A guide to the Tour de France
Dione and her guests were in Allemond yesterday evening, with an audience around them. Luckily, none of the spectators ran alongside the performers wearing Zidane shirts and trying to take selfies. It was a good thing the crowd showed a bit of respect, because the guests included Joop Zoetemelk and Steven Rooks. The pair had ridden up Alpe d'Huez that morning, together with Annemiek van Vleuten.
There was footage of Stage 12 that I hadn't seen before. It seems that Nibali was hit by a gendarme on a motorbike. (Subsequently, I understand that he may have been brought down by the camera strap of a spectator). He was pulled to his feet by a well-intentioned person, but it turns out that the Italian has a back injury (a fractured vertebra), so from a First Aid point of view, dragging him to his feet probably wasn't the right thing to do. Maybe he would have been in danger if he had stayed put.
We saw a different view of a man in green shorts hitting Chris Froome, and a security agent a few metres away just waving his arm at Green Shorts Man, to get him back to the side of the road.
Steven Rooks explained that the attitude in France stems from the public hoping that a Frenchman will win the Tour.
Steven Kruijswijk watched footage from the day with Herman. Kruijswijk explained that Movistar were not really riding on the way up Croix de Fer, so he accelerated to see who would come with him - and nobody did. Off he went by himself. He would rather race that way than follow for three weeks.
Everyone in the Netherlands was on the edge of their seat, said Herman; I was on the edge of my saddle, said Steven.
On Alpe d'Huez, he wanted to go faster, but he couldn't go faster. It was a beautiful day, but lacked a beautiful ending.
Dani Rowe was a guest early on during Stage 13. Asked about the Tour de Yorkshire, she said she was super happy with her performance. Tick, tick, tick, went the counter.
Interviewed after the stage, Geraint Thomas was looking forward to Stage 14 and the climb to the aerodrome above Mende. 'I feel quite punchy at the moment, so I think I'll be alright.' 'You keep those fists away from me,' parried Matt Rendell.
We lost Cav and Kittel on the road to La Rosière, and Greipel, Groenewegen, and Gaviria on the way to Alpe d'Huez. There's something amiss if the best sprinters in the race can't make it through the mountains. Sagan is brilliant, and deserved to win Stage 13, but it would have been more exciting with some of the drop-outs present.
My pick for Stage 13 was Greipel, but as he didn't take part, there wasn't any chance he would win. I've got Dylan G for Stage 21, but I think it's ok to change that choice - no?
Race director Christian Prudhomme was quoted as saying, 'It's a paradox that Vincenzo Nibali, who has nothing to do with Team Sky, ended up on the tarmac.' No it isn't, it's appalling that Nibali was knocked over by spectators, and it would be equally appalling if Froome or anyone else had been knocked over.
After the business of trying to exclude Froome before the race, when Froome was entitled to ride, and now these comments which are open to the interpretation that it would have been less of a stain on the Tour de France's reputation, or more justified, if a Sky rider had been knocked down rather than Nibali, reasonable onlookers will begin to think that Prudhomme is part of the problem and not part of the solution.
Guardian reporter Jeremy Waffle reports a comment in L'Equipe that 'when you wear the jersey of the British team, suspicion is as contagious as herpes.' Waffle enjoys stirring things up, but I have to assume he is quoting L'Equipe accurately.
During this Tour de France, it does seem that a proportion of the sports fans of France are making an unsavoury spectacle of themselves.
Correct predictions of stage winners on this website: 2 out of 13
Stage 14 of the Tour de France 2018 is 187km from Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Mende.
Read about Stage 14 of the 2018 Tour de France.
Bourg d'Oisans is a town at the foot of the road up to Alpe d'Huez, on the Romanche river. Because of this location, it has often featured in the Tour de France.
Vizille is a town in the Romanche valley, and the département of the Isère. It's on the route Napoléon, and close to the ski resort of Chamrousse.
Vizille was a fortified settlement (oppidum) in the pre-Roman period, then a Roman military camp or Castra Vigiliae. The Roman name mutated into Vizille.
The Château de Vizille was built for François de Bonne, Duke of Lesdiguières, between 1600 and 1619. In the C18th, it was owned by industrialist Claude Perier, who installed a textile factory in it. Several Presidents stayed there when it was the property of the state, including Charles de Gaulle. It is now owned by the Isère département, and houses a museum dedicated to the French Revolution.
The Château has substantial grounds that were the private hunting grounds of the Duke. They have lawns, a canal, a wooded area, a rose garden, and an animal park.
Grenoble is a city at the confluence of the Isere and the Drac. It is the capital of the Isère département. Its population is around 160,000, and the population of the greater urban area is 660,000.
