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Tour de France 2018 diary Stage 1

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The Tour de France diary is a collection of events and points of view as the 2018 edition unfolds.

Tour de France diary Stage 1: BeSpoke

Is the road to Damascus on this year's edition of the Tour?

I only ask because I listened to Jeremy Whittle on BeSpoke's day-before-the-Tour podcast, and I don't recognise him. Froome's Salbutamol case is now 'complex and confusing', it's 'a story about a non-story', and 'we were led up the garden path by whoever leaked this information at the UCI.' 'This is a red herring.' He is frustrated 'by the drivel churned out on social media.'

Can this be the same Jeremy Whittle who made endless mean-spirited remarks about the Kenyan-born Brit on the BBC's Giro d'Italia podcasts, egged on by Tom Fordyce?

By all means change your mind, but please be honest, and admit you were wrong, rather than blaming anyone else you can think of.

Tom Fordyce tried to bring Brexit into the discussion, but luckily Rob Hayles ignored him. Not for the first time, nor the last I suspect, thank goodness for Rob Hayles.

The Tour de France 2018 diary Stage 1: the Grand Départ

La Tranche-sur-Mer

La Tranche-sur-Mer, by Minou85, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

After all the talk, and the booing at the team presentation, the race actually got under way this morning. It was sunny on the Ile de Noirmoutier, lots of people came out onto the roadside to see the peloton go past, and they were waving to the cameras and applauding the riders. It was good-natured and fun. The Vendée will be happy with the sun-soaked images of dunes, endless stretches of sandy beach, and charming old ports.

Tour de France 2018 diary Stage 1: ITV4

The Boulting-MIllar team were harnessed up in tandem for ITV's Tour de France commentary.

Millar was as sharp as ever, spotting things I couldn't even see after he'd pointed them out and with the benefit of a slow motion replay. It seemed as though it was going to be a jolly day out by the ocean, but with 10km to go, riders started falling off all over the place, and that's when Millar came into his own.

The excellent Ned Boulting (short, as you may know, for Nedmond Boultingworth) explained the new time bonus point, with the extra seconds to be bagged called bonifications in French. Rather to my surprise, he slipped into Franglais at one point, and called them bone-iffy-caysh-uns. I hope he does it again.

Tour de France 2018 diary Stage 1: Lawson Craddock

Most of the spills resulted in not much more than a dirty jersey and some lost time, but Lawson Craddock (EF Education First) hit the deck hard. Apparently he has a fractured shoulder blade, in which case it's hard to see him continuing. He looks properly beaten up, and you have to wish him all the best and a speedy recovery.

Tour de France 2018 diary Stage 1: comments

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Stage 2, Tour de France 2018

Château de Tiffauges

Château de Tiffauges, by Jibi44, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Stage 2 of the Tour de France 2018 is 183km from Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to la Roche-sur-Yon. It's another stage for the sprinters.

Read about Stage 2 of the 2018 Tour de France.

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: towns, sights and attractions

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: Ile de Noirmoutier & Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile


Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile, by Aoudot25, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The Ile de Noirmoutier is an island off the Atlantic coast of France. It is about 18km long, and between 500m and 12km wide.

The name Noirmoutier derives from the Latin in herio monasterio, meaning the monastery of Her (a part of the island). It was the monk Saint Philibert who came to the island in the year 674, and founded a monastery.

Noirmoutier is also known as the Island of Mimosas - the temperate climate allows the mimosa tree (acacia debealta) to flower year-round.

The landscape is made up of sand dunes, salt marshes separated by banks, and holm oaks. It was the monks who first set up the salt pans and organised the harvesting of salt.

Salt pans, Ile de Noirmoutier

Salt pans, Ile de Noirmoutier, by Patrick Despoix, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

The island has been connected to the mainland by bridge since 1971. The other link is by the Passage du Gois, which is a paved-over sandbank, 4.5km long, and flooded twice a day by the high tide.

The biggest part of the economy today is tourism. There's also fishing, and an offshore wind farm is being developed near the island, which is expected to be commissioned in 2021.


Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile, the town on the north east of the island, is the historic capital. The population is around 4,800 people, and it has a church and a C12th château. The fishing and pleasure port is part of the commune of Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile.

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: les Sables-d'Olonne

Aerial view of les Sables-d'Olonne

Aerial view of les Sables-d'Olonne, by Florian Pépellin, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Les Sables-d'Olonne is a seaside resort in the Vendée, with a population of about 14,000.

It was founded in 1218, when the Olonne harbour was developed by Savary 1st of Mauléon. Its port has always been important,exporting local wine and salt. In the C17th, it became the largest cod-fishing port in France, with 100 boats.

Les Sables-d'Olonne

Les Sables-d'Olonne, by Andre Bianco, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The first bathing establishments here were created in 1825, and les Sables-d'Olonne began to attract aristocratic visitors.  There was a casino, les Bains de Mer. The railway line reached Sables-d'Olonne in 1866, and contributed to a wider popularity with tourists.

The Vendée Globe yacht race takes place every four years, and starts and finishes in les Sables-d'Olonne.

Les Sables-d'Olonne is twinned with Worthing (UK).

Stage 1, Tour de France 2018: Fontenay-le-Comte


Fontenay-le-Comte seen from the pont des Sardines, by Jmdigne, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

Fontenay-le-Comte is a small town on the Vendée river, which used to be the capital (préfecture) of the Vendée, before it was moved to la Roche-sur-Yon by Napoléon in 1804.

The name Fontenay stems from 'fountain', and refers to the fontaine des Quatres Tias, rebuilt in 1542. 'Le Comte' is a nod to Alphonse de Poitiers, who received the Poitou area from his brother King Louis IX in 1242.

Fontaine des Quatre Tias

Fontaine des Quatre Tias, Fontenay-le-Comte, by Trebmuh, Licence CC BY-SA 4.0

The Counts of Poitiers built a fortress here. During the Middle Ages, Fontenay thrived due to cloth and leather production, but it was occupied by the English for 11 years, during the Hundred Years War, and was badly damaged during the fighting.

Fontenay blossomed again during the Renaissance, but suffered at the time of the Wars of Religion (late 1500s and early 1600s).

During the French Revolution, when the revolutionaries wanted to wipe out all traces of the ancien régime, Fontenay became known as Fontenay-le-Peuple.

Fontenay was the 1996 winner of the prix national de l'art de vivre! I never knew there was such a thing. I'm imagining an inspection over two days, where the candidate town asks its citizens to read the paper insouciantly at pavement cafés, while drinking espresso accompanied by macarons, and the judges decide if they have done it with sufficient panache.

Frédéric Mazzella, the founder of Blablacar, is from Fontenay.

Noirmoutier-en-l'IleLes Sables-d'OlonneFontenay-le-Comte

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