Tour de France Dinan-Lisieux stage on 7 July 2011

The Tour de France is one of the most popular sporting events in France.

First staged in 1903, the annual cycling race covers over 3600 km in 21 days.

Departure Marxhix
Departure Dinan-Lisieux stage

As its name suggests, the race took place in France for decades but was recently extended to some neighbouring countries, attracting teams from around the world. The Tour de France consists of daily stages or étapes.

The route varies from year to year but the final stage always takes place in Paris and the finish is on the prestigious Avenue des Champs Elysées.

This year the 98th edition of the Tour de France is taking place between 2 and 24 July.

Cities have to apply in advance to be included in one of the stages. Inclusion obviously triggers an influx of French and foreign vistors and not only generates publicity but is a huge boost for the local economy. The race is always preceded by the sponsors’ parade known as Caravane.

Podium on Place du Champ Clos

The many sponsors compete each year with brilliant ideas to customize their trucks and distribute a huge amount of gadgets and advertising products to the delight of children and adults too. The staging is beautiful and colourful and everyone is happy to go home with goodies that will remind them of the passage of the Tour de France.

The riders entered Brittany on July 4 with the stage Olonne-sur-Mer in Vendée region to Redon in Brittany.

Place Duclos
Unofficial start, riders on Place Duclos

On July 5 they they biked 172.5km from Lorient to Mûr-de-Bretagne and 164.5km on July 6 between Carhaix and Cap Fréhel. They left Brittany on Thursday, July 7 during the sixth stage which led them from Dinan to Lisieux in Normandy.

This stage of 226.5km was the longest of the Tour de france 2011.

The Norwegian Thor Hushovd, part of the Garmin Cervelo team, not only won the stage but wore the Yellow Jersey as he was then the overall leader.

Dinan, a medieval town with a rich historical past, had closed the road access to down-town the evening before the departure as between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors were expected.

Caravane carrefour
Carrefour, one of the sponsors

The streets lined with timbered houses were adorned with colourful flags and signs.

A huge podium was installed on the Place du Champ Clos, the main square, where one could see the riders being interviewed and signing one by one the registration book prior to their departure.

Members of the crowd had been there since early morning to secure a front row place and to enjoy street entertainment.

One of the most successful decorations to my taste are the stylised bikes that decorate the Place Duclos near the town hall.

The unofficial start, a lap in the streets of Dinan to thank the city for its hospitality, took place at 10:45 in Rue du Marchix, the main street of Dinan.

Stylised bikes
Stylised bikes on Place Duclos

Riders biked on the old cobbled streets and went down to the port where they crossed the viaduct in order to go on the road to Dol de Bretagne where the official departure took place at 11:45.

Everything went too fast unfortunately. Many hours of waiting for a few minutes of entertainment but it was worth it!

The riders are now far from Brittany but their passing left many fond memories to those who encouraged them on Thursday, July 7 2011…

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About the author

I am French Parisienne and lived in Asia for nearly 20 years before settling in the UK 3 years ago. I have an interest in everything and every culture and am an avid reader. French linguistics is my "specialty" but I have a passion for history and try to mingle them. Humour is very important to me, I love writing, talking, laughing, exchanging ideas, learning more from others... the world is full of fascinating people! I never leave my home without my camera, there is always something unusual, beautiful or strange to capture. I like to pay attention to details, to the world of the "small", a parallel world if you take the time to look for it...And above all, I love my country of birth, France.