The Tour de France 2012, the world’s premier cycling event kicked off last Saturday with the Prologue in Liège, Belgium and will conclude on July 22 with the traditional ride into Paris and laps up and down the Champs-Élysées. Over the next 22 days the race will take its course briefly along the Northwestern coast of France through Boulogne-sur-Mer, Abbeville and into Rouen then into the mountains of the Jura, Swiss Alps and the Pyrenees.
We will be Live Blogging Le Tour 2012 every morning at The Stars Hollow Gazette starting at 7:30 AM EDT. Come join us for a morning chat, cheer the riders and watch some of the most beautiful and historic countryside in Europe.
Stage 6 – Épernay – Metz 207.5 km
The last time a Tour de France stage started in Épernay, home to the leading Champagne houses, was in 2010 and it was HTC-Columbia that were cracking open the bubbly that evening to celebrate yet another stage win by Mark Cavendish. This is another stage that looks nailed-on for a bunch sprint finish.
Épernay is a commune in the Marne department in northern France, located some 130 km north-east of Paris. The town sits on the left bank of the Marne at the extremity of the Cubry valley which crosses it. Épernay is best known as the principal “entrepôt” for champagne wines, which are bottled and kept in large cellars built into the chalk rock on which the town is built. The production of the equipment and raw materials used in the champagne industry is a major source of local employment.
The most famous street in Épernay is the Avenue de Champagne which features the leading Champagne manufacturers. Its name derives from the presence of many leading champagne producers such as Moët et Chandon, Mercier and De Castellane. Residents say that this avenue is the most expensive in the world, more so than the Champs-Élysées in Paris, because of the millions of bottles of champagne stored in the kilometres of chalk cellars beneath it.
Épernay is the home of Moët et Chandon which was founded in 1743 by Épernay wine trader Claude Moët who began shipping his wine from Champagne to Paris. The reign of King Louis XV coincided with increased demand for sparkling wine. Moët began business in 1750 with Madame de Pompadour, who supplied the Royal Court at Compiègne with Moët’s champagne. Also in 1750, Moët began establishing business in Germany, Spain, Eastern Europe, and colonial British America. In 1792, on Claude Moët’s death, grandson Jean-Rémy Moët assumed control of Moët et Cie, and expanded the business buying the vineyards of the Abbey of Hautvillers, where Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon perfected double-fermentation for creating champagne.
Metz, the capital of Lorraine, has witnessed 40 stage finishes since it first welcomed the Tour more than a century ago, the most recent being in 1999 when Lance Armstrong won an individual time trial here on his way to the first of his seven consecutive victories in the race. This close to the German border there should be a lot of German fans in evidence, but with Kittel out and Greipel coming in to this stage having already achieved back to back stage wins on stages 4 and 5 it’s unlikely that they will see that ultra rarity – a Tour treble… but you never know, the last one was achieved by Lance Armstrong and included an individual time trial. Super Mario Cipolinni went one better in 1999 winning four in a row with none of the time trials included.
Metz is a city in the northeast of France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers. Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region and prefecture of the Moselle department. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, Metz forms a central place of the European Greater Region and of the SaarLorLux Euroregion.
A Celtic oppidum, an important Gallo-Roman city, the Merovingian capital of the Austrasia kingdom, the birthplace of the Carolingian dynasty, a cradle of the Gregorian chant, and one of the oldest republics of the common era in Europe, Metz has a rich 3,000-year-history. The city has been steeped in Romance culture, but has been strongly influenced by Germanic culture due to its location and history.
Metz possesses one of the largest Urban Conservation Area in France and more than 100 buildings of the city are classified on the Monument Historique list. Because of its historical and cultural background, Metz benefits from its designation as French Town of Art and History. The city features noteworthy buildings such as the Gothic Saint-Stephen Cathedral, the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains, its Station Palace, or its Opera House, the oldest one working in France. Metz is home to some notable venues including the Arsenal Concert Hall and the Centre Pompidou-Metz Museum.
A basin of urban ecology, Metz gained its nickname of Green City, displaying extensive open grounds and public gardens and the historic downtown is one of the largest commercial, pedestrian areas in France.
A historic Garrison town, Metz is the economic heart of the Lorraine region, being specialized in information technology and automotive industries. Metz is home to the University of Lorraine and a centre for applied research and development in the materials sector notably in metallurgy and metallography, the heritage of the Lorraine region’s past in the iron and steel industry.