Dan Martin, not a surprise that he won yesterday’s stage. He was not my favourite, but we cannot list all possible winners at favourites. There were no surprises in the results of yesterday’s stage.
Stage 7 is another flat stage, and it will probably be another bunch sprint.
A large part of this stage is in le Parc naturel régional Normandie-Maine. It seems to be mainly forest in the border area between Loire and Normandy. I find information about hiking and cycling in the area, but not very much about regional products. For one who is searching for local drinks and food, it seems to be a kind of “neither nor” zone.
I find something called La Route du Poiré, the route of pears. It includes a pear museum and a cider museum, and a little about Calvados. It indicates that pears and pear products is the regions speciaity. But I have not found much information on this either.
Stage 7 and 8 do in a way circumvent the main production area for Calvados. If we go a bit north of today’s stage, we come to the town Domfront, which has given the name to the calvados-appelation AOP calvadosDomfrontois, which shall include at least 30% of pears and shall be stored for at least three years in oak barrels. We could include this as a pear drink for today’s stage. We will come back to calvados tomorrow.
Where they make apple- and pear brandy, they of course also produce cider. In my comment to stage 5, I said that I often find pear cider to be too sweet. I have to step a bit back on this. A few days ago I got served the pear cider NV Pacory Poiré from Domfront, to the dessert at the excellent restaurant Noa in Tallinn (Estonia). It was part of the wine pairing. It was very good with the dessert. The sommelier had found many good and interesting wines to this wine pairing. We had some interesting conversations about the wines and his choices. I like menus with wine pairing at good restaurants. They often include wines, and sometimes other drinks, that I do not know, and would never have ordered. I would not have ordees pear cider to the dessert. I have learned a lot and discovered many good wines from these wine pairings.
I held Greg van Avermaet, and not Peter Sagan as favourite on yesterday’s stage. But we never know with Peter Sagan. Antoher impressive win from him.
Stage 6 is another hilly stage. I have Greg van Avermaet and Vincenzo Nibali as my favourites. But as I just wrote: We never know with Peter Sagan. He may do it again.
I have chosen to include the profile for this stage as well.
When in this region, we will stick to celtic drinks, and it is mainly beer this time. They are brewing a lot of interesting beer in Brittany. They brew interesting beer many other places as well. If I should be honest, the micro breweries often make the same kind of beer, and there is not very much diffrence from one IPA to another. Being small does not always mean being good or the best. It is not without reason that some “micro breweries” have grown out of this category.
My main source for information on breton beer is the book Deux siècles de bières en Bretagne, in addition to information I have found on the net, as well as tasting a number of breton beers..
The word bière seems to have had a kind of a detour into the French language. According to Larousse Dictionnaire Étymologique it comes from the Dutch bier, a word many of us know from the German word Bier. When we find the same word in English Oxford Dictionary is ofte beter when it comes to etymology. According to Oxford Dictionary, the wod came to English from West Germanic, meaning German and Dutch. But the German word comes from the latin word biber, meaning a drink. This is again derived fro mthe latin word bibere, meaning to drink. The latin word has taken a detour via germanic languages, into th e mainly latin based French.
The word substituted the old word la cervoise, which was a kind of beer made without hops. I mention all this because many in Brittany seem to prefer the word cervoise, which is basically the same word as the Breton korev and the Welsh cwrw. Many will see that it is the same word as the Spanish cerveza and the Portugeese cerveja. We can add that it is cervesa in Catalan and Occitan.
In these days we are hearing a lot about problems with CO2, be it too much in the atmosphere causing global warming, or lack of CO2 for cleaning of water, brewing, etc. I will make som comments about brewing.
During the fermentation, sugar or starch produces alcohol and CO2. If kept under pressure, the CO2 will dissolve in the liquid, creating carbonic acid. In traditional brewing in casks, the CO2 creates the bubbles in our beer. In industrial brewing, CO2 is added in tanks, under pressure. The brewing industry have problems caused by lack of CO2. In craft brewing, the fermentaion, or rather the second fermentation is done in casks, bottles or cans, producing its own CO2, Buy crafts beer, or artisan biere as they say in French, and shortage of CO2 supply should not be a problem.
