The first time that the Tour de France rolled through Languedoc was in the inaugural race in 1903, with an epically long stage (Marseilles to Toulouse) of 423 km that traversed the entire region in one day! 1905 saw Languedoc’s first Arriver, in Nîmes (won by Louis Trousselier, pictured below), and since then the region has hosted Le Grand Boucle nearly every year.
Languedoc is a region blessed with a great variety of landscapes and the cycling here is excellent, but the real reason the Tour probably always comes here is less flattering: we just happen to be in between the two great mountain ranges of France (The Alps and The Pyrenees) where, inevitably, much of the action occurs during the Tour. Therefore, for the most part, stages than run through Languedoc are long and fast.
However, Languedoc has seen some drama over the last century. In only the 2nd Tour de France, in 1904, after local boy Ferdinand Payan (from Alès) was disqualified from the race, Nîmes fans barracked roads, threw stones at riders and broke one of the leaders’ bike…and you thought today’s fans got in riders’ faces!
In the 1960 Tour, Roger Rivière, wearing the yellow jersey, followed descending specialist (and eventual winner in Paris) Gastone Nencini down from the col de Perjuret in the Cévennes, only to overreach his abilities and end up flying off the road and break his back, ending his Tour hopes along with his cycling career (click here for a route that descends the same mountain, and where you will pass by a monument to Rivière – pictured to the right).
In 2009, the year of Lance Armstrong’s 2nd comeback, a small group at the front of the peloton succeeded in creating a gap (in high cross winds) on the Marseille-Montpellier stage that stuck and came within a few seconds of putting Armstrong in the yellow jersey for the first time in four years. This would be the closest he would come though, after his Astana teammate, Alberto Contador, along with Andy Schleck, put down the hammer in the mountains and established once and for all that a new generation had taken control the Tour.
Although the details aren’t out yet, we know there will be three stages running through the region in 2013:
Stage 6, July 4 — Aix-en-Provence > Montpellier – 176 km km (on-line)
Stage 7, July 5 — Montpellier > Albi – 205 km (on-line)
Stage 8, July 6 – Castres > Ax 3 Domaines – 194 km (on-line)
The organizers haven’t given us the exact route yet (this comes in spring), so here’s a close-up of our region’s three stages, along with what this tells us.
After much eye-balling and using our imagination a little we’ve come up with the following Google Map of where we think the routes might actually go.
View TdF in Languedoc 2013 in a larger map
Following is a list of B&Bs, hotels and self-catering properties that are close to (or right on!) what we think will be the Tour de France route in Languedoc this year.
Hotel Canal (Aigues-Mortes)
Moulin de Pattus (Salinelles)
Domaine Saint Clément (Saint-Clément-de-Rivière)
Villa Isabelle (Pézenas)
Villa Roquette (Montblanc)
La Cardabela (Margon)
Maison Dix (Neffiès)
Le Cerisier (Saint Geniès de Fontédit)
Le Saint André (Autignac)
Maison de l’Orb (Béziers)
Au Petit Verger (Puivert)
Les Marguerittes (Alet Les Bains)
Chez Maison Bleue (Sonnac sur l’Hers)
Abbaye Chateau de Camon (Camon)
La Cortanela (Limoux)
Maison Laurent (Pieusse)
Les Amandiers (Cailhau)
La Villa de Mazamet (Mazamet)
To see what other cycling-friendly accommodation is available throughout the entire region, check out our Cycling-friendly Accommodation page.
For general tips on following the Tour de France, this blog article might give you some ideas.
And why not combine your Tour de France viewing with a tour of your own! Cycling Languedoc’s Backroads of Eastern Languedoc self-guided tour will take you through much of the same beautiful scenery as the pros this July.