It has been known for a long time that Tour de France 2017 will start with at Time Trial in Düsseldorf in Germany, and that stage 2 will start in Düsseldorf. But the way from Düsseldorf was not published before last Tuesday.
I am glad that there were no serious crashes during yesterday’s difficult stage. Vincezo Nibali seemed to be a bit mentaly marked by his crash the day before, and was more careful in the last descent than he usually is. It was no surprise that for Chris Froome and Sky, it was control, control and control.
The person who has really impressed med the most during this year’s Tour, is Peter Sagan, who has been chosen the supercombative in this year’s Tour. Three stage wins and win with an enourmous margin in the green jersey competition is impressiv enough. But what has impressed me even more, is his working moral and effort to support his team mates. On stage 17, he was riding hard to help Rafal Majka secure the polkca dot jersey, with success. Yesterday he was riding just as hard to help another team mate, Roman Kreuziger to a podium finish. It did not work out, but Roman Kreuziger is now top 10. Alberto Contador abandoned early. Despite that, Tinkoff has the green jersey, the polka dot jersey and a third rider among the top ten in the general classification. Not a bad outcome! This is very much thanks to Peter Sagan’s effort for the team. It is not often we see the green jersey riding hard in the front on hard mountain stages, as a domestic for other riders in the team.
Everything that is not yet decided, will be decided today. Tomorrow’s stage is a parade, and the sprinters’ fight for a stage win on Champs Éllysées. Chris Froome has already won the general classification, if he avoids serious accidents. Four minutes should be enough. No one can take the green jersey away for Peter Sagan. He only have to get to the finish line i Paris. Rafal Majka seems to have a solid grip on the polka dot jersey, but I have not calculated if there is a theoretical chance that other riders can win it, given that Rafa Majka hang on to ghe finish in Paris. Louis Meintjes gained a half minute on Adam Yates in the competition for the white young riders jersey. Adam Yates’ two minutes lead is not a safe lead. It is the white jersey, and the two podium places after Chris Froome that are in play on today’s stage. There is only three and a half minute from no 2 t no 10 in the general classification. The fight for a place on the podium, may be hard, and is still rather open.
Antoher demonstration of power from Chris Froome. He has a strong team. But in the time trials, it is everyone on their own.
Another hard alpine stage, with mountain top finish. It is rather short (146 km). A short stage with this profile, where much is at stake, can bring a lot of action. And it can be a very hard challenge for the sprinters finishe within the time limit. There are one off category, top finish on a first category. Today I expect that those who are behind Chris Froome will attack each other and fight for a podium place in Paris. Chris Froome and Sky will control the situation.
Still, there have been no serious attacks on Chris Froome, and his helpers in Sky. His former, faithful helper Richie Porte was the only one to attack. Chris Froome followed, and Nairo Quintana and Bauke Mollema lost another half minute when they were left behind. It seems that only an accident can prevent Chris Froome from winning this year.
We are back in France, for a 17 km uphill time trial. This is not common in Tour de France, it is the first since 2004. They have had this type of stages more frequently in Giro d’Italia. I have looked at the results from stage 15. in this year’s Giro d’Italia, to have something to compare with. This was a 10 km uphill time trial. The time differences between the first ten riders was a bit more than a minute. As today’s stage is longer, I will expect the time differences to be about twice a much. There is a lot to win and even more to loose on this stage for anyone with some kind of ambitions in the general classifications. Some will go for a stage win. I am for instance thinking of Tom Dumoulin. But for the rest of the riders, it is a question of getting through within the time limit, without using too much energy. As an example, Peter Sagan is about 2 hours and 28 minutes behind Chris Froome in the genereal classification. He is collecting points, and the time does not matter. If he should loose some more minutes, who cares?
As a Norwegian, I was of couse a bit disappointed when it turned out that Alexander Kristoff did not cross the line in Bern first. I was first before and after the line, but Peter Sagan managed to get his bike across the finish line first. But with him seond, and Sondre Holst Enger third, is not a bad outcome. But You have to be the first to crosss the line, and Peter Sagan was some 3 cm before Kristoff. And I liked that Peter Sagan got another win, rather than his 18th second.
We are still in Switzerland. Monday was rather flat. Today the riders will experience some of what Switzerland is known for: Mountains.
A Colombian winner over Le Grand Colombier, that sounds right to me. But we have not yet seen any serious attack on Chris Froome.