Back to Brittany and beer. We really do not know for how long time they have been brewing beer in Brittany. They have done so for some hundred years, but we do not know how many. At the beginning of the 19th centrury, there were many breweries. But as happened so many places, the brewing was industrialised and the beer standardised by the end of the century. At the end of the 20th century, traditional brewing had its rennaisance. In Brittany, it grew alongside breton nationalism and revitalisation of breton culture in general. The brewers were helped by the enthusiasm for breton traditions and breton culture, even when they had not learned their craft properly.
Brasserie Lancelot had their first beer ready July 12 1989. The first time I got served beer from Lancelot was at a breton restaurant (in Aigues Mortes in Languedoc-Roussillon, a far distance form Brittany) I thought that Lancelot was a very good name for a product with celtic refernces. But the brewery was started by Bernard Lancelot. He had been working in the atomic industry, but wanted to do something else. He stared with bees, but the bees were destroyed by a parasite. He then turned to brewing.
The beer Lancelot is a golden beer. It is a top fermented unfiltered beer, with second fermentation in the bottle. The producer compares it with BelgianTrappist-beer. I do not know what the Trappist-beweris think of this comparision.Trappist is not a style or a type of beer. It only means that the beer has been brewed within a Trappist monastery according to the rather strict rules for Trappist beer. There are many types of Trappist beer, and not all of them are Belgian. It makes such comparisions a bit dubious.
During a hunt, the legendary breton king Conan Mériadec saw an ermine beside a mud pond. Rather than to have its white fur dirty, the ermine walked in the direction of the hunters. This was the origin of the breton saying of rather die than to get dirty., and to the beer Blanche Hermine from Lancelot. Ermine is an animal that is emblematic of Brittany. The beer is a white wheat beer, rather low in alchol. A refreshing beer on a warm summer day.
Bonnets Rouges (the red hoods) is a beer made with elderberries, which give the beer its red colour and fruity taste. In 1675 the bretons revolted against the French king, who introduced new taxes without the consent of the breton parliament. The rebels, insurgents or whatever you prefer to call them, used the red hood as a symbol of freedom. This beer is named after them.
The beer TeLenn Du, marks the celtic. It has a breton name, meaning black harp. The beer is made with buckwheat. It is brown, light and a bit sweet.
Philomenn is also inspired by Trappist beer. Aong other beers, they brew well known types as Blonde and Stout. I will also include Philomenn Tourbée. Tourbée means peat. It has a smokey taste, from the drying of the malt. It reminded me a bit of Islay malt whisky, such as Laphroig, Talisker and Ardbeg.
Britt Brasserie de Bretagne is another well known breton brewery. It is one of the breton brweries that has a rather good distribution outside of Brittany.
Until the first time I visited Brittany, I had always been thinking of the Puffin as a typical Norwegian and Icelandic bird. But it can (or at least could) be found in large number in Brittany, and is a symbol of the region.
In Brittany, they do as their celtic brothers further to the west. They make whisky. There are three whisky distilleries in Bittany. Des Menhirs, Glann Ar Mor and Warenham. If French whisky is unknown to you, it was for me as well, until I started to search for breton drinks.
I bought a bottle of Eddu Silver from Des Menhirs at the breton shop Chemins de Bretagne in Paris. Unfortunately this shop no longer exists. According to the lady in the shop, this should be the reference for breton whisky. It is made from buckwheat, which is called eddu in breton, if I have got it right.
When I first tasted it, I was not too excited. Over the years I have tasted a number of whiskies, mainly scottish malt whisky, some irish whiskey, and some others, whisky made from barley. This breton whisky was fruity with no smokyness. Eddu tasted very different from scottish malt whisky.
