Lourdes is Las Vegas for Catholics. It is where men wear hoodies with "Don’t Panic. Just Pray" written on the back. It is the home of shops full of statues of the Virgin Mary in all sorts of sizes. It is where people come seeking miracles and wonder. Last Friday, it was where the Tour de France began its 19th stage. The "village depart" — the hospitality village that is at the start of each stage of the Tour — had the Notre-Dame de Lourdes Sanctuary as a spectacular backdrop, watching over those having a splash of the local rose, a wafer-thin slice of the black pork of Bigorre, a small basket of chicken and chips, a sneaky handful of Haribo sweets and the chance to inhale the heady atmosphere of the Grand Boucle. Sponsors, fans, priests, nuns, riders, organisers and media clicking their necks, cracking their fingers in preparation for one of the hardest days of the 2018 Tour de France. Sadly, I did not see or get to taste the spit cake, Pailhasson chocolates, Malespine sweets, Pyren...

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