Caylus in the morning mist, by Stephen Colebourne, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

The next village on the route is Caylus.

Les Halles, Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val

Les Halles, Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, by @lain G, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Stage 6 heads south out of Caylus on the D19, passing close to the Chateau de Cas. It reaches the beautifully-preserved Medieval settlement of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, in the Gorges de l'Aveyron.

Côte de Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val (Category 3)

It seems from the itinerary and timings that the race will leave Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val heading west on the D958 towards Carême and Montricoux. This is the third and final categorised climb of the day, the 3rd Category Côte de Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val. The altitude at Saint-Antonin is about 125m, and at the top of the slope above the Aveyron, it is 289m. This gives a height difference of 164m. The distance is 3.2km, which means an average gradient of 5.1%.

Montricoux

Signpost near Montricoux, by Tony Lewis, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The D958 takes the riders through the Forêt de la Garrigue to Montricoux. (Montricoux has a population of 1,116. It's a picturesque fortified village on the river Aveyron, with many Medieval half-timbered buildings. The old chateau of Montricoux, built by the Knights Templar, now houses the museum dedicated to the painter Marcel Lenoir, who retired here. At the other end of the Gorges de l'Aveyron from Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, Montricoux is popular as a base for canoeists, kayakers, and cavers).

The race route crosses the Aveyron at Montricoux, and turns right on the D115 to Nègrepelisse. (Nègrepelisse is a village on the Aveyron. It was originally called Sieurac, then la Mothe Saint Pierre. It got its present name from the foresters who worked in the woods around the village. They made charcoal, which blackened their cloaks (pelisses). Nègrepelisse means black cloak).

The race sweeps past Saint-Etienne-de-Tulmont  with 14.5km left before in the finish line in Montauban. It looks from the itinerary as though it doesn't stay on the D115, but goes south, perhaps on the Chemin de Ceinture, and west on the route de Léojac, to cross the autoroute and arrive in Montauban on the rue du Ramiérou.

Stage 6, Tour de France 2016: the finish at Montauban

Montauban

Montauban, by roberta, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The finish of Stage 6 of the Tour de France 2016 is at Montauban. Montauban tourist office has details of the route at the finish of the stage, and the evening entertainment after the race. They've produced a map of the Stage 6 route in Montauban. After crossing the autoroute A20, the riders arrive in Montauban on rue du Ramiérou, then take boulevard Edouard Hérriot, boulevard Blaise Doumerc, and rue Léon Cladel; the last bend is by the hospital, onto rue du Docteur Alibert, then the finish line is on avenue du 10ème Dragons, near the river Tarn. This is the map of the route:

Map of the finish of Stage 6, Tour de France 2016, in Montauban

This is the profile of the last 5km of Stage 6:

Profile of last 5km of Stage 6, Tour de France 2016

© A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

What will happen on Stage 6? Although there are three classified climbs, the last comes 41.5km before the finish, and the sprinters are unlikely to be dropped. There's almost certain to be a breakaway, but if the sprinters' teams time it right, they'll bring the race back together in the closing stages. This should set up a win for Kittel, Greipel, Cavendish, Groenewegen, or one of the other fast men.

Stage 6, Tour de France 2016: Geraint Thomas's view

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas spoke to the BBC to give his analysis of each stage. This is what he thinks about Stage 6:

'It may look a little lumpy, but this is a stage for the sprinters, because it's their final chance for a while with us heading up into the Pyrenees mountains.'

Who does he think will win? 'Mark Cavendish. It could be any of the main sprinters but if he's not tasted victory yet [he has], he will want to do so before the race hits the mountains.'

Stage 7, Tour de France 2016: l'Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle

Col d'Aspin

Stage 7 of the 2016 Tour de France is from l'Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle. The race heads south west across the plateau de Lannemezan to the Pyrenees. The climax of the stage is a climb of the 1st Category Col d'Aspin, followed by a 7km descent to Lac de Payolle. Read about Stage 7, Tour de France 2016

Stage 6, Tour de France 2016: sights and attractions on the route

Stage 6, Tour de France 2016: Arpajon-sur-Cère 

Arpajon-sur-Cère is a town of 6,215 people on the river Cère, which merges into Aurillac.