I decided that I had to give Eddu a second chance. When we taste something with certain expectations, for instance of what a whisky should taste like, and these expectations are not met, we tend to get disappointed. The second time, when I tasted Eddu without these expectations, it was an interesting drink. But I still prefer a scottish malt if I want a glass of whisky.
When we are in Brittany and mention the revival of breton culture, we have to mention the musician Alan Stivell. Here he is performing the song Tri Martolod at Festival des Vieilles Charrues in the year 2000. Tri Martolod means three sailors. It is an old breton song, made popular by Alan Stivell. Three sailors are taken by the wind, ending up in New Foundland. There they meet a girl, who they, or at least one of them, thought they/he had met before. They had met at the market in Nantes, and he had promised her a ring. No, I do not understand the breton lyrics, but I have read a French translation.
I have not been in Brittany for some years. It is a region I would love to revisit.
Another sprint victory for Fernando Gaviria, and another runner up for Peter Sagen, who tightened his grip on the green jersey.
Stage 5 is in a more typical breton landscape. It is a hilly stage. There are many short, and sometimes steep hills, but not any real mountains. Two category 4 and three categori three climbs and many unclassified climbs can be hard enough. The stage ends with 1 km ascent at 4,8%. Not a challenge for the real climbers, but too hard for the typical sprintes. It will not be a stage for riders like Fernando Gaviria. But Peter Sagan is not a typical sprinter, and he may well collect some points on this stage too. But I think this will be a stage for riders like Greg van Avermat.
I include the profile, and not only the map for this stage.
I will make a detour into the geology of this area. Brittany is to a large exstent mountain, or at least solid rock – whatever you prefer to call it. There are no high mountains. But a lot of hills going east-west.
For those who may be interested in such information, the Armorique massif is old rock. It was an area that was squeezed between what is called Gondwana (Africa, South-America etc) and Laurussia (Euramerica) 3–400 millions years ago. But it will be going too far to say that the breton’s urge for independene is rooted 3–400 mill years back in time, when the area was a continent on its own.
If this stage had come a week or two later, I would have said that is would be a stage where a breakaway could go to the finish. But early in the tour, the teams of the GC-contenders will not let them go, at least not win much time.
There are a few points for for the polka dot jersey on this stage, more than on the previous stages combined. The jersey may shift shoulders, but it will not be here that this competition will be decided. But there are both money and prestige for he who gets the jersey after this stage.
A tyipical drink from Brittany is cider, made from apples. I have tried several times to learn to like cider. But without success. Cider is not my drink. At breton restaurants cider is often the drink that is included in the set menues, often served in ceramic cups.
Cider is fermented apple juice. It can be weet (Cidre Doux), semin dry (Demi-Sec) or dry (Cidre Brut). It is usually fairly low on alcohol, usually 3-5%. I have several times bought some bottles of cider when Tour de France is in Brittany, as an attempt to aquire the taste. The was a breton shop in Paris, where I used to buy various types, but it has disappeard. I go back to some of the notes from previous years.
One cider was a Blanc de Pommes from Vallée de la Seiche. It is a light cider, made from one type of apple. It is fruity, with a light acidity and has 4% alcohol. The producer recommend this one for Kir Bretonne (Crène de Cassis and cider).
The next one is a Fermier Cidre de Bretagne, made byBertrand Abraham. When something is labeled fermier, it means that it is made at the farm. It is, as far as I know, a rahter small producer.
“Aroma of old 1950’s linoleum tile, fresh apples, dirty socks; like I just walked into an old farmer’s home to sit at the table and hear his story. I can smell his flannel shirt, the duck in the oven, the fresh vegetables. Taste is very earthy — fermented apple, cheese, sour apple skins. Wet finish. This is an exceptional cider, way outside the norm, but fascinating to taste. There’s something new in every sip.”
