A guide to the Tour de France
The Tour de France diary is a collection of events and points of view as the 2018 edition unfolds.
One of the great things about the Tour de France is the Dutch national broadcaster's Avond Etappe programme.
The incomparably serene Dione de Graff presides over a table set up in a beautiful and historic location on the Tour route. Yesterday evening, it was the Château de la Cacaudière, at Pouzauges, on the route of Stage 2.
Dione's guests were all regulars and ex-professional cyclists: Thijs Zonneveld and Rob Harmeling, who both still look like cyclists; and Danny Nelissen.
The first subject up for discussion was Chris Froome, which I found surprising. I thought the stage winner, or the Dutch riders' prospects, would have taken priority. Anyway, Zonneveld gave a good explanation of moving up in the peloton - it's like a ball with a tail, and if you want to advance, you have to do so on the outside, but it's hard.
There was an interview with Lotto Jumbo manager Merijn Zeeman, who was disappointed that Groenewegen hadn't won. The consensus around the table was that Dylan was too far back with 1km to go, and didn't have the legs.
If you watch far too much Tour de France on ITV, you soon get to know the adverts. Someone keeps saying that Tottenham Hotspur are creating 'a smart, connected stadium', as though that were a good thing. What a nightmare. Can't people just leave their electric telephones in their pockets and watch a game of football?
Millar was on form again today, but even the Bill Gates of cycle commentating can be caught out by events. 2.8km to go: the run-in is 'not dangerous, but a little bit technical'; 1.9km to go: a big crash triggered by Daryl Impey.
Ned Boulting (short, as you may know, for Nedmundio Boultington) is clearly a nice chap, has lots of interesting things to say, and is doing a great job. I've seen comments to the effect that he can't call a race. Perhaps the climax of a sprint stage was his weakest area until today, but I firmly believe he will have silenced his critics by mentioning something about 1938 just as Sagan and Colbrelli crossed the line.
Louis Léon Sanchez hit the deck and looked as though he broke his collar bone. That's likely to be the end of his Tour de France. Lawson Craddock soldiers on with a fractured scapula. Apparently he is giving $100 to charity for every stage he completes, and asking other people to do the same. Still, he won't want race number 13 again, upside down or right way up.
Dave Brailsford has told the press that the UCI President has the mentality of a French mayor. (Lappartient is a French mayor, of Sarzeau, on Stage 4). Brailsford's point seems to be that you can't be a narrow-minded, chauvinistic administrator, only looking after the interests of your own country and its riders, if you're the big chief of an international organisation.
Oliver Naesen produced the first 'super-happy' of the Tour, that I've heard at least. No 'iconics' yet though. It can only be a matter of time.
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.
Mouilleron-Saint-Germain is the result of a fusion (from 1st January 2016) of two communes, called Mouilleron-en-Pareds and Saint-Germain-l'Aiguiller. The main town is Mouilleron-en-Pareds.
The Tour is visiting Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to honour the memory of Georges Clémenceau (1841-1929), who was born and is buried here. Clémenceau was Prime Minister from 1906-09 and 1917-20. He was known as Père la Victoire, and le tigre, and he advocated a hard positon against defeated Germany at the end of World War I, and large reparation payments. There's a museum dedicated to Clémenceau and another famous son of Mouilleron, Jean de Lattre de Tassigny (a French General in North Africa, and involved in the invasion of the south of France in August 1944, during World War II).
Other than the museum, the main point of interest is a hill with two 'relatively well conserved' windmills. They would be even better if they still had their sails.
Bocage is the name for a type of countryside with fields surrounded by hedges. The most famous is the bocage of Normandie, which the Allies had to fight their way through after the Normandy landings - the war of the hedgerows.
The Haut Bocage around les Herbiers and Pouzauges is founded on granite, and features hills and valleys.
A music video by the yoof of Saint Pierre du Chemain:
Pouzauges is a village in the bocage vendéen. The name probably means 'well dug to reach an underground water source'.
There are several hills within the commune, including the puy Crapaud (269m).
On Christmas eve 1793, during the Revolution, 400 people were massacred at the church during Midnight Mass, by the Revolutionary Army.
The company Fleury Michon - an agriculture and food business - has its head office in Pouzauges.
The ruined château de Pouzauges is one of its main attractions.
Les Herbiers is a town of about 15,000 people. It's the capital of the Haut-Bocage vendéen, and the Grande Maine river runs through it. It's at the foot of the Mont des Alouettes.
The name of the town comes from a person of Germanic origin, Herbertus.
The economy here is burgeoning, with activities including construction of pleasure boats and aluminium windows, and design of fashionable clothes for children.
Third-division football team Les Herbiers reached the 2018 French Cup final by beating Chambly 2-0.
The French international basketball player Florence Lepron learned to play at les Herbiers.
Les Herbiers is twinned with Newtown, Wales.
Tiffauges is a town at the confluence of two rivers - the Crûme and the Sèvre nantaise. Its name comes from a Barbarian people, the Taïfales, who established themselves here towards the end of the Roman Empire, from around 412AD.
The château was built in the C12th by the Viscounts of Thouars, but burned in 1569, then dismantled by royal order in 1626.
One of the businesses based in Tiffauges is Lussault, a maker of large clocks for churches and other public buildings.
Montaigu is a town of 5,149 people on the river Maine (not the same river Maine which gives its name to the Maine-et-Loire).
The name Montaigu comes from the Latin Mons Acutus, a sharp hill, and the town and the name date from the C4th, in the Gallo-Roman period.
Montaigu hosts a world football tournament for 14 and 15 year olds, le Mondial Minimes de Football. The last time the Tour de France came to Montaigu was in 1999.
Aizenay is a town in the bocage vendéen. The name comes from the name of a Gallo-Roman person, Asin.
The traditional industries here are textiles, shoes, and forestry. Today, the economy includes plastics, microwave ovens, and printing.
The Saint-Benoît church was built from 1904-5. There's a local goat's cheese which is very tasty.
La Roche-sur-Yon is the capital (préfecture) of the Vendée, with a population of around 53,000 people. It's on the river Yon at its confluence with the Riaillée and the Ornay.
The HQ of the Grand Départ 2018 in the Vendée will be at la Roche-sur-Yon - it's where the team presentation will take place on Thursday 5th July, and where the race organisers will be based. There's also to be a Fan Park in the town centre from 5th to 8th July.
It was Napoléon Bonaparte who transformed la Roche-sur-Yon from a hamlet, with a decree of 25th May 1804 which made it the capital of the Vendée. It was in a strategic position in the centre of a département which needed to be pacified after the War of the Vendée. The town was built on a regular pattern of streets, in a (slightly asymetrical) pentagon shape, around the central place Napoléon.
The town has changed name eight times altogether - for example, it was called Napoléon under Bonaparte's Empire, and Bourbon-Vendée during the Restoration.
There are higher education institutions in la Roche-sur-Yon, including a branch of the University of Nantes; around 6,000 students attend colleges here.
Industries in la Roche-sur-Yon include electrics and electronics, manufacture of Michelin tyres, banking and commercial services, and fish, fruit, and vegetable markets.
The Eglise Saint-Louis (1817-29) is the biggest church in the Vendée.
Amongst the towns twinned with la Roche-sur-Yon is Gummersbach (Germany) and Coleraine (Northern Ireland).
Thomas Voeckler did some of his studies at la Roche-sur-Yon.
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