The riders of the most famous cycling event in the world are back at Royan on September 8, 2020. It hadn't happened since… 1972. Royan then entered the great history of the Tour de France as a "stop-over town".

The Grande Boucle returns to Royan in 2020

Postponed to the end of the summer due to the Covid-19 epidemic, the Tour de France reconnects with the flat roads of Charente-Maritime. The department had not appeared on its program since 1997. The Tour then made a quick passage through Saujon during the 7th stage between Marennes and Bordeaux, on Saturday July 12.

A Frenchman takes the yellow in Royan in 1972

To Royan, the wait is even longer. The seaside resort has not appeared on the menu of the Grande Boucle since 1972. That year, Royan was "stopover town" competition under the era of Belgian champion Eddy Merckx. This is his third consecutive trophy. On July 5, Royan welcomes the arrival of a stage from Vendée. It's the French Cyrille Guimard who wins the race in the sprint, 20 meters from the line. For the occasion, he steals the yellow jersey from the “Ogre de Tervueren”. The next day, the runners set off again for Bordeaux.

Bordered by villas and open to the sea, the Boulevard Frederic Garnier offers a spectacular setting for the race. With its long straight line, it naturally imposes itself as a favorable terrain for "finishers". Experts in the discipline are making sparks there, for example:

  • the Flemish Daniel Van Ryckeghem on July 5, 1968 (stage 8 Nantes-Royan in 5h25 minutes)
  • the Belgian, Albert van Vlierberghe, winner in 1966 of a very long Angers-Royan stage (252 kilometers in just over 7 hours)
  • the Italian Pierino Baffi who won the sprint in the same place, in 1958, on a road made wet and slippery by heavy summer showers (stage 10, Saint-Nazaire-Royan).

10 Stage 1958 Retrospective

Length of the video: 6 minutes 22

This finish line on Boulevard Garnier, which has become legendary, was established in 1937 when Royan hosted its first “Tour”. The place was reused the following year, but not in 1939. Indeed, during the third consecutive passage of the event in the seaside town (and two months from the declaration of war on Nazi Germany), the arrival of the runners is moved to a steeper ground in the city center, boulevard Georges Clémenceau.

Royan, “city of rest” in the history of the Tour de France in 1938

1938 is a special edition for Royan. The organizers of the Great Boucle make the "pearl of the Atlantic" one of the "rest towns" of the competition. Before embarking on a sixth stage towards Bordeaux (198 km), the 96 riders of the peloton are stationed there for a whole weekend, from Friday 8 to Sunday 10 July. For the occasion, they stay in accommodation in Royan.

Their extended stay delights the public and local businesses. It provides elected officials with the opportunity to unfold a whole program of festivities in honor of these athletes. We organize open-air cinema sessions, a sports evening at the Municipal Casino (opposite the Grande Conche), fireworks, a flowery bicycle competition... In the streets, for two days, autograph hunters follow the stars of the event.

Nine years later, in 1947, Royan was on the program for the first post-war Tour. There were none in 1946. She had just emerged bruised from a heavy campaign of bombing carried out two years earlier by the Allied forces. Its city center, still inaccessible, is excluded from the route. The runners then make a brief passage to Pontaillac, Façade de Verthamon (seafront). The place features again on the 2020 route.

Did you know: Why is the Tour de France also called the Grande Boucle?

The surname “La Grande Boucle” comes from the fact that at the time the route scrupulously followed the borders and coasts of France. Thus, the course reached its length record in 1926 with a distance of 5745 km!


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