C. PRUDHOMME'S COMMENT
Who will win this stage? A sprinter or a breakaway rider? The question really deserves to be asked. Whatever the outcome the riders will spend most of their day over an altitude of 1 000m on climbs that will make it hard to control potential escapees.
Of the three stages of the Tour to finish in Saint-Flour, it was undoubtedly the one clinched by Richard Virenque on Bastille Day in 2004 which made a lasting impression. Gone with Axel Merckx, the Frenchman finally went solo to win with a five minutes lead over German Andreas Kloden and seized the polka dot jersey he was to take to Paris for the seventh time. It was his seventh and last stage victory on the Tour. Seven years later, in 2011, Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez took the stage honours ahead of Thomas Voeckler, who took back the yellow jersey he had held for ten days in 2004. The Frenchman that year completed his most successful Tour de France, finishing fourth overall.
In 2013, while Albi had just been elected by L’Équipe "Most Sporting City of France" of the year 2012, it was Peter Sagan who had prevailed in the prefecture of Tarn at the end of a long stage from Montpellier. It was Slovakia's fourth stage victory and allowed him to widen the gap in his race to win the green jersey.
Albi is the hometown of Lilian Calmejane, solo winner of Les Rousses in the Tour 2017 and one of the most admirable attackers of the current peloton.
Some of the biggest names in cycling have won in Albi, starting with the biggest of all, Eddy Merckx, who took a time trial in 1971. In 2007, Cadel Evans also triumphed in a lonely effort. Another winner of the Tour, Roger Pingeon took a step from Font-Romeu in 1968.
The industrial past of the 19th century is inscribed in the very soil of Carmaux. A black past like the coal that the men extracted in the mines for the glass industry. Elected member of parliament in Carmaux in 1893, Jean Jaures took the defence of the miners and workers of the mines and industries of the region. He created modern socialism and became the emblematic figure of this political current in France. The mine museum allows visitors to go down a real mine and discover the exciting history of coal and the hard life of miners. At the Glass Museum in Carmaux, the history of the glass industry is told in a magical space of brilliance and transparency.
In 2011, Carmaux hosted a stage of the Tour de France clinched by André Greipel. Carmaux is also a land of rugby union (Jean-Pierre Romeu, Marc Andrieu, Jack Cantoni) who won the French championship in 1951.
Viaduct of Garabit
Built from 1880 and commissioned from 1888, the viaduct of Garabit radiates with red as it crosses the river Truyère and shines brightly at night, as a mirage from the Arabian Nights. Conceived by engineer Léon Boyer and Gustave Eiffel, Garabit remains one of the most remarkable structures ever built. This 122-m high and 564-m long building, with a monumental arch span of 165 metres, was in its time the largest metal structure in the world. It was also and above all a real laboratory for the construction of the Eiffel Tower. A testimony of the audacity of 19th century builders and a fine example of the technology of metal structures assembled by rivets, this aging masterpiece does not pale in comparison with the neighbouring viaduct of Millau.
Belvedere of Mallet
Located at an altitude of 832 m, the Mallet belvedere offers a remarkable view of the Truyère and Bès valleys and the Grandval reservoir.
Castle of Bousquet
5 kilometres from Laguiole, the Bousquet castle is a 14th century historical monument, located on the direct route from Le Puy to Conques, already used by pilgrims from the Middle Ages. Its military architecture probably due to the Knights Hospitalier, its parapets and machicolation make for an impressive fortress, one of the best preserved of the period in France (furnished interior, furniture, objects, paintings).
Dominated by the castle of Calmont d'Olt, this small town spreads along the river Lot, and was for long one of its few crossing points (Pont-Vieux). The expression "Espalion, the first smile of the south" came from the pilgrims to Compostela, who used to discover it with relief after long days on dark and steep paths up north. On the banks of the Lot are lined up the facades of picturesque houses with corbelled wooden balconies and steep roofs. They are the building of ancient tanneries, the "calquières", whose large stones, called "gandouliers", plunge into the Lot. It was on those stones that skins were tanned until WWI.
The four-arched pink sandstone Pont-Vieux (Old Bridge), dating back from the Middle Ages, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the French routes to Compostela. But the religious heritage (chapel of Persia, chapel of the Penitents, church of St. John the Baptist transformed into a museum, Ursuline Convent), is also worth a visit, as well as the beautiful buildings along the Lot, the Vieux Palais (Old Palace) neing the most picturesque. Visitors might be surprised to find the statue of a deep-sea diver on the banks of the Lot, facing the Old Palace: it pays homage to two local inventors, Benoît Rouquayrol and Auguste Denayrouze, who developed the first diving suits.
The village is famous for the vertiginous Trou de Bozouls (Bozouls Hole), a spectacular canyon formed by the waters of the Dourdou and around which the town settled. The castle that once stood on the rocky outcrop has been replaced by the beautiful Romanesque Sainte-Fauste church.
A 15th century dungeon is all that remains of the castle of Calmont-de-Plancatge, formerly stronghold of the Barony of Arpajons, which held a prominent place in the life of the Province. A keep dominates the ramparts and tight lanes go down to the brook of Nauze. Once famous for its fairs and for producing hemp, the village still charms today with its old half-timbered houses dating back to the 15th century.
The abbey of Bellecombe was founded in 1167 by Cistercians who remained there until 1791. An imposing building, it was crippled during the Revolution before being restored by Trappist monks in 1889. These Trappist monks left Bonnecombe in 1965. Since May 1998, it is occupied by a charismatic community (the Beatitudes) and can be visited.
A contest launched in 1887 awarded the construction of the viaduct to engineer Paul Bodin of the Batignolles construction company. He finally built the railway viaduct across the Viaur between 1895 and 1902 and inaugurated it on October 5, 1903. By the boldness of its conception, the 460-metres bridge is one of the most important metal constructions in France. The 220-m central arch consists of two symmetrical frames arching through an articulated key in its centre. It is one of the three major metal constructions of the 19th century in France with the Viaduct of Garabit and the Eiffel Tower.