I had not expected that Greg van Avermaet should be that strong on yesterday’s mountain stage, and was surprised that he gained 1.29 on Chris Froome and other GC-contenders.
Today’s stage, stage 11, is short and hard. It is “only” 108,5 km. For most of us, 108,5 km is a good day’s ride. But for the TdF-riders it is short. It goes right into a short climb, and then there are some 10 km om moderate ascent to the intermediate sprint. Then it is a HC, down from this, another HC, a little bit down, then a cat 2, down, and a mountain top finish on a cat 1. We can expect a lot of action.
On a stage like this, some riders often get problems finishing within the time limit. Yesterday, Dylan Groenewegen, Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel finished with a 28 seconds margin to the time limit. I can be harder today.
When it comes to wine, this is a best a difficult, and I could say dry stage. Yesterday I wrote than none of the vineyards in Savoie are located higher than 500 meters. Todays stage starts at 441 meter, climbs to 646 meter at the intermediate sprint, before the real climbing starts. Then the stage is at no point lower than 700 meters. There is no wine in such terrain.
If we had gone in the opposite direction out of Albertville, we could have found some wines. But this would mean going back to some of the areas that I covered yesterday.
It was a lack of planning on my side that I at least did not save the cheese for today. The stage is after all going through Beaufort. But there is no reason to repeat, just point to what I wrote yesterday.
There are many interesting wines from Savoie. The best I can say is to pick another wine from the areas covered yesterday. Tomorrow it will be even more difficult.
It is always a bit fun to pick an outsider that many has written off, among the favourites, and he wins, like John Degenkolb on stage 9. It was no surprise that Greg van Avermaet and Peter Sagan got good results. And it was sad to see Richie Porte crash out of the race with injuries once again.
It is in many ways another Tour de France that starts today, with stage 10. After cobbles and mainly flat stages, the riders will meet the mountains. The riders may react differently to the rest day. So will be refreshed and fit for fight, others will need some time to start up and get the engine going.
Toms Skujins, who will be riding in the polka dot “King of the mountains” jersey, has 6 points. On today’s stage, a rider can, at least in theory, get 51 points, 1 for the cat 4 climb, 10 on each of the three cat 1 and 20 on the HC climb.
I include the profile of today’s stage, the first mountain stage.
It is always a challenge to find wine to the mountain stages. When searching for wines along the Tour de France stages, I have found some hidden treasures, like the wines of Savoie. I knew nothing about them, had not heard of them and had of course not tasted them before I started this. We can find some really good wines in Savoie.
In an article about Savoie in the French wine magazine La Revue du Vins de France they write that Savoie is one of the most difficult wine regions to learn to know. It is complicated with many grapes and crus, the production is small, the distribution is not very good and the best wines are almost secret.
A wine I like is Chignin made from Jaquière. It is a wine that get me to think of mountains. But it is an illusion. The wines are produced in the valleys, not in the mountains. No vineyard is higher than 500 meters above sea level. It is not a great and very complex wine, but it is fresh, fruity with moderate acidity.
Chignin is, according to my Vine Atlas, regarded as the wine capital in Savoie. It is because of the quality, not the quantity.
The area Cru Chignin-Bergeron is regarded the best area. But the production is limited. Only 315 hl white wine, or 50.000 bottles a year.
North of Chignin is Cru Saint-Jeoire-Prieuré. It is 20 ha and the production is around 460 hl or 70.000 bottles a year.
Even further north is the even smaller Cru Monterminod, where they produce150 hl or 22.500 bottles a year. This is a very sought after wine.
To the west, there are two larger areas, Cru Apremont and Cru Abymes, where they produce 26.000 and 20.000 hl a year.
To put the production figures in perspective. It is produced ca 2,1 mill hl champagne and 6,8 mill hl Bordeaux wine a year.
Another wine is Rousette de Savoie, made from the grape Rousette (which is also called Altesse). It is a grape the can give high acidity, citrus and fruitiness, with some spicy notes. Wine that is labelled Rousette de Savoie without another appellation, can have up to 50% Chardonnay. But if it is labelled Altesse, it shall be made from 100% Rousette/Altesse. It is a wine that is at its best after 2–3 years.
