Tour de France 2021 followed a route that took the cyclists just north of Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois on their way to Carcassonne.
Stage 13 of the cycling spectacle on Friday 9 July was this year’s second-longest, between Nîmes and Carcassonne. Special this year was that the day finished in Carcassonne, whereas it usually starts in the World Heritage Site.
This meant that TV viewers were treated to the stunning landscapes around Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois all afternoon. Important heritage sites were highlighted by TV presenters along the route.
For most of the 5.5 hours of stage 13, the 154 cyclists were surrounded by vineyards and distant views of the mountains. This was quite different from the lavender fields of the previous day.
A group of three riders managed to break away from the peloton early on. The only climb of note during this stage of the Tour de France 2021 was the côte de Pic Saint-Loup.
Sadly, the day was marred by a fall involved 30 riders. Some had to climb up the side the hill, having fallen several metres off the steep roadside.
The route of the Tour de France 2021 took the riders past the Cathar heritage site of Minerve, close to Le Fort Pouzols-Minervois. From there, they went on through the charming wine-making villages of La Livinière and Caunes-Minervois.
In a very tight group finish, British cyclist Mark Cavendish managed to win his fourth stage win in the 108th Tour de France. This meant that he totalled 34 since 2008, equalling the stage victories record of legend Eddy Merckx.
What is it like to watch the Tour de France in real life, rather than on the small screen? The stages start at midday.
Hours before the peloton flashes past within seconds, the advertising caravan passes down the same route to hand out tonnes and tonnes of marketing materials and sweets. Following the cyclists are lots of vehicles with spare bicycles and other essentials.
The rules for members of the public watching the Tour are strict, but fair. Don’t touch the cyclists. Don’t stand too close to corners. Don’t hang over the road trying to take selfies. The cyclists move much faster than you might think.
Don’t stand in front of the peloton with a sign, causing a domino effect mass fall – as one women did this year at an early stage, quickly making her the most notorious person in France.
But the atmosphere is very good and in most places it is not too difficult to park nearby and applaud the riders. Do expect to spend several hours hanging around between the caravan and the actual peloton passing through.