Today’s stage starts in France and ends in Schwitzerland. It is the sprinter’s last chance before Paris. But between two and one kilometer from the finish, there is an ascent of ca 50 meters. It should not be ery hard. One kilometer with a 5% gradient. But for the typical sprinters, this can be a bit too hard at the end of a 209 km stage. They may not be well positioned when it flattens out with one km to go. As a Norwegian, I am hoping that this could be a stage for Alexander Kristoff or Edvald Boasson Hagen. But it can also suit Peter Sagan, and Greg van Avermaet is a name that once again springs to my mind. Or maybe John Degenkolb. And Berne is Fabian Cancellara’s hometown. Maybe he can get some extra speed from being homesick?
Mark Cavendish is back as in his glory days. Being as small as he is, he may have an advantage in headwind, as he can be protected behind other cyclists, and will not catch very much wind when he goes out to the side to pass.
Marcel Kittel was grumpy. But he deviated more from his line than Mark Cavendish did from his. And as usual: Peter Sagan is up there, earning points.
But today is not a stage for the sprinters. This is a stage for climbers. And it is time that some riders should launch serious attacks on Chris Froome, if they are able to.
Today we should start by choosing food. The stage starts in Bresse, famous for their chickens. Bresse-chicken is Francee’s and thus maybe the world’s best chicken. So the main course today should be chicken.
We are in the southern part of the Jura massif. To find Jura wine, we have to go further north, at the west side of the mountains. So we will not open any bottles of Jura-wine this year.
When the riders are not climbing up to summits, the stage goes through the not very well known wine region Bugey, between Jura and Savoie. Bugey got AOP-classification in 2011. The start town Bourg-en-Bresse is located just outside of the upper left corner of the map, and the finish town is out to the right, about where the green marking stops.
We can start with the wine that is labeled Bugey with no other geographical indication. This wine can be produced in the whole area. They produce white, red and rosé, as well as sparkling and the lightliy sparkling wine that in French is called pétillant.
The whites shall be made with minimum 70% cahrdonnay. The rest can be alligoté, altesse, jacquère, mondeuse blanche and pinot gris.
The reds are made from gamay, mondeuse noire or pinot noir.
The rosé shal have at least 70% gamay and /or pinot noir. The criterias says that gamay shall be white juice, meaning that it must not be skin contact. I do not know the porcess used here, but to me this does not look like a way to produce rosé. In addition there can be mondeuse noir, pinot gris and poulsard.
White sparkling wine shall have minimum 70% cardonnay, jacquère and molette. In addition there can be aligoté, altesse, gamay noir (white juice), mondeuse blanche, mondeuse noire, pinot gris, pinot noir and poulsard.
Sparkling and pètillant wine shall have second fermentation in the bottles, and should rest sur lie for at least 9 months.
Some areas may have another geographical name added after Bugey. The first such area we will come to is Bugey-Cerdon. If I have understood it right, which I do not guarantee, will the fermentation stop early because of cool climate and long winters. The second fermentation will start in the bottles when it gets warmer. It should be labeled “Methode Ancestrale”. It is a sparkling wine low on alcohol.
For other areas where they can add a geographical indication, the difference seems to be more restrictions on the grapes that can be used, with fewer secondary grapes allowed.
I the area Roussette du Bugey they make white wine from the grape Altesse, or Roussette as it called locally. This is a grape I usually associate with the neighbouring district Savoie.
It is not easy to find wines from Bugey outside the districts. And to be honest, I would not try too hard to find it. Chardonnay, gamay and pinot noir, are grapes grown may places, and grapes that give better wines other places. As long as these grapes are the principal grapes, the wine will not get its own identity. There are some producers who are producing wines from local grapes. But they are hard to find. Roussette du Bugey may have have more of a local character, but I have to admit that I have not yet tasted it. But Roussette from Savoie is an interesting wine.
I was in this area a few weeks ago, when I was cylcing along the Rhône river. The finishing town Culoz had already dressed up for the party. Where the road into the town took off from the main road, we were clarly reminded what was going to happen.
Along the road into the town, they paid homage to old cycling heroes.
The stage passes through Culoz when the riders are comming down from Grand Colombier, and will pass the finish line for the first time, before going on another round.
This seems to be the place where the finish will be.
The e restaurant where I had lunch, proudly told that Nairo Quintana had been eating there.
