What a difference a day makes! After several very flat stages, the peloton gets its first taste of the more mountainous terrain to come in the form of Puy Marie, the largest volcano in Europe. Stage Five starts with a bang, dragging the riders over a Category 4 climb right out of the gate. Then it rolls through the countryside until kilometer 142, when the torture starts: between this point and the finish line, lie five categorized climbs. Five! In short order, the riders will traverse two Cat 3s, followed by two Cat 2s, culminating with a final ascent up another Cat 3. Lest you think this amounts to a mere climbing contest, allowing the GC contenders a stress-free day in the saddle, think again. Anyone who aspires to the yellow jersey by the end of the Tour will have to be at the front of the group as it makes its way to the finish. Riders who don’t stay with the main group could be dropped on one of the end-stage climbs, leaving them too far behind their rivals time-wise to recover. Therefore expect to see all the usual suspects at the head of the race: Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador, and the others will not leave the outcome of this stage to chance.
Food and Drink
This area of France known as the Auvergne, is famous for its cow’s milk cheese: five of them have been awarded Appellations d’Origine Protégée (AOP) status. Cantal, of course, but also Salers, St. Nectaire, Fourme d’Ambert and Bleu d’Auvergne. Much of the local cuisine features these dairy delights, from simple Cantal “chips” to serve alongside a cocktail, to a Cantal cheesecake with fresh berries for dessert. For a culinary adventure in the Cantal region, recipes included, click here .
While the Auvergne is not a powerhouse in terms of wine production, the AOC Côtes d’Auvergne includes a passel of small vineyards devoted to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Gamay. In fact, it was quite well-respected in the 19th century, especially for its smooth reds made from Pinot Noir. Today the appellation produces high-quality white, red, and rosé wines, although in limited quantities. Most is consumed locally.
Up in the hills, fields bloom yellow with the flowers of the gentian root plant, the central ingredient in Avèze, a local aperitif that is often mixed with Crème de Cassis. Only plants grown in the volcanic zone of the Auvergne are used in this recipe, and most of them are between 40 and 60 years old. Harvest takes place late in the season (late September to early October) to ensure the sugars and other active ingredients have reached optimum levels. The roots are then macerated in a water and alcohol bath for nine months, mixed again and filtered, then aged before bottling. It is a slow and deliberate process: to make one bottle of Avèze requires about three years. Read more about gentian root liqueurs and how to use them in cocktails at TastingTable.com.
Enjoy Stage Five. I’ll see you back here tomorrow with another wine idea for Stage Six!