Tourist attractions

Saint-Girons / Foix

Saint-Girons

Saint-Girons

Thanks to its position at the heart of several Pyrenean valleys, Saint-Girons has a vocation to be on the course of the Tour de France, either during the stage or as a start city. That's indeed what happened on five occasions since 1984, including during the 100th edition where on the road to Bagnères-de-Bigorre, Christopher Froome had seen his dominance challenged. Meanwhile, at the front of the race Dan Martin was performing quite a show. The Irishman maneuvered in style against Denmark's Jakob Fuglsang on his way to his first victory on the Tour

Maisons au bord du Salat, Saint-Girons © Thinkstock

Six previous stages
Sub-prefecture of Ariège (09)

Population: 6,300

Specialities: cheese (Bethmale, Moulis, Pic de la Calabasse, Le Rogallais, Saint-Lary), croustade (pastry), charcuterie, jam.

Celebrities: Aristide Berges (industrial), Louis-Henry Destel (journalist, novelist and rugby player), Roger Fouroux (former minister), Nicolas Martin, Jean-Marc Doussain (rugby union), Mathilde Mignier (French boxing world champion), Frederic Moncassin (cycling)

Sport: Saint-Girons Sporting-Club Couserans (rugby union), Handball Club, Saint-Girons Football Club. Events: international under-15 football tournament, Ronde de l'Isard (U23 cycling), cLa Casartelli granfondo, Marathon des Oussaillès

Economy: Pyrenees ariégeoises nature park (agriculture, hydroelectricity), Léon Martin paper mills in Engomer and La Moulasse paper-mills in Eycheil.

Heritage: Saint-Girons church, Saint-Valier church, château of the Couserans viscounts (12th century), house of the Path of freedom.

Festivals: RITE (International Encounters of Tradition and Ethnicity), world music and dance), Couserans holy art festival, Théâtrales in Couserans, Saint-Gironnades (local gastronomy), Autrefois le Couseran (street fair), Confit Rock

Sustainable development: 42 km of green way between Saint-Girons and Foix

Signature: Living together by nature

Web sites

Saint-Girons and cycling

At a crossroads between eighteen different valleys, St Girons has often seen the Tour de France ride past. It happends five time since 1984 and notably in 2013 for the 100th edition when Chris Froome had been attacked on the road to Bagneres-de-Bigorre. That day, Irishman Dan Martin had battled it out with Dane Jakob Fuglsang to clinch his first Tour de France stage victory. Luis Leon Sanchez scored a great victory in town in 2009. But St Girons was also often the start of mountain stages in the Pyrenees. In 1995 like in 2003, the roads to Cauterets and Loudenvielle helped Richard Virenque collect points for the polka-dot jersey. Yet the Tour faced a tragedy that day in 1995 when Fabio Casartelli died in the descent of Portet d'Aspet.  Except for the first stage it hosted as a start in 1984 – victory by Pascal Poisson in Blagnac -, St Girons was always a launching pad for climbers as the next three finishes took place in three hot spots of the Pyrenees, Luz Ardiden in 1988 (Laudelino Cubino), Cauterets in 1995 (Richard Virenque) and Loudenvielle in 2003 (Gilberto Simoni). A former yellow jersey holder, Frederic Moncassin, also winner of two stages in 1996, now lives near St Girons where he opened a restaurant named after a road sign he used to relish: “La Flamme rouge”.

Tour de France 2003, Richard Virenque © Presse Sports / BivilleTour de France 2013, Dan Martin et Jakob Fuglsang © Presse Sports / Papon

Six previous stages
Sub-prefecture of Ariège (09)

Population: 6,300

Specialities: cheese (Bethmale, Moulis, Pic de la Calabasse, Le Rogallais, Saint-Lary), croustade (pastry), charcuterie, jam.

Celebrities: Aristide Berges (industrial), Louis-Henry Destel (journalist, novelist and rugby player), Roger Fouroux (former minister), Nicolas Martin, Jean-Marc Doussain (rugby union), Mathilde Mignier (French boxing world champion), Frederic Moncassin (cycling)

Sport: Saint-Girons Sporting-Club Couserans (rugby union), Handball Club, Saint-Girons Football Club. Events: international under-15 football tournament, Ronde de l'Isard (U23 cycling), cLa Casartelli granfondo, Marathon des Oussaillès

Economy: Pyrenees ariégeoises nature park (agriculture, hydroelectricity), Léon Martin paper mills in Engomer and La Moulasse paper-mills in Eycheil.

Heritage: Saint-Girons church, Saint-Valier church, château of the Couserans viscounts (12th century), house of the Path of freedom.

