Tour de France 2010: Stage 17 preview
Date: Thursday July 22 2010
From/to: Pau to Col du Tourmalet
Type: High mountains
Start town: Pau
Is there a more beautiful sight then the view of the Pyrenean mountain range from the promenade along the Boulevard des Pyrénées that links the castle to Beaumont Park?
Listed in 1944 under the name Horizons Palois, the boulevard is currently being renovated as part of a three-year project: renovation of the balustrade and lighting, pruning and felling of trees. This work will help widen the view of the slopes and the new facilities of the Pau-Pyrenees urban community: the Eaux-Vives stadium and the future Porte des Gaves district.
Furthermore, in two years time, an urban nature park will also come into being along the banks of the Gave de Pau river. It will combine preservation of natural spaces and the pursuit of leisure activities. Pau city centre is also being refurbished, with programmes to improve housing, the city's appeal, its heritage and environmentally-friendly forms of mobility. In addition to an excellent bus network, Pau will be confirming its loyalty to cycling by implementing self-service bicycle stands this autumn.
Finish: Col du Tourmalet
Long before cyclists first attempted to climb it, Tourmalet was already a pass with a reputation. Traversed by shepherds, pilgrims or peddlers, it obtained its letters of nobility in 1675 when Madame de Maintenon crossed it on a Sedan chair to reach Barèges, since the route via the valley bottom was blocked by floods.
Today, at an altitude of 2,115 metres, Tourmalet is one of the highest road passes in the Pyrenees. Almost every summer, the legend of the Tour de France is written on its slopes. Its gradients welcome Tour enthusiasts, who can also take the time to admire the landscape and mountain-grazing livestock herds.
In the winter, the two sides form, with 100 km of slopes, the biggest skiing resort in the French Pyrenees, under the name Domaine du Tourmalet. Overlooking the pass, the peak of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre rises up to an altitude of 2,877 metres. It can be reached on foot or by cable-car from La Mongie and offers a unique view of the surrounding summits. It is also possible to visit the astronomical observatory, built at the end of the 19th century.
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