There was a village called Cularo here in pre-Roman times, occupied by the Allobroges. The Romans renamed the settlement Gratianopolis, after the Emporer Gratian visited. That name gradually changed over the centuries to become Grenoble.
In the C11th, Grenoble became capital of the Dauphiné, under the local counts who ruled lands here. The University of Grenoble was founded in 1339. Ten years later, the Dauphiné was sold to the French King, and one of the conditions was that the heir to the French throne should take the title Dauphin.
The construction of the present Bastille fort was begun in the late 1500s under lieutenant-general Lesdiguières (also responsible for the château at Vizille).
From the C18th, industry developed here, including glove-making, and later hydro-electric power. Today Grenoble is known for biotechnology and nanotechnology industries
Grenoble was the main centre for the 1968 Winter Olympics. It is surrounded by mountains: it has the Chartreuse to the north, the Vercors to the south and west, and the Belledonne to the east. It is sometimes called 'the capital of the Alps'.
The Bastille fort is one of the main attractions of Grenoble, and you can go up there by cable car.
Grenoble is twinned with many cities including Innsbruck (Austria), Oxford (UK), and Phoenix (USA).
The Vercors takes its name from the first known inhabitants here, the Vertacomicori, a Celtic people.
It is a Regional Natural Park, created in 1970, and covering an area of 432,000 hectares. It is a high, limestone plateau, covered with beech and conifer forests, and dissected by deep river gorges. It's form makes it a natural fortress, which enabled the Vertacomicori to live free of Roman domination.
Chamois in the Alps
There are over 1,800 plant species, and the six species of wild hoofed animals found in France (chamois, red deer, roe deer, wild boars, moufflons, and ibexes). Birds of prey here include golden eagles, peregrine falcons, Bonelli's eagles, and vultures.
Bears (European brown) were last seen in the French Alps near Saint-Martin-en-Vercors in 1937, since when they have disappeared, largely due to hunting by man. Bears are ominivores that search for food in remote and steep wooded areas. The Haut Vercors is deserted in winter, and would provide a perfect habitat for bears if they were re-introduced.
There are five nature trails in the Vercors, and it is a paradise for cross-country skiers. It's also one of the top places for potholing in France.
Pont-en-Royans sits on the river Bourne, which divides the Vercors in two: the Montagne de Lans to the north, which is more developed, and the 'real' Vercors to the south, which is densely forested and quite isolated.
The Vercors is known as a stronghold of the Resistance during World War II. It is a natural fortress, to which access can be controlled. From 1942, several Resistance camps were established. Pierre Dalloz devised the plans Montagnards, an idea for establishing an Allied bridgehead in the Vercors: 'There is a sort of island on terra firma, meadows protected by a wall of China. There are few access routes, and they are narrow and rocky. One could bar them, assemble batallions of parachutists on the plateau, then the Vercors could fall on the enemy's rear.'
The plan was partly implemented. The BBC broadcast the message le chamois des Alpes bondit, which was the signal for the Resistance to seal off the Vercors. They did so on 9th June 1944. The Allies dropped armaments to the Resistance, but not troops.
On 3rd July, the Vercors Republic was proclaimed. On 21st July 1944, 15,000 German Alpine troops, plus Commandos and SS soldiers, engaged in fighting with the Resistance. After two days of fierce exchanges, the Resistance was defeated, and the survivors dispersed. The German troops massacred civilians and carried out summary executions in local villages. The reprisals continued for weeks.
Valence is the capital of the Drôme département, with a population of about 62,000. It is on the river Rhône close to its confluence with the Isère, and it is known as the gateway to the south of France. It has a TGV station on the line to Marseille.
Valence was founded after the invasion of the Romans in 121BC, perhaps initially as a military camp, and it became a Roman colony. The Romans called it Valentia Julia, valentia meaning 'strength' in Latin, and Julia referring to Julius Caesar. There was a circus and an amphitheatre in Roman times.
In the 1400s, Valence became part of the Dauphiné region of France. The University of Valence was founded in 1452. Traditionally, it has good engineering schools and an excellent law faculty. Some grand buildings such as the Maison des Têtes were constructed around this time.
Napoléon Bonaparte was garrisoned here for a year in 1785, when he was a 16-year-old artillery man.
Today, Valence's economy is based on food processing, electronics, aerospace, film and animation studios, logistics (rail, road, and river), engineering, and banking.
The most interesting buildings are in Vieux Valence. They include theC17th Romanesque Cathédrale Saint-Appollinaire, the Maison des Têtes (a Renaissance town house), and a Renaissance funerary monument called le Pendentif.
On the far bank of the Rhône are the ruins of the C12th Château de Crussol.
Valence is twinned with Clacton-on-Sea (UK).
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