Tour de France 2022: How Arenberg became a must on the Grande Boucle
Three arrivals in twelve years. For a village like Wallers-Arenberg, hosting the Tour de France is starting to become a good habit. After 2010 and 2014, the northern town of 5,400 souls will be the scene this Wednesday of the arrival of the 5th stage of the big loop. Mythical name in world cycling thanks to its famous gap that Paris-Roubaix has crossed every year since 1968, Arenberg has a much more recent idyll with the Tour de France.
“There was a long-standing desire on the part of elected officials from the agglomeration to host the Tour. And in 2010, the race had such interest that the organizers of the Tour said to themselves that it was necessary to find this kind of stage with cobbled sections and a mythical arrival near the pithead and next to the Trouée d’ Arenberg. All the ingredients were there for the organization to fall in love with Arenberg,” enthuses Salvatore Castiglione, the town’s mayor.
Cobblestones brought back to the taste of the Tour in 2010
Because before 2010, the Tour took pleasure in avoiding the cobblestones. Too dangerous, too selective, the famous northern stones were not popular on the Grande Boucle. But by dint of having the first few weeks without much interest because often confiscated by the sprinters, Christian Prudhomme, appointed race director in 2007, had the idea of beefing up the first days of the event.
And that’s how the cobblestones, hitherto reserved for Paris-Roubaix, landed on the roads in July. Since then, the love story has not been denied, especially since there is more than cycling in Arenberg.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Located in the former mining basin, Arenberg has kept traces of its historical past. Although it closed in 1989, the pit has kept its facilities. This is where many scenes from the film Germinal were filmed in 1992. Now transformed into a center for cinematographic creation, the site of Arenberg, like 14 other mining remains in the town, has even been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for ten years.
What definitely convince the Tour de France to settle there because everyone knows it, the Tour de France is above all the Tour de France and its rich heritage. “The history we have with the mine and the one we have with the bike make us want to come to us”, sums up the mayor of Wallers-Arenberg.
The Arenberg gap not taken on the Tour
It is also in front of the mining site that the finish of the stage will be judged on Wednesday. Because if Arenberg hosts the Tour for the third time, the riders have never yet taken the mythical gap located 200 meters away. And rider safety is not the only explanation.
“There is the problem of the level crossing located 30 meters from the gap. It could create problems a few meters from the finish. Imagine that the race is stopped to let the trains pass, it could pose some difficulties. But we are thinking more and more about taking this gap. Maybe one day it will be on the race route,” hopes Salvatore Castiglione. The proof that Arenberg still has some assets to remain one of the new strongholds of the Tour de France.
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