In Combe de Savoie they produce red wine from the local grape Mondeuse. La Revue du Vins de France calls this area La terre des grands rouges.
I do not think I am the only one who had overlooked Savoie wines. Give them a try!
Mountain areas that are not suited for wine production are often good for grassing, meaning production of milk, and then cheese. As wine production is a method to conserve grape juice, cheese production is a method to conserve milk. They produce many good cheeses in Savoie and the neighboring department Haut Savoie.
The first cheese I will mention is Tomme de Savoie. It is a cheese that can vary a lot from one producer to another, and with the seasons. It is made from cow milk. There is also one low fat version, which is as far as I know the only AOP-classified low fat cheese.
The other cheese is Beaufort. It is a hard cheese a bit similar to Gruyere. It is often said to be the best among these cheeses. I am not sure that the producers of Comté will agree on that. There is a variation called Beaufort d’Alpage, which can only be made in the summer, when the cows are grassing in the mountains. If the cheese is made from milk from cows that have been grassing higher than 1500, it can be called Chalets d’Alpage. Cheese made in the winter, when the cows are fed on hay, is paler.
Another win for Dylan Groenewegen. Dan Martin lost time after the crash. Fernando Gaviria and André Greipel who finished second and third, were relegated, and I did not really get why it happened.
Stage 9 is cobbles, with many cobbled stretches that should be known from Paris Roubaix. But as they change the course a bit from year to year, it may not be the stretches that they were riding this year. The finish is not on the famous velodrome in Roubaix, but just outside of it.
Cobbled stages are not for the light climbers. Tour de France has classified it as “hilly”, which in reality it is not. There is not a single classicied climb. But hilly is probably the closest they have among the categories they use. It was on a cobbled stretch Chris Froome crashed in 2010, causing him to abandon the race. I hope this will not happen for any riders. It should not be injuries that should decide the race, but we knows it sometimes happens.
The stage will probably not be a stage for the typical sprinters either. I guess it will be a stage for some of the classics riders, who may as well be good sprinters, or the strong spirnters. Peter Sagan won Paris Roubaix this year, and he can of course win on this trerrain again. Greg van Avermaet is still a candidate. He has won Paris-Roubaix before. And it could as well be the Norwegians Alexander Kristoff or Edvald Boasson Hagen. When comparing with Paris — Roubaix, we have to bear in mind that this classic is around 250 km long, today’s stage is 156,5 km, almost 100 km shorter than Paris — Roubaix. Edvald Boasson Hagen has often faded near the end of the long classics, maybe this shorter stage will suit him better. As a Norwegian, I can at least hope for that. I am also thinking of John Debenkolb as a favourite for this stage.
We are in the department Nord pas de Calais, in the region now named Haut de France, which is former Nord and Picardie. This is French Flanders, and an area with a rich beer culture. A little more than five years ago, on July 18 2013, the French Senate decided to give beer in this area status as “patrimoine culturel, gastronomique et paysager protégé de la France”. I do not know what the practical significance of such a staus will be — if any.
100 years ago, there were around 2.000 breweries in the area. The last time I checked, it was 41.
For 100 år siden var det omtrent 2.000 bryggerier i området. I dag er det 41. The oraganisaion L’Echappée Bière it organising beer and gastronomy tours in Northern France and Belgium.
We are close to, but not over the Belgian border. I choose to include a “border beer”, that we find a bit east of today’s stage. Brasserie su Baron is located in the small town Gussignies, at the Belgian border. The brewery is only 200 meters from the border. The brewery is connected to a restaurant with the same name. It is their, La Cuvée des Jonquilles that has gotten many prizes ans a lot of attention, and the authors of 1001 Beers You Must Try before You Die think you should try before you die.
A few kilometres east of where the riders enter the first cobble stretch, we find the tow Jenlain, where we find the brewery Brasserie-Duyck. has been given the honour of reviving Bière de Garde. Bière de Garde, beer to store, was traditionally brewed at farms in the winter and spring, to be stored for the summer. Beer was brewes for imediate consumption. But in the summer, it was too warm for brewing. That is why they brewed a beer that could be stored until it again for season for brewing. It is the same as with the Belgian Saisson.
