A guide to the Tour de France
Dylan Groenwegen won the sprint in Chartres for Lotto Jumbo. See video highlights of Stage 7:
Read the Hedgehog Stage 7 diary.
At 231km, Stage 7 of the Tour de France 2018 is the longest of the 2018 Tour. The race starts in the fortified Medieval town of Fougères, and finishes in the Medieval Cathedral city of Chartres. The big question is whether the TV commentators will find enough to talk about. On ITV4, Ned Boulting has already prepared a question to David Millar about the length and colour of socks he wore when racing, and how cycling socks have evolved in the centuries since. They've sent an invitation to Robbie McEwen to come and fill some time with an anecdote about the the time in 2004 when he won a sprint in Chartres to take sixth place.
Christian Prudhomme says that a sprinter is likely to win in Chartres, as Stuart O'Grady did in 2004. He cautions that the wind could play a role in the last 40km. Read about Stage 7 of the Tour de France 2018 here.
|Bonus point||Nonvilliers Grandhoux|
|Climbs||Côte de Buisson de Perseigne (Category 4)|
This is the official map of Stage 7.
The official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 7:
Profile of Stage 7, Tour de France 2018, © ASO/Tour de France
Friday 13th July 2018.
The publicity caravan sets off from Fougères at 1005, and the peloton at 1205 (départ fictif). The projected average speeds are 42, 44, and 46kmh. Depending on which is most accurate, the riders are expected at the finish line in Chartres between 1721 and 1749.
Mark Cavendish looks forward to the Tour de France for the BBC, and names his 'one to watch' - his prediction for the stage win.
'The Tour will probably be calming down a bit by now. But this is the longest stage of this year's race and although it's a very easy stage on paper, flat going through countryside, it's easy to forget to look after your energy. If you go into the wind too much, you'll pay for that going into the final part.
It is made for a bunch sprint. The run to the finish drags up but not too much, and it's pretty straight. It does kick right with just a couple of hundred metres to go, but there are nice big boulevards for the sprinters'
His one to watch? Bunch sprint finishes are hard to predict, but expect me to be in the mix.
Fougères, seen from the tower of the Saint-Léonard church
Stage 7 starts in Fougères. According to Ouest France, it is the Tour's fourth visit to Fougères in 6 years - as a start location in 2013 and 2018, as a finish in 2015, and on the route of the Granville-Angers stage in 2016.
The départ fictif is at place de la République, and then there's 8.3km of neutralised route through Fougères. The route is shown on this funny map. From place de la République, the riders roll along rue Jules Ferry and rue Gaston Cordier. They arrive at place Lariboisière, then take rue de Pommereul, rue Lesueur, and rue Châteaubriand to place du Théâtre. They continue on rue de la Pinterie, and pass the château on place Pierre Symon, before joining boulevard Jacques Fauchuex. They turn off the boulevard on rue Baron/rue Albert-Durand, then they head north east on rue de la Forêt/avenue de la Verrerie. Boulevard de Groslay brings them to the eastern side of town, boulevard Nelson Mandela takes them past the swimming pool and rugby club, and the D706 leads to the D17 route de Chapelle-Janson.
The départ réel is on the D17 route de Chapelle-Janson.
According to actu.fr, the route leaves Fougères on the D17 to la Chapelle-Janson, which was the home town of brothers Joseph and Georges Groussard. Joseph wore the yellow jersey in the Tour de France for a day in 1960, and won Milan-San Remo in 1963; he was lanterne rouge in the 1965 Tour de France. Georges wore the yellow jersey in the Tour de France for 9 consecutive days in 1964. Here, he explains (in French) how he took the maillot jaune.
There's a cyclo-sportive race named after Georges Groussard. The village is celebrating the brothers and the 2018 Tour de France with decorations and events, as well as a giant wooden Hobby Horse, or draisienne.
After la Chapelle-Janson, Stage 7 leaves the département of Ile-et-Vilaine, and enters the Mayenne, where the road becomes the D522, and leads to Larchamp. Beyond Larchamp, the riders take the D523, on the way to Saint-Denis-de-Gastines.
From Saint-Denis, the peloton takes the D138 to Châtillon-sur-Colmont, then it continues on the D5 to Saint-Georges-Buttavent. Then it's on to Mayenne, a town of 13,000 people on the river Mayenne.
After Mayenne, the riders continue east, travelling via Marcillé-la-Ville to la Chapelle-au-Riboul, where cyclist Henri Perly was born in 1928. Perly rode criteriums and some local stage races in the late 1940s and 1950s. The route continues via Loupfougères to Villaines-la-Juhel. Beyond Villaines, the riders enter the Parc Naturel Régional Normandie-Maine, a protected area of forest and bocage. In the park, they reach Gesvres.
