Stage 3 began in Granville, the shellfish port we encountered in Stage 1, and ran down the edge of the Breton department of Ille-et-Vilaine before speeding through Mayenne and the northwestern tip of Maine-et-Loire before a quick finish in Angers. We were treated to some great shots of the Tour passing by the several rivers which converge in Angers, and those rivers are the subject of today’s edition of Les Eaux du Tour.
As we left Brittany, we entered the watershed of the Loire which covers over 100,000 sq. km. in western France. The main stream of the river rises in the Massif Central, and we’ll actually be fairly close to the source (though on the other side of some mountains) when we finish the first individual time trial at La Caverne du Pont-d’Arc.
We first encountered the streams of the Loire basin when we saw the Verzée join the Oudon in Segré.
The Tour takes leave of the rivers for a little while as the Oudon continues flowing to the east where it meets the Mayenne near Le Lion-d’Angers. The Mayenne flows southeast until it meets the Sarthe in a large system of wetlands (and Ramsar site!) called the Basses vallées angevines.
The wetland pictured above is the Île Saint-Aubin, a triangle formed by the Mayenne and the Sarthe on its two lower sides, which join at the triangle’s southern apex, and a channel connecting the Mayenne to the Sarthe called the Vieille Mayenne. The photo above is looking southeast with the Vieille Mayenne on the left and the Mayenne proper on the right. The city of Angers claims that these wetlands are the third largest in France, after the Rhône delta region called the Camargue and the Marais Poitevin. We’ll pass through Poitou tomorrow too far to the east to see much of the latter, and we’ll skirt the Camargue on stages 11 and 12
Once the Mayenne and the Sarthe join, they are called the Maine. The Maine flows straight through the city of Angers for 11.5 kilometers before joining the Loire south of the city. This is where the Tour rejoined the river, storming across the Pont de la Haute-Chaîne over the Maine before yet another thrilling finish in front of the city hall of Angers given to us by Mark Cavendish et al.