Brasserie-Duyck sells their beer under the label Jenlain. It was sold in champagne bottles from around 1950. In 1968, they started to sell it as Jenlain Ambrée. At the time french breweries were about to give up traditional brewing and switch to bottom fermented beer, Jenlain Ambré became a cult beer among students in Lille, and sale started to increase. It is a classic bière de Garde, and among the 1001 Beers You Must Try before You Die. The authors mean that you should also try Jenlain Blonde, som a ighter version of Bière de Garde. They also recommend their Christmas beer, but we are a bit out of seaseon for this on.
It is impossible to predict which sprinter will have the day, and win in the end. It was nor surprise that Dyelan Groenewegen should win, or that Peter Sagen once again was up there, collecting points.
Stage 8 is another flat stage. It may be wind at the end, but it will probably be a bunch sprint, the last opportunity for the sprinters for some time. It is 14th of July, the Bastille day, the day on which all french cyclists are dreming of winning a stage in Tour de France. Maybe it can be Arnaud Demare today?
As I mentioned yesterday, they have circumvented Calvados this year. But we do a little detour to Calvados. The production areas are west of today’s stage.
The apple brandy cavados is made by distiling cider. Normandy they of course produce cider that is not distilled to calvados, but we will not drink more cider. We can also add that they produce apple brandy many places. But only apple brandy produced in Calvados, from apples grown in Calvados in accordance with the rules and regulations for calvados can be labeled “calvados”. The rest is just apple brandy
Apples are not just apples. They grow more than 200 varieties in Normandy, and it is not unusual that a producer in Calvaodos use more than 100 specified varieties of apples in their production. Some can be sweet, some can be bitter and some can be sour, and everything in between.
There are three AOP classified areas in Calvados. AOP calvados is the largest, and includes the subappelations. The two others are AOP calvados Pays d’Auge, and AOP calvados Domfrontais that we visited yesterday..
Pays d’Auge is regarded as the best appelataion. In AOP calvados Pays d’Auge the criterias are stricter than for AOP Calvados. It must be double distillation in alembic pot stills, while they in AOC calvados can have a more industrialised prodution in continuous coloumns.
In Domfrontais there is, as mentioned yesterday, a long tradition for pear growing. AOP calvados Domfrontais shall contain at least 30% pear, and it must be stored at least three years in oak barrels. It makes a fruity calvados.
Calvados must be stored at least two years in oak barrels before it can be bottled and sold as calvados. But often it is stored much longer. Much calvados is bleded from several vintages. If an age is given at the label, it must be the age of the youngest calvados in the blend. There are other designations used to indicate age. These are
Calvados skal lagres i minst to år på eikefat før den tappes og selges. Men ofte lagres den mye lenger. Mye calvados er blend fra flere årganger og sikkert flere produsenter. Hvis det angis alder skal det være alderen på den yngste calvadosen som angis. Man kan også bruke andre betegnelser som refererer til alder. Dette er:
“Fine”, “Trois étoiles ***”, “Trois pommes”— at least tow years old.
“Vieux”, “Réserve”— at least three years old.
“V.O.” “VO”, “Vieille Réserve”, “V.S.O.P.” “VSOP”— at least four years old.
“Extra”, “X.O.” “XO”, “Napoléon”, “Hors d’Age” “Age Inconnu”— at least six years old, but often much older.
The fruit is more prominent in younger calvados, while the older taste more like old brandy.
We can get singel vintage singel calvados, made in the best years.
I was in Amiens earlier this summer, when I was travelling by train and bicycle in Europe. I asked for local beer, but none of the places I visited had anything. They were mainly serving belgian beer such as Leffe, and boring beer such as Heineken. Leffe is a good beer, but local beers are more interesting. At my hotel, they had a souvenir pack of three bottles of beer from the local brewery Charles & Vianney. But they did not have it in the bar. When cycling, I do not want to add a few bottles of beer (or wine) to my luggage. So I did not get a chance to taste it.
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.