There is also cider made from pears. The producer Vallée de la Seiche (who also produces this type of cider), says that it is a misuse of the language to call this « cidre de poires ». They simply call their drink La Poire. It is said to be good for a Kir, and that the ladies like it — still according to the producer. I have tasted cider, or whatever you will call it, made from pears. But it is too sweet to my taste
At breton restaurants they ofte serve galettes, unsweetened pancackes made with buckwheat, or blé noir, as it is in French. It grows well on low-fertility or acidic soils that is well drained. And as some bretons say: They have more than enough of bad soil and rain, which is why it is much grown there.
Galette is often served with ham, mushrom, cheese or something else. And you can round of the meal with a sweet pancake (crêpe). I often eat galette at breton restaurants, usually for lunch. But I prefer beer over cider to go with them.
Galette serveres med skinke, sopp, ost eller noe annet. Deretter kan man avslutte med en søte pannekake (crêpe) til dessert. Jeg spiser gjerne galette på bretonske restauranter. Men jeg foretrekker å drikke øl til.
I Brittany they have their type of the viking drink, mead, which they call chouchen. It is made from honey and water, that is fermented.
Where they make alcoholic drinks, they will usually distill some of it. They make apple brandy in Brittany, but we leave apple brandy until we get to Normandy and Calvados.
They also make a pear brandy, and according to the bretons it is more original than Poire WIlliam, whatever that should mean. But no matter who started to make this kind of pear brandy, I like it. And I like the concept or image of a bottle put over the embryo of the pear (I do not know the word in english), where the pear grows and ripnes inside the bottle. I have also seen some where the a pear is put in a bottle with an open bottom, where the bottom is glues in afterwards. This is a kind of cheating, and not the real thing.
Team time trial will always shuffle the classification. It came as no surprise that BMC, Sky and Quick Step to the three firs places. Quick Step was close to demonstrate why it is so important to have a well organised team. When Fernando Gaviria was dropped, it looked as if the whole team was about to fall apart. But they managed to reorganise what was left of the team.
Peter Sagan demonstrated another aspect of team time trial. The clock is stopped on no 4 across the line. If someone should ride away from the team, they will still get the team’s time, when no 4 finished. But you have to be with the team, to get the team’s time. I had not expected that Peter Sagan should be dropped. But he got the time when he crossed the line, not the team’s time. It does not really matter for him. If he is trying to win something in the end, it is the green jersey. And time does not matter in this competition.
In a way, it was more critical for Farnando Gaviria, as he is now 4.33 behind in the competition for the white jersey (best young rider). But it is very unlikely that he, as a young sprinter, would be able to keep his lead through the mountain stages.
I like that there are time diferences. Then more riders will have to attack, and we may see more action on the stages to come.
Stage 4 is another flat stage, in the area between Loire and Brittany. It will probably be another bunch sprint.
We are north and west of the wine areas in Loire, but still not really in Brittany. Brittany is not known as a wine region. But they do produce some wine here too, also in the area were the riders will be cycling today. The climate change is pushing the limit for wine growing to the north.
As expected, a new sprint. And peter Sagan was up there again, with enough bonus seconds and points to take both the yellow and the green jersey. Sylvan Chavanel got the prize for the most combattitive rider. This is the prize they get when they have worked and tried hard, without achieving anything. But Sylvan Chavanel is now riding hisTour de France no 19, which is a record and really an achievement.
Stage 3 is a 35,5 km team time trial. I like team time trials. At Tour de France 2009, I had the privilege of following the team time trial from the studio/production area in the TV compund. I had their reporter and former pro cyclist and TdF stage winner, Dag Otto Lauritzen, as a personal expert commentator while we were watching. I learned a lot about team time trial this time, and to me it is a fascinating type of cycling. Here the teams really have to work as teams. Some teams are training seriously for team time trials, others are not. It makes a difference, and there can be interesting time differences after this stage.
We are still in the same area, and we have harvested most of the wines we can find here. We have to move a bit further into the country, to the neighbouring region Anjou
I did not really get why they dropped Passage du Gois. French TV showed pictures of a flooded Passage du Gois, but I am not sure if this was live coverage or something produced in advance to present this stretch. If it was flooded at the time they had planned to use it, then the organisers had not done their homework. Maybe the start was earlier than originally planned, because of the fottball. I do not know. But I was disappointed.