The root of the name Arpajon is uncertain. It could come from the Latin arcarum pagus, meaning village of tombs, or from ar podium, signifying elevation in Gallic (ar) and Latin (podium).

Arpajon-sur-Cère had a Gallo-Roman settlement in the second half of the C2nd. Burial sites from this time have been found, and it's thought that there was a temple to Jupiter. The old bridge over the Cère is built on the foundations of a Roman bridge.

Arpajon-sur-Cère is twinned with Bassetlaw (UK).

Stage 6, Tour de France 2016: Villefranche-de-Rouergue

Bridge over the Aveyron, Villefranche-de-Rouergue

Pont des Conuls bridge over the Aveyron, Villefranche-de-Rouergue, by Philippe, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Villefranche-de-Rouergue is a town of 10,909 people on the Aveyron river. It has a warm climate, as it's in the Midi Toulousain rather than the Massif Central.

It was founded by Alphonse de Poitiers in 1252. At that time, Najac was the local capital, but Alphonse, who had just taken over the comté de Toulouse by marrying the last count's daughter, wanted a new administrative capital which would be loyal to him. He therefore created a new town on the right bank of the Aveyron. To ensure the town was a success, he granted concessions and fiscal exemptions to people who took up residence, and the name Villefranche reflects this. The charter of customs established by Alphonse and King Louis IX, governing commercial transactions, was generous enough to attract rich merchants and nobles to live here.

place Notre-Dame, Villefranche-de-Rouergue

Place Notre-Dame, Villefranche-de-Rouergue, by Stephen Colebourne, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

The town was built on the grid pattern characteristic of villes bastides, with a central square (today called place Notre Dame, and which retains its Medieval arcades). The construction of the collegiate church of Notre-Dame began in 1252, but took three centuries. The bridge was built around 1321; originally, it had two towers, but they were demolished in the 1700s. 

Notre-Dame cathedral, Villefranche-de-Rouergue

Notre-Dame cathedral, Villefranche-de-Rouergue, by Stephen Colebourne, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

Construction of the Chartreuse monastery of Saint-Sauveur began in 1452. The monks moved in 6 years later, but the works were not finished until 1528.

Chartreuse Saint Sauveur, Villefranche-de-Rouergue

Chartreuse Saint-Sauveur, Villefranche-de-Rouergue, by Manuel Alende Maceira, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

During World War II, on 17th September 1943, the members of the 13th Division SS of the German army, who were mainly Bosnians (or Croation muslims, as they were called at the time), rebelled, executed their German officers, and liberated the town. The liberation only lasted for a day, as German reinforcements arrived and regained control of Villefranche. Surviving rebels were executed, but two of the rebel leaders managed to escape and join the maquis.

Villefranche-de-Rouergue is a well-preserved historic town, which, together with the other nearby villes bastides like Najac, la Bastide-l'Eveque, and Villeneuve-d'Aveyron, attracts many visitors.

Stage 6, Tour de France 2016: Caylus

View from hill overlooking Caylus

Caylus in the morning mist, by Stephen Colebourne, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

Caylus is a village and commune on the little river Bonnette. Its name comes from the Latin castrum. It had a castle before 1176, when it became the property of Raymond V of Toulouse. Only one square tower remains of the castle. Caylus was taken by Simon de Montfort in 1211, during the Albigensian Crusade, and burnt. In 1270, it became part of France, with the rest of the lands of the Count of Toulouse. 

Before the One Hundred Years War, it was quite a populus and thriving town, but the war, together with an outbreak of plague in 1348, reduced the population by a third. Caylus suffered again during the Wars of Religion: in 1562, Protestant troops took the mainly Catholic town, and killed 250 people. In 1622, King Louis XIII established his HQ in Caylus, to conduct the siege of Saint-Antonin. Caylus never recovered from the Wars of Religion, and became a quiet rural settlement. Most of the fortifications were taken down in the C18th.