Within the Natural Park, the route crosses from the Mayenne to the Sarthe, and takes in Saint-Léonard-des-Bois, on the river Sarthe and in the Alpes Mancelles. The Alpes Mancelles comprise steep, wooded hills, reaching a height of around 200m. The stage continues to Moulins-le-Carbonnel, then leaves the Sarthe and enters the Orne before Héloup. It then reaches Alençon.
The route out of Alençon is east, back into the Sarthe département. The day's one categorised climb comes here: the Category 4 Côte du Buisson de Perseigne, 1.5km at 3.9%, to 225m. Even I could manage that one. Stage 7 takes the riders on via Neufchâtel-en-Saosnois, and the ruins of Perseigne Abbey, to Mamers.
Next, it's back into the Orne département, and into the Parc Naturel Régional du Perche. The Parc boasts hills, forests, and bocage countryside. It's home to Percheron horses - draught horses which are intelligent and willing to work, and usually grey in colour. Some of those qualities put me in mind of Ian Stannard, but unfortunately he hasn't been selected by Sky for the 2018 Tour.
The riders pass through Bellême Forest and reach Bellême, which is on a hill that dominates the Perche.
Then it's on via Sérigny and Berd'huis. Berd'huis has a Dutch or Dutch-sounding name, possibly meaning 'house made from wooden boards'. President Macron visited the primary school in Berd'huis in April 2018.
Not to put too fine a point on it, and trying to keep my message simple while leaving out the whistles and bells, Berd'huis reminds me of the They Might Be Giants song, Make a Little Birdhouse in Your Soul. Funnily enough, the video has cyclists riding round and round in it, albeit wearing lumberjack shirts rather than cycle racing clothes.
The intermediate sprint comes on the D955 after Berd'huis, and just before the route crosses into the Eure-et-Loir département.
Next, the riders reach Nogent-le-Rotrou, on the river Huisne.
Beyond Nogent, Stage 7 continues in the Parc, through a number of hamlets: Champrond-en-Perchet, Thiron-Gardais, and Combres.
Outside the Parc boundaries are more little villages: Happonvilliers and Nonvilliers-Grandhoux are the first two. The bonus point is at Nonvilliers: time bonuses of 3, 2, and 1 second for the firs three riders across the line.
There are more villages - les Châtelliers-Notre-Dame, Magny, and Bailleau-le-Pin. The houses and insect hotels may well pass by in a blur as the sprint trains accelerate to catch any breakaway riders, and set up their team leaders.
The finish of the stage is in Chartres, and should be a bunch sprint. The riders arrive on the D910, and cross the N123 orbital, continuing into Chartres on the D7010 avenue de la République. It takes them through the quarter of Luisant, and past the hospital. There's a right turn onto the boulevard Adelphe Chasles, past the town hall, then they continue on boulevard de la Courtille and over the river Eure.
On the other side of the river is rue d'Ablis; it bends gently right, passes the Jardin de Sakurai, then bends right again and becomes avenue Jean-Mermoz. According to l'Echo Républicain, the finish line will be on avenue Jean-Mermoz, 40m after the Speedy garage.
I had Caleb Ewan as my pick for this stage, but he hasn't been selected by Mitchelton Scott, as they have decided to put everything into Adam Yates's GC bid. Who then will be the speediest to the Speedy Garage on avenue Jean-Mermoz?
The favourites for the stage win are the form sprinters, and we'll know more about that once the race gets under way. Candidates include Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish, Dylan Groenewegen, and Fernando Gaviria. Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) may feel some pressure to win a stage, since he was selected ahead of Nacer Bouhanni as the French team's sprinter.
Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Merida) has the ability to win a stage of the Tour de France, and maybe it will be this one.
Add your pick for the stage in the comments!
Stage 8 of the Tour de France 2018 is 181km from Dreux to Amiens. It's another sprinters' day, but one that could be affected by gusty winds.
Read about Stage 8 of the 2018 Tour de France.
Fougères is named after the plants: ferns are fougères in French. It is on the river Nançon. Fougères is twinned with Ashford in Kent.
Fougères was at a Roman crossroads, but the town itself was established later, and was built in the Middle Ages: the château is first mentioned in documents in the late 900s. At that time, the château was wooden. It was destroyed by Henry II of England in 1166, but rebuilt in stone by Raoul II, Baron of Fougères. One tower of the present-day château dates back to this time, la Tour de Haye.
Fougères is on the edge of Brittany, and over the centuries, it has been caught up in many battles between the Dukes of Brittany, the Dukes of Normandy, and the Kings of France. Brittany lost its independence and became part of France in 1532.
During the French Revolution, Fougères was fought over by the Royalist Chouans of Brittany, and the Revolutionaries.