But even if they did not ride this narrow and often slippery road, there was more than enough of action. Chirs Froome and Richie Porte both crashed and lost time, and Nairo Quintana had a puncture at a very critical point in the stage.
Fernando Gaviria won the first stage in his first Tour de France. According to the French commentators, this has not happened before. If we want to be really precise, it must have happended in the first tour, or rather tours. But nevertheless, a stunning achievment. French TV asked him about the green jersey. He would try, but said that it was more likely that someone with more experience would win it, as they have to sruvive the mountains. He was mentioning Peter Sagan. Peter Sagan showed again why he is a strong candidate to win the green jersey. Even if he does not win the stages, he is always up there in the top, getting points.
Second stage is another flat stage. We have moved a bit inland, The wind could play a role. But the weather forcast is good.
Today’s stage will almost bring us into the area for one of the lower Loire’s classics: The muscadet. Muscadet is a white wine made from the grape Melon de Bourgogne, also called muscadet. I am probably not the only person who has confused the grapes muscadet and muscat. One may confuse the names, but not the taste. Muscadet gives a crispy wine high in acidity, muscat a more aromatic, and often sweet wine.
Muscadet is a very good and fresh summer wine, that goes well with sea food. It was very popular in the 1970s and 80s, one may say too popular. The demand caused many producers to give priority to quantity rather than quality. It almost had the same faith as German riesling. But as in the wine world in general: The producers learned that in the long run, it is quality that matters and will make the production profitable.
There are four appelations in Muscadet, with a certain hierachy. The one that only is called Muscadet covers wine that does not fall into one of the three other appelations. These are Sèvre et Maine, Coteaux de la Loire and Cotes de Grand Lieu. Sèvre et Maine is often said to be the best. But as 70% of all muscadet is produced with this classification, we cannot look only at the classifications to find the better wines.
Muscadet is often labeled “Sur lie”. This wine has rested on the lees for some months, four to ten according to the rules, to get more taste and a richer character. This is also the way they treat the still wines in Champagne, before the second fermentation.
The grape muscadet is not very aromatic. It needs some care in the vinyard. If it gets too hot, it will give a rather flat and bland wine. But as we are in the wine area with the wettest and coolest growing season in France, it is a challenge to get ripe grapes, which is the growers main concern, rather than to maintain the acidity.
Producers have been working to establish certain areas as specified “crus”, For this wine, it will be a requirement to rest sur lie for at least 17 months. How far they have gotten in this, I do not know. I have not seen recent information on this.
A good muscadet has some citrus and apple flavours.
If you want to see and experince French wine regions L’Encyclopédis Tourstistique des Vins de France is a good guide. It has one tour in this area, from Saint-Florent-le-Vieil to Nantes, with 36 stops. The book is written mainly for people who are driving, but can also be useful if you are cycling, at least when you are planning.
Her we go again. We can let football be football. Now it is time for Tour de France. Stage 1 starts at Noirmoutier-en-l’Île and the riders will pass Passage du Gois before getting to the mainland.
Passage du Gois is a 4,5 km passage to the mainland, that is flooded tice a dav, on high tide. One has to be aware of the tide and the time when passing.We must assume that they studied the tide table before deciding to include this in the race. Even when the road is not flooded, it can be slippery. It was used for the first time in Tour de France in 1999. Slippery road lead to falls, and the peloton was splitted with a 6 minutes time difference.
It was used again as opening stage in 2011. There is another connection to the mainland, so people can get to and from also at high tide. But this connection is not as interesting and spectacular.
The stage is flat, and it will probably end in a sprint. There is one 4th category climb a 173 km, just enough that someone can get the polka dot jersey. But on a stage like this, it can always be a question of who will be in the position to sprint at the final. The stage follows the coast, meaning that wind can play a role. But the weather forcast says nice weather and only light winds.