It remains to be seen if this will give him something extra up to Grand Colombier.
The grand tours are won and often lost in the mountains and on the time trials. These are the stages where you can win enough time. But you can loose on any stage. As Adam Yates said after yesterday’s stage: “If you have a bad day, you can loose minutes.”
Today’s stage is an ondulating stage at the east side of the Rhône valley,
The mistral wind is still blowing in the Rhône valley, at least it did yesterday when I competed this. This can be a challenge. I was cycling down the Rhône valley about three weeks ago. I was mainly following the route ViaRhona, which follows the river at bit to the west of today’s stage. I was cycling from Lyon to Valence and from Valence to Avignon. At this time it was also windy. But I had the wind as tail wind, or “good legs” at is sometimes is called. I was cycling alternatively on the right and left bank. I wanted to visit today’s start city, Montélimar. It was one of the few cities in the area that I had not yet visited. And it was time for lunch. I was just a brief lunch visit. I was crossing from the right to the left bank a little south of Montélimar, and the cross wind was uncomfortably strong. It is harder to handle a bike with 15 kg of luggage in hard wind, than a bike without luggage. I had to turn north to get into Montélimar, meaning that I got the wind as head wind for a few kilomtres. It was hard. If the riders get the mistral as head wind on today’s stage, it can be an interesting and demanding stage. And it will be difficult for breakaways to break away.
The stage goes at the east side of the Rhône valley, a bit away from the best wine districts. But we will still go to these wine districts. Men ikke lenger unna enn at vi kan holde oss i disse vinmarkene. The start city Montélima is ofte said to be the northern end of southern Rhône. When I was in Montélimar a few weeks ago, that had already started the preparation for the party. But I was a bit surprised to see that the wearer of the Yellow jersey had been equipped with a back pack..
We have to modify a little the statement that Montélimar is the northern end of the southern Rhône in a wine perspective. The districts around Saint-Julien en Saint-Alban and Livron-sur-Drôme on each side of the river Rhônen at the confluence of Rhône and the river Drôme are also within the Côte-du-Rhône classification. But these are small districts. I will also remention the white wines from Ardeche across the river from Montélimar, that I mentioned yesterday.
When we are comming to Valence, we arrive in classified wine districts. We should note that the majority of the classified wine districts are on the right bank, but today’s stage goes a bit into the land on the left side. Once again, I have to refer back to what I wrote yesterday: The Rhône valley is a rift valley, and that the geology is very different on the two sides. It is on the Massif Central side we find the more interesting wines.
Først når vi kommer til Valence, kommer vi igjen inn i klassifiserte vinområder. Men de fleste klassifiserte vinområdene ligger på høyrebredden, mens dagens etappe går et stykke inne i landet på venstrebredden. Jeg minner om det jeg skrev i går om at Rhônedalen er en riftdal, og at geologien er ulike på høyre og venstrebredden. Det er på Massif Central siden vi finner interssant vin.
We can mention the wine districts in the northern part of Rhône. Across the river from Valence, we find Saint-Péray. Here the produce still and sparkling white wines, from the grapes marsanne and rousanne. The sparkling wines are made by the traditionel method, meaning second fermenttation in the bottle.
A bit further north, we come to Cornas. Here they only produce red wine, and it have to be 100% Syrah. It is not common in France to require just one grape.
Still on the right bank, we come to Saint-Joseph. They produce most red wine, that shall have at least 90% Syrah. They can have up to 10% marsanne and roussanne. The white wines are made from marsanne and roussanne. 95% of the white grapes produced are marsanne.
We can now cross over to the right bank, where we find Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage. The red wines shall have 85% syrah as a minimum. Hermitage is often referred to as a masculin wind, full bodiesd, tanninic and can (and should) be matured for some years.
Hermitage is surrounded by Crozes-Hermitage. Hermitage and Crozes-Hermigate is located around the town Tain-Hermitage, where we find the chocolate producer ValRhona.
It is interesting to note that these are the only classified wine regions on the left bank. This hill is geologically a part of the right bank, but it has broken away, and the river has found its way to the west of this hill.
If we continue to the north on the right bank, we come to an area where Saint-Joseph and Condrieu overlap, before it is only Condrieu.