Stage 6, Tour de France 2016: Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val

Overlooking Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val

Overlooking Saint-Antonin, by Tony Hisgett, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val is at the confluence of the Bonnette and the Aveyron, and has beautifully-preserved Medieval buildings. Its Hotel de Ville dates from the C12th, and is the oldest in France. 

It takes its name from St Antonin de Pamiers, one of the first preachers who converted people to Christianity in the Rouergue area. Antonin was martyred in Pamiers, south of Toulouse, and his relics miraculously made their way by river to this place, in a boat guided by two white eagles. 'Noble-Val' comes from the Roman name for the Aveyron valley here, nobilis vallis. The Gorges de l'Aveyron are a protected site.

Saint-Antonin's history is similar to that of Caylus. It was beseiged by Simon de Montfort in 1212, during the Albigensian Crusades. It suffered invasion by the English in 1351, during the One Hundred Years War. In 1622, during the Wars of Religion, King Louis XIII took Saint-Antonin from the Protestants by force, and the inhabitants had to pay a huge ransom in order to avoid being massacred.

Les Halles, Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val

Les Halles, Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, by @lain G, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Stage 6, Tour de France 2016: Montauban

Montauban

Montauban, by roberta, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Montauban is a town of about 57,921 people at the confluence of the the rivers Tescou and Tarn, in the Tarn-et-Garonne département. (A canal links the Tarn at Montauban to the Canal de la Garonne to the west).

It was founded by the Count of Toulouse Alphonse Jourdain in 1144. He was so charmed by the gleam of the leaves of the willow trees (alba, in occitan) that he named the town Mont Alba. That's one explanation of the town's name, at least. Another is that its Latin name Mons Albanus means strangers' mount, and refers to the town welcoming people who left feudal servitude of the lord of Montauriol.

Villes bastides

It is thought of as a prototype ville bastide (because of the way it was planned and laid out, although it pre-dates the true villes bastides). The word bastida in occitan just means a group of buildings, but the villes bastides in this area, most of them appearing from 1222 onwards, were a response to dangerous and chaotic conditions, with the Albigensian Crusade (from 1208) and the One Hundred Years War (from 1337). They were founded on agreements (paréages) which were made between the King, a local lord, and the church, and which were less disadvantageous to ordinary people than traditional feudal arrangements. The towns follow a square or rectangular grid pattern, the main streets are wide enough to be used by carts, and they are criss-crossed with narrow pedestrian streets leading out to the fields; the plots for all houses are equal in size; there's a central market square, and a church, often fortified; and the whole town is enclosed within defensive walls.

In other words, villes bastides were new towns, based on a clear and logical arrangement of rights and obligations, and of streets - a sort of Medieval Milton Keynes.

Montauban was a Cathar town during the Albigensian Crusade, and suffered at the hands of Simon de Montfort. It was occupied by the Black Prince for a time during the One Hundred Years War, and there was a plague epidemic in 1348. It was Protestant during the Wars of Religion, and suffered attacks by the Catholic side, in particular an unsuccessful 96-day siege in 1621, known as les Quatre Cents Coups de Montauban. Montauban surrendered to the Royal Army and Cardinal Richelieu in 1629, and its ramparts were demolished. 

place Nationale, Montauban

Sotto gli archi della Place Nationale, Montauban, by roberta, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Montauban grew in the C17th and C18th, with a thriving textile industry. The town's classical townhouses in brick, many of which can still be seen today, were built, as was the central place Nationale, which has vaulted arcades around it.

Bell tower of St-Jacques church, Montauban

Bell tower of St-Jacques church, Montauban, by Direction centre-ville, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Other sights include the pont Vieux, a bridge dating from the C14th, the fortified church of St Jacques (C13th), and Notre-Dame cathedral (C17th). The Musée Ingres has paintings by the neo-classical artist Ingres, who was born in Montauban. It occupies the C17th Bishop's Palace, which is on the site of the Black Prince's castle.

Pont Vieux & Musée Ingres, Montauban

Pont Vieux & Musée Ingres, Montauban, by JAc 82, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Villefranche-de-RouergueSaint-Antonin-Noble-ValMontricoux

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