On 8th June 1944, Fougères suffered an Allied bombardment, which killed 300 people, and destroyed much of the town.
Working tin was important to the local economy in the 1500s, as was the production of glassware. Gradually, crafts were replaced by industry, with the establishment of shoe manufacturers, as well as glassware factories. Today, glass manufacture continues, alongside food processing, furniture-making, and electronics, computing, and robotics.
A small school opened in 2013 which teaches children in Breton.
Mayenne, on the river Mayenne, is the second-biggest town in the Mayenne département after Laval. It has a population of 13,000.
There was a Roman road, and a ford of the river, not far from the site of Mayenne. However, the town itself only grew up in the Middle Ages, when the Roman road was diverted to ford the river here. Around 778AD, in the time of Charlemagne, a fortress was built on a rocky promontory overlooking the ford. A town developed around the fortress.
The Château de Mayenne standing today dates largely from the C13th, but some Carolingian sections (700 or 800s) have been incorporated into the later alterations, and can be seen. The château is now an archeological museum.
The main industry in Mayenne from the 1500s or 1600s, until the early 1900s, was the production of linen. Today, the economy is diverse, and includes printing, agriculture and food production, car manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, plastics and metals, and construction. Rapido motorhomes are based in Mayenne.
Mayenne is twinned with Devizes in the UK.
Villaines-la-Juhel was on the route of a Roman road from Jublains to Lisieux. Its name comes from the Latin villana, meaning farm, and Juhel, the name of the nobleman Juhel II of Mayenne, who was granted ownership of this land in 1140.
There was a Moulinex factory in Villaines, but the troubled company had to close it.
Saint-Léonard-des-Bois is a village of about 500 people, on the river Sarthe and in the Alpes Mancelles, known for 'green tourism'. It is named after a C6th hermit, Saint Léonard, who lived here.
The Alpes Mancelles are called 'Alps' because of the steep slopes created by fluvial erosion: the river Sarthe eroded a course through the plateau here.
Slate was quarried in this area until the start of the C20th. These days, tourism includes walking and mountain bike routes, and canoe and kayak paddling on the Sarthe.
Alençon is the capital of the Orne département, and has a population of about 26,000 people.
Its relative humidity is 82.6%. I'm not sure if that's humid or not, but Wikipedia always gives information about humidity, so I thought I'd include it here.
Alençon was first mentioned in a document in the 600s. It became a dukedom in 1415, belonging to the sons of the Kings of France until the time of the Revolution.
There was a fabric industry for many years, and in the 1700s it developed into a specialisation in point d'Alençon lace. In the 1800s, there were iron foundries in and around the town, and in the 1900s, printing became a major economic activity. In the post-war period, a plastics industry arose; there's also a plastics engineering school.
Singer Daniel Balavoine (1952-86) was from Alençon.
Anthony Geslin, 88th in the 2006 Tour de France, was also born in Alençon.
The town is twinned with Basingstoke (England) and Crynant (Wales).
Mamers is a town of 5,300 people on the little river Dives, a tributary of the Orne. It's twinned with Market Rasen (UK).
Nogent-le-Rotrou is a town on the river Huisne, int he Eure-et-Loir département. The former Counts of the Perche lived here in the Château Saint-Jean.
The name Nogent means 'newly de-forested land', and Rotrou was the surname of the local nobles.
Employment in Nogent used to depend on agriculture and the textile industry. The automotive parts company Valeo is still important to the local economy, although some jobs have gone to Romania; and the German medical company B Braun Melsungen has a major plant here. There are 500 or so military personnel employed in the Sécurité Civile.
The annual Percheval Festival celebrates the Percheron horse on the weekend of Ascension.
Chartres is a town south west of Paris, which is the capital of the Eure-et-Loire département, and famous for its Cathedral.
Chartres was a town of the Celtic Carnutes tribe, and it was called Autricum under the Romans.
The Cathedral (Notre-Dame de Chartres) is one of the finest Gothic Cathedrals in France. Construction began in 1205, on the site of the previous church which had been destroyed by fire, and it was completed 66 years later. The stained glass windows were financed by local guilds of merchants and craftsmen, and their names or references to them appear at the bottom. The windows are famous for their blue sections, bleu de Chartres.
Chartres Cathedral was host to the coronation of King Henri IV in 1594 (in a period when coronations usually took place at Reims).
Narrow streets, many named after Medieval trades that were carried on in them, run down to the river Eure.
Chartres was badly damaged during World War II, as the Allies attempted to take it from the Germans in 1944, but an order to destroy the Cathedral was not acted upon by the local US Army officer, so it was spared.
There is a pilgrimage each year from Notre-Dame de Paris to Notre-Dame de Chartres, with around 15,000 pilgrims taking part and walking the 100km with flags and banners.
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