In Condrieu they produce only white wine from Viognier. I also include Château-Grillet, which is France’s second smalles appelaltion, and as far as I know is only one producer, in the northern part of Condrieu. Viognier is at its best, and the wines made from this grapes as its most expensive in this area. I like wines made from viognier to white meat. But they are also recommended to cold and grilled white fish, as well as to Japanese and other asiatic food. I have to admit that I usually buy viogniers wines from Languedoc, where they are not as expensive.
At the northern end, near Vienne, we find Côte-Rôtie. Here they produce red wine from Syrah. It shall be at least 80% syrah in the wine. This is one of the best reds that Rhône can offer.
Yesterday was chaos. It was a right decision to move the finish down to Chalet Reynard. The wind was too hard. I was watching the stage on French TV. They had a reporter on the top, and he could hardly stand on his feet in the wind. They also showed some cyclists who were trying to get to the top. But they had trouble pushing their bikes in the wind. One had been blown off the road, and was taken to hospital. I know that other TV-channels have had similar features. There is a video on Facebook showing the weather conditions.
But if that was not enough, we had the incident near the finish, where Richie Porte crashed into a motorcylcle from French TV, Bauke Mollema crashed into Richie Porte, and Chris Froome into both of them. Another motorcycle that was behind, crashed into Chris Froome’s bike, and broke the frame. After a long wait, the jury decided to give Chris Froome and Richie Porte the same time as Bauke Mollema, which kept Chris Froome in the Yellow jersey. Bauke Mollema did also loose time in the incident, but his bike was not damaged so he could continue. It means that those who were behind and passed Richie Porte and Chris Froome, gained some time. I think it was a fair decision. Adam Yates, who was the virtual Yellow jersey holder until this decision, agreed. He said that this was not the way he would like to win the Yellow jersey. If he had gotten the Yellow jersey because of the incident, it would have been tainted. The same would be the case if someone should win the Tour partly because of this.
Today’s stage is a 37,5 km individual time trial. It is a hard time trial, with a climb at the beginning, a decent and another climb near the end.
We are in Ardeche. Most people will not associate the name Ardeche with wine, which is rather unfair to Ardeche. Ardeche is more known for chestnuts.
John Kaare Hoversholm and Finn Erik Rognan produce a series of videos kalled Kultour, for the Norwegian TV-channel broadcasting from Tour de France, TV2. I like what they are producing. This one, from this year, is from the area where today’s stage is. The commentaries are in Norwegian, but much of the dialog is in English. And the pictures are in pictures. Enjoy!
At lot of the Rhône wines come from Ardeche. We start in the north, the appellastion Condrieu is partly in the departement Loire (which is in the region Auvergne-Rhône-Alps, and they produce Rhône wine, not Loire wine) and partly in Ardeche.
Sanit-Joseph, Cornas and Saint-Péray are also in Ardeche. If we go a bit further south, a lot of Côte-du-Rhône is produced in Ardece, but the classification does not mention Ardeceh.
When we are in this area, we can say a little bit about Rhône classification, and French wine classification in general.
The Rhône is a river. There is also a departement called Rhône, but that is a bith further north, around Lyon, where they do not produce much wine classified as Rhône. But the most norhernmost appellation in Rhône, Côte-Rotie, is in the departement Rhône . As so many reivers, the Rhône is a border. It used to be the border between the regions Auvergne on the right bank, and Rhône-Alpes on the left bank. But these to regions have now been merget, and the region is Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. I guess thye will decide on another name sometime in the near future. But the departements are the same, meaning that the Rhône is still the border between departements.
In France, they usually call the two banks of a river left bank and right bank. For may of us, this can be confusing, since what is left and what is right depends on where we are and in which direction we are looking. East, west, north and south could be a more obvious choice. But as the river shifts direction, the left bank remains the left bank and the right bank remains the right bank. We have to get used to this.
The Rhône river is not just a border between administrative entities. It is also a geologival border. The Rhône valley is a rift valley between the Alps, or the outskirts of the Alps on the left bank, and Massif Central on the right bank. The geology is quite different on the two sides of the river. But I will not go into details here.
The French classification of wine, which is part of a system for classification of origin for agricultural product, including for instance cheese and meat, is adapted to the EU-system. There are three levels. The top level is AOP, Appellation Origin Protegé, which was formerly AOC. The criterias will typically be that certain grapes must be used, often indicating minimum and maximum proportion of the grapes, that they must be grown in a specified area, that the vinification must have been done in a specified area, a maximum yield, etc. The details vary form classification to classification.
