I’m really looking forward to this year’s Tour de France Stage 8, Rennes to Mûr-de-Bretagne. I’ve seen the uphill finish before, in 2011, and in 2015 the route is even more accessible for me, starting just 30km from where I will be staying, and making its way through an area I know well.
The climb at the finish is steep and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s name means the ‘wall of Brittany’, in a similar fashion to the Flandrian bergs such as the Muur de Geraardsbergen. Fans are more likely to be confused give that the Mur de Huy is the uphill finish a few days earlier on Stage 4, in the French-speaking Walloon region of Belgium.
‘Mur de Huy’ does mean ‘wall of Huy’ or ‘hill of Huy’ and seems to emanate from the Dutch / Flemish tendency to refer to hills as walls. Mûr-de-Bretagne, though, has an accent circonflex, or a ‘chinese hat’ over the u. In reality, Mûr-de-Bretagne is just a place name, like Stoke-on-Trent.
The climb itself is just outside the town of Mûr, but to refer to it as ‘the Mur’ is incorrect. (Let’s say Bath in England was known as Bath-of-Somerset, and there was a famous open-water swimming race held there at a lake nearby. To refer to the lake as ‘the Bath’ is the sort of mistake we are making here.)
The right phrase in French is ‘Côte de Mûr-de-Bretagne’, but that doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.
Back to Stage 8: the start is in Rennes, the Breton capital and seat of the regional government. I’ll be crashing at a relative’s flat and going out to mooch about the start. It’s well worth doing if your previous Tour experience has consisted of camping out at the side of a road for hours – there’s loads to see.
The race will go through St-Méen, birthplace of 3-time Tour winner Louison Bobet. I’m hoping to use my knowledge of local roads to sneak under the ‘Hors Course’ (closed road route for team buses, Tour infrastructure vehicles, etc) via a little place called St-Onen-la-Chapelle and catch the race go past in St Méen. I watched bike racing here last year, as Audrey Cordon won a stage of the Tour de Bretagne Feminin.
Kwiatkowski is my pick for the stage win. After the finish, I’ll be heading down the hill via one of the back lanes, and trying to find a farmyard barbecue selling the Bretons’ favourite snack: gallette saucisse (rustic sausage in a savoury pancake).