The stage ends in Fontenay le Comte. We will visit several wine areas. But from a wine perspective, it is a soft start. We are a bit south of the river Loire. We are not very far from Cognac. But I do not think we shall go there yet. Cognac is not very goos as an aperitif, and we are only at the aperitif now.
I find it misleading to call Loire one wine region. The various areas do not have more in common than that they are located near the same river, the longest river in France. We could mention other “wine rivers”. Bordeaux is located where the rivers Garonne (and Dordogne) flows into the ocean. Along the river Garonne we find many wine districts lik Duras, Marmandais, Buzet, Côtes-du-Brulhois, Fronton, Lavilledieu anf St-Sardos. But we do not label all these wines “Garonne wines”. Alsace is located by the Rhine river, but we to not call Alsace wines Rhine wines. Etc.
I find it difficult, or almost impossible to find what could be called a Loire style. We are now at the Atlantic coast, with costal climate. At Sancerre ande Poully Fumé, there is continental climate. There are major differences.
When Simon Yates was out of the competition for the GC, Mikel Nieve took the opportunity and got a stage wine on his 34 years birthday. A rider can probably not get a better birthday present. But even if Simon Yates did not last to the finish, the team got five stage wins and a number of days in the pink jersey (I have not counted). This is not a bad outcome for Mitchelton-Scott.
Yesterday it was Thibaut Pinot who got “the hammer”. It was painful to see how he suffered in the climbs. He eventually finished in the grupetto, with the looser from the day before, Simon Yates, 45 min and 32 seconds behind Mikael Nieve. For them it is only a question of hanging on to the finish line in Rome.
Chris Froome was able to maintain his lead. Tom Dumoulin tried and did what he could. But he did not have what was needed to beat Chris Froome yesterday.
Today it is a stage of honour, or stage of charm if I translate directly from the expression in Norwegian. I do not know the Engilsh expression for this, if it is one. It is not the same tradition in Giro d’Italia as in Tour de France. It has often been an individual time trial as the final stage, that has often been decisive. This year it is a round of 11,5 km in Rome, that they shall cycle ten times. Independent of any tradition, this is a flat stage. I breakaway will not be allowed to go. The GC is settled, it is only a question of which sprinter will win the stage.
It was an impressive stage by Chris Froome. 80 km solo! For Simon Yates, it was really a black Friday. After loosing 38 min and 51 sec yesterday, it is game over for him, at least for this year’s Giro. It was sad to see. It is always nice to see a new star rising, and brutal when it ends like this. But he is still young. We will probably see more from him in the future.
Today the GC will be decided, given than none of the GC-contenders have serious accidents on the final stage in Rome. The first 130 km are farily flat, before the get three category one cimbs. The interesting question for today is: Wo will pay the highest price for yesterday’s very hard stage? Chris Froome faded afterZoncolan, and it remains to be seen how he will do today. Tom Dumoulin took 49 seconds on Chris Froome on the stage after Zoncolan, so Froome’s 40 seconds lead is far from safe. But today, the other GC-contenders and their teams will have to attack.
Yesterday, Chris Froome was ridig solo for a very long time. But he took time on his competitors up, down and in between. I do not know if his team could not follow any longer, or if it was tactics to have a fresh and strong team today. I am not pretending to be an expert on cycling tactics. But today’s stage has a profile that can invite to the tactics we often could see from Lance Armsrong’s teams: Use the team to set high speed into the climbs, trying to get the other teams exhausted. Then the strongest domestics will follow as long as they can in the climbs. It will be an exciting stage.
Finally it was a breakaway that got in. But what happened between the GC-contenders was more interesting. Simon Yates showed signs of weakness and lost time. And Chris Froome is at least competing for a place on the podium. The race is far from over yet. Today is another mountain stage with a summit finish. This it this year’s Cima Coppa stage, the stage with the highest mountain pass: olla delle Finestre at 2178 meter. It will be an exiting stage.