Passage du Gois to Mont des Alouettes 191.5km
No opening prologue (short time trial) is a direct result of the organizers' desire to "shake up the race" from the start. Although chances of a stage win are theoretically more open, only a select few of the specialist sprinters will be in contention on the long, steady race to the finish line atop Mont des Alouettes. Norway's world champion Thor Hushovd, Australian Matt Goss or Frenchman Thomas Voeckler should be among the favorites.
• Stage site for the first time
• A tidal causeway linking the mainland to the Isle of Noirmoutier in Vendée (85)
• 2, 173 inhabitants (18, 000 in summer)
The Passage du Gois is a causeway joining the Île de Noirmoutier and Beauvoir sur Mer on the mainland, via Barbâtre, and is submerged by the tide twice a day.
Passable by car, bike or by foot at low tide, it is situated close to La Barre de Monts and the resort of Fromentine. This dynamic resort offers visitors a huge range of all-year-round activities, including sailing, sand-yachting, kite-surfing, walking and bike tours, plus the opportunity to visit the Le Daviaud eco-museum in the Vendée’s salt and freshwater marshland area. From the Pey de la Blet – a tower built in the heart of the forest – you can enjoy the superb panoramic view of the marshes, the ocean and the islands of Yeu and Noirmoutier, while on the seafront, where there are no cars allowed, and no tall buildings to ruin the view, you can enjoy the sight of the unusual seaside villas dating from the early twentieth century. Surrounded by wide, open spaces (seven kilometres of beaches, almost 700 hectares of forest and 1,200 hectares of marshland), the municipality has made the preservation of its environment, and its living environment, a matter of priority.
The Tour first visited this truly unique route in 1999. It is a reminder that vigilance is essential from the very beginning of the race for those aspire to win it. Alex Zülle lost more than six minutes there in a mass fall. But this time, the cyclists will only ride on the Passage du Gois as part of the official ceremony to mark the start of the race. In 2005, the bridge was used to link the mainland to the Isle of Noirmoutier, in an individual time-trial that allowed the very young David Zabriskie, 20 years old, to put on the Yellow Jersey for his first day on the Tour de France. • www.vendee.fr
• Stage site for the first time
• The summit (232m) of Vendée (85) near the cantonal subdivision of Les Herbiers (15, 500 inhabitants)
It’s from the summit of the Mont des Alouettes, next to the windmills, that visitors get their first sight of the town of Les Herbiers.
The capital of the Vendée’s hilly Haut Bocage area represents what has come to be known as ’the Vendéen economic miracle’. In just a few years, a number of local businesses have become domestic and multinational giants. Boat builders Jeanneau have become one of the biggest manufacturers of yachts and power boats in the world, while CWF – Children Worldwide Fashion – lead the pack in the distribution of children’s fashion clothing.
Through this rapid development, the image of Les Herbiers was just as rapidly transformed, with development based on respect for one another, respect for nature and a focus on innovative architecture. Les Herbiers locals’ new way of life – so original and bold for a town of its size – has reaped the rewards in a variety of ways (the green neighbourhood of Val de la Pellinière, the Tour des Arts and the UN’s Agenda 21 sustainable development action plan) and is now the envy of its neighbours. This boldness, a spirit of innovation, perseverance and solidarity all combine to contribute to this success.
A true haven of cycling, and already the host of the Chrono des Nations bike race, Les Herbiers is proud to welcome the Tour de France.
This place made a name for itself in history due to its decisive role in the Wars of Vendée. The commune of Herbiers has been accustomed to welcoming the best riders at the end of the cycling season for the Chrono des Nations since 1982. This time it will have the opportunity to award the first Yellow Jersey of the 2011 Tour de France. The topography of the final stretch should allow for a confrontation between sprinters and puncheurs (strong cyclists with explosive speed which they use on short, but steep gradients with sudden attacks). This 100% Vendeen route, which will pass by Chantonnay just before the stage finish, may well give ideas to Thomas Voeckler, as he was crowned the French National Road Champion there in June.