Monday, October 3, 2016

2016 Tour de France Stage 11, Carcassonne to Montpellier, Near Valmagne Abbey

We scheduled time in Sablet this summer so we could watch one or two stages of the 2016 Tour de France. There were three stages where the route provided good options for watching. The first was Stage 11, a 162.5 km flat stage which began in Carcassonne and finished in Montpellier, the second was Stage 12, a 178 km mountainous stage which would begin in Montpellier and finish on top of Mont Ventoux and the third was the 13th Stage, a 37.5 km individual time trial which would run from Bourg-Saint-Andéol to La Caverne du Pont-d'Arc.

After looking at the map and considering what we wanted to do before we left for California, we settled on the first two options. Although being at the finish line in Montpellier was tempting, we chose to find a quieter vantage point where it would be less of a hassle to get to and from. So we headed to the Valmagne Abbey, about 35 km east of the finish line in Montpellier. We figured we could kill two birds with one stone, see a historic abbey and watch the Tour.

Valmagne Abbey seen below is a beautiful Cistercian abbey that was transformed into a wine cellar after the French Revolution. Its magnificent Gothic church has been called the "Cathedral of the Vineyards. The Abbey was founded in 1139 by Raymond Trencavel, Viscount of Béziers. The Abbey was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and given to Benedictine monks. The Abbey joined the Cistercian order two decades later.

The Abbey's downfall came with the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453) and Religious Wars (16th century). The extensive damage inflicted by Huguenots on the Abbey in 1575 — which included the smashing of all stained glass — was instigated by the abbot of Valmagne, who had converted to Protestantism.

At the French Revolution in 1789, the last five monks of Valmagne fled just ahead of rebellious peasants, who ransacked and burned the Abbey. In 1791, Valmagne Abbey was sold by the government to a private citizen, who turned it into a wine cellar. This unusual use of the Abbey church saved it from destruction. The Abbey has been beautifully restored and was opened to the public in 1975.

Valmagne Abbey

A view from the Abbey

Young ladies killing time till the caravan arrives

Shirley perched above the crowd to take pictures

View down the road toward the Valmagne Abbey

View east in the direction the caravan and peloton would arrive

The 103rd edition of the Tour de France was scheduled for Saturday July 2nd to Sunday July 24th 2016, and would be made up of 21 stages, visit three neighboring countries, Spain, the Principality of Andorra and Switzerland and cover a total distance of 3,519 km.

The first car in the caravan arrives

Škoda Auto is one of the sponsors of the Tour de France

French TV car

Sponsor car

Patiently waiting for the peloton to arrive

Helicopter heralds the arrival of the peloton

The peloton arrives

The front of the peloton

The peloton

A rider from Santa Rosa, CA based BMC




A Team Sky rider gets liquids from his support car

A straggler rider trying to catch the peloton

BMC support car

Riders bringing up the tail end of the peloton

Trailing riders

192 riders started Stage 11 in Carcassonne.

Final rider

Peter Sagan stormed to victory in Stage 11 as he rode away from the pack with 12 km to go. It was a spectacular finish as overall race leader Chris Froome responded to Sagan's attack. They both took a team-mate with them and rode to the finish where the Slovakian Peter Sagan took his second stage win and significantly consolidated his lead in the points competition signified by the green jersey. Froome gained twelve seconds over his rivals and his hold on the overall lead and yellow jersey.

Team support cars

The road from the Abbey back to where our car was parked

A field of cantaloupes next to our car

If you enjoy the Tour de France, stay with me as we go watch the 12th Stage in Bedoin when the peloton begins their climb up Mont Ventoux.

1 comment:

  1. How fun. I watched from nearer to Carcassonne. It went right past our house! Huge excitement for our village.
    I did't know the Abbey of Valmagne before--there are so many around here, like Lagrasse, St. Papoul, Fontfroide--but it looks like a great destination for a Sunday afternoon outing.