Festivals: RITE (International Encounters of Tradition and Ethnicity), world music and dance), Couserans holy art festival, Théâtrales in Couserans, Saint-Gironnades (local gastronomy), Autrefois le Couseran (street fair), Confit Rock

Sustainable development: 42 km of green way between Saint-Girons and Foix

Signature: Living together by nature

Web sites

Sights

St Girons church
Built in 1857 by Auguste Tisne on the site of a 14th century church, of which only the tower remains, it is topped by a spire decorated with wolf heads. Inside can be seen paintings by Spanish artist Alonso Cano.

St Lizier cathedral
Built in the 9th century, the cathedral of St Lizier houses remarkable Romanesque frescos. The cathedral and the cloister are listed as World Geritage sites by UNESCO as stages on the St James Way.

Salat and touts of the Pyrenees
St Girons is bathed by the river Salat, whose clear waters are favourite with anglers, who go for the famous Fario trouts, common in the Pyrenees.

The 1900 classroom
The 1900 classroom in the old school of the Jacobins is the reconstitution of a classroom  with its wood stove, its tables, geography maps and old books.

Path of freedom
Between Saint-Girons and Esterri de Aneu (Spain), the path follows the itinerary used by the refugees feeling to Spain during WWII.
www.chemindelaliberte.fr

Jean-Pascal Balard, chocolate master
Jean-Pascal, born in St Girons, worked for the best restaurants before coming back home to specialise in chocolate and try astonishing mixtures involving pepper, lime, ginger or saffron.
jpbalard.wixsite.com/chocolateriejpbalard

Martine Crespo croustades
A traditional desert in the area, made of season fruit and flaky pastry, croustade used to be served for family gatherings or for the annual fair of the village. Martine Crespo has made it her specialty and sells all types of croustade, both sweet and sour.
croustade.com

Vue de l’Eglise Saint-Girons © MidesVue de la Cathédrale Saint-Lizier © Florent PécassouLe Salat à Saint-Girons, au centre, la place des Capots. © Olybrius

Six previous stages
Sub-prefecture of Ariège (09)

Population: 6,300

Specialities: cheese (Bethmale, Moulis, Pic de la Calabasse, Le Rogallais, Saint-Lary), croustade (pastry), charcuterie, jam.

Celebrities: Aristide Berges (industrial), Louis-Henry Destel (journalist, novelist and rugby player), Roger Fouroux (former minister), Nicolas Martin, Jean-Marc Doussain (rugby union), Mathilde Mignier (French boxing world champion), Frederic Moncassin (cycling)

Sport: Saint-Girons Sporting-Club Couserans (rugby union), Handball Club, Saint-Girons Football Club. Events: international under-15 football tournament, Ronde de l'Isard (U23 cycling), cLa Casartelli granfondo, Marathon des Oussaillès

Economy: Pyrenees ariégeoises nature park (agriculture, hydroelectricity), Léon Martin paper mills in Engomer and La Moulasse paper-mills in Eycheil.

Heritage: Saint-Girons church, Saint-Valier church, château of the Couserans viscounts (12th century), house of the Path of freedom.

Festivals: RITE (International Encounters of Tradition and Ethnicity), world music and dance), Couserans holy art festival, Théâtrales in Couserans, Saint-Gironnades (local gastronomy), Autrefois le Couseran (street fair), Confit Rock

Sustainable development: 42 km of green way between Saint-Girons and Foix

Signature: Living together by nature

Web sites

Pechs de Foix

© Parc naturel régional des Pyrénées Ariégeoises© Raphaël Kann© Raphaël Kann© Raphaël Kann© J.Touroult

In Foix, the race ends near the Pechs de Foix, Soula and Roquefixade, Grotte de l'Herm Natura 2000 site. This site of nearly 2,200 ha is characterised by limestone cliffs, which are typical markers of the Ariège landscape. The diversity of the natural environments and their associated flora and fauna make this site a remarkable place in terms of biodiversity.

Read more : www.afbiodiversite.fr/fr/stage-13-saint-girons-foix 

Pyrénées regional natural Park of the « L'Ariégeoise »

The Natural Park of the Pyrenees Ariegeoises is a major terrain for cyclists, with its mountain passes or "Cols"; the Col du Portet d'Aspet and Col de la Core, and the "Ariegeoise" cycling event. There is something for all tastes, all ambitions. For a gentle outing or for a longer journey the "Voie Verte" or Green Route which runs through the foothills for 40 KM from St Girons to Foix provides wonderful panoramic views of the Pyrenees.

As a leader in alternative energy use, the Park also offers electric bicycles for active mobility around the area.

Web site : www.parc-pyrenees-ariegeoises.fr

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