We leave Andorra after the first rest day and make our way to Revel, in Haute-Garonne. As promised, we crossed the Canal du Midi in Castelnaudary towards the end of the stage. The Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea at Sète to the Canal de Garonne at Toulouse, and the Canal de Garonne and the Garonne River flow to Bordeaux and the Garonne estuary on the Atlantic Ocean. It was constructed in the late 17th century and represents one of the major public works during the reign of Louis XIV.
The dream of connecting the Atlantic to the Mediterranean was common throughout early modern France. The trip around the Iberian Peninsula was just too long and too dangerous to support. But it proved to be harder than most people thought to get water to flow continuously in the canal.
Pierre-Paul Riquet came up with the solution: divert water from the Montagne Noire to the high point of the canal at the Seuil de Narouze. Riquet wrote to Jean-Baptise Colbert, Louis’ finance minister, proposing his design for a canal, and Colbert signed off on the project. Construction began in 1667 with the construction of the rigole de la plaine, Riquet’s ingenious irrigation system, and concluded in 1681, a year after Riquet’s death.
The Bassin de St. Ferreol is yet another artificial lake, constructed to hold water coming from the Montagne Noire, and it was the site of today’s third category climb just before the thrilling breakaway-turned-sprint into Revel led by the trio from Orica-Bikeexchange.