The second level is IGP, Indication Geographique Protegé. The criterias have the same structure as for AOP, but are less strict. If a producer want to experiment with grapes not traditionally grown in the area, this will often be allowed under the IGP-classifications, but not under AOP-classification. One can find excellent wines in the IGP-classification, but they may be harder to find, and it is often harder to get information on these wines.
The lowest level is Vin de Table, table wine. When I am referring to classified wine, it will usually be AOP-classified wines.
If we stick to the AOP-classified wines in Rhône, they are as AOP-classified wines in other regions, based on an adaptation of George Orwell’s principle from “Animal Farm”: All appellations are equal, but some are more equal than others. They are all AOP-classifications, and formally on the same level. But there is a hierarchy among the AOP-classifications.
Producers in a large area around the Rhône river, on both sides, may sell their wines as Côte-du-Rhone. In some selected areas, where wines are generally of a higher quality, can sell their wines as Côte-du-Rhône Village. Then there are some areas where they can sell their wines as Côte-du-Rhône Village with the name of the commune added. The criterias get stricter as we move up the ladder.
On the top, there are areas with their own AOP-classification, such as Condrieu, Sanit-Joseph, Cornas and Saint-Péray, that we have already mentioned. But again: Among the AOP-classifications, some are more equal tha the others. If we are crossing over to the left bank, Hermitage is regarded as better than the surrounding Crozes-Hermitage.
Wine from most of, but not all of the areas with their own AOP-classification can also be sold as Côte-du-Rhône. But if you can sell your wine as Hermitage or Cornas, you will usually prefer that over Côte-du-Rhône. I have already mentioned Costiéres-de-Nîmes as an AOP-classified area where the producers are not allowed to sell their wines as Côte-du-Rhône. I could also have included Luberon and Ventoux on this list.
Back to today’s stage. The start town Bourg-Saint-Andéol is in a Côte-du-Rhône area. After the riders have been cycling for about 10 km, hand have reached the plateu, they come into the area Bidon. To my knowledge, this is not an intersting area from a wine perspective. But I think it is a bit fun, because bidon is the French word for the cyclists’ drinking bottles. Etter at rytterne har syklet omtrent en mil, og har kommet opp på det første platået, kommer man inn i området Bidon. This could be a place to get new bidons. But on this time trial, they will probably not get new bottles.
Approaching the finsih, we, or the riders, come to Vivarais. It is another AOP-classified area that cannot use the Côte-du-Rhône classification We are in an area where Rhône meets the Cevennes. The vineyards get good sun exposure, but the high altitude gives a slightly cooler climate than in the Rhône valley. They mainly grow Syrah, and less of Grenache — which thrives in a warmer climate. The grapes are usually harvested late.
But Ardeche is a wine region to follow. When I am at a good restaurant and have a tasting menu, I usualle choose the wine pairing thay have selected to this menu. This often means that I often get good wines that are unknowon to me. I am an amateur, and trust the professional when it comes to selecting wines that go with the food. At a very good, small restaurant in Paris, Qui Plume la Lune, a restaurant with one star in the Michelin guide (at least that was what it had when we were there) we were served two very intersting wines from Ardeche, as part of their wine pairing. One was Grande Ardèche 2009, from the well known Burgundy producer Louis Latour. They had been looking for an area where they could produce high quality Chardonnay wines in the style of White Burgundy, at a more reasonable cost than in Burgundy. In 1979, they decided on Ardeche. This is one of the better Chardonnays I have tastes, produced outside Burgundy. It is not a expensive wine. I searched for it after our visit at the restaurant, and fount the 2012 vintage (I think it was in 2014), one sale for 12.90€. I will say it is a bargain.
The other wine was from Sylvain Bock, who is prducing nature wine, meaing no use of sulphur, etc. It was a wine with the rather cryptic name “Ne fais pas sans blanc”. It is made with 2/3 chardonnay and 1/3 grenache blanc. It is not aged in barrels. It is a fresh and clean tasting wine. This is not an expensive wine either. I found it at sale for 11.60€.
These two producers are located in Alba la Romaine, which is an old Roman town, some 20-30 km north of today’s stage, on the other side of the valley form tomorrow’s start town: Montélimar. In this area, they produce 60% red wine and 40% white.