Tour de France by the Glass 2016: Stage Thirteen, Bourg-Saint-Andéol to La Caverne du Pont d’Arc

Owl Figure from Grotte Chauvet
Owl picture in the Grotte  Chauvet: photo by

Madness on the Mont Ventoux – A Recap of Stage Twelve

Stage Twelve on Thursday couldn’t have been more exciting:  Chris Froome and Richie Porte accelerating up the road to Mont Ventoux, leaving Nairo Quintana and several other GC contenders in their dust.  It looked to be yet another tactic unveiled by Froome to successfully bury his rivals.  But wait!  Those pesky spectators were bound and determined to put their own mark on the race.  Crowding the narrow mountain roads from both sides, they left barely enough room for the riders to pass through, single file.  With less than one kilometer to go, a motorcycle carrying a TV cameraman stopped abruptly, allegedly to avoid an encroaching fan.  That left Richie Porte, riding close behind the moto, with scant time to react: he plowed smack into the back of it, causing a domino effect that enveloped Bauke Mollema of Team Trek and Chris Froome, current holder of the yellow jersey.  Froome’s bike frame cracked in half and, as he waited in vain for his team car and a replacement bike, Porte and Mollema remounted their bikes and took off.  When no car arrived Froome started jogging after them, desperate to make some progress toward the finish line.  That’s no easy feat in cycling cleats, I’ll tell you!  Eventually Froome snagged a new bike and finished the race, albeit after many of his rivals had passed him.

Initial results showed him dropping to seventh place overall, losing time even to Quintana, whom he’d buried on the climb before the crash.  But race organizers revisited the footage of the crash and made appropriate adjustments that left Froome in first place overall.  There was lots of discussion about the final decision and, depending on which rider you’re supporting, it was either fair and sportsmanlike or ridiculously pandering to Team Sky.  I’m in the first group.  Froome had beaten back everyone but Porte and Mollema on the climb up the Ventoux, and he deserved to finish in the yellow jersey.  The crash was not his fault; race organizers deserve the blame for that.  There should have been more secure barriers between the riders and the spectators, some of whom think they’re celebrating Mardi Gras rather than supporting the cyclists, during the last few kilometers.

On Friday the riders will test their mettle directly against the clock, in the individual time trial.  Each man will head out onto the course alone, and will travel the 37.5 km course as quickly as he can, with the sprinters and time-trial specialists hoping for the fastest time of the day, and the climbers praying not to lose too much time.  Usually it’s kind of a snore to watch a day of time trialing, but today should be a little more interesting: the course is not all flat, with a mild 400 meter climb early on, and another toward the end.  This may put more pressure on the pure sprinters.  That said, look for time-trial champions like Tony Martin (Germany), Rohan Dennis (Australia), and Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) to be at the top of the leader board at day’s end.


The Local Region

Caverne de Pont dArc
Caverne du Pont d’Arc: photo by Claude Valette

Our race finishes today in a unique village of the utmost archaeological importance: the Caverne du Pont d’Arc.  Some 36,000 years ago, members of a prehistoric society crafted an artistic wonder on the walls of the Grotte Chauvet:  pictures of hundreds of animals of 15 different species, engraved into the walls with flint, or drawn on them with charcoal.  A closer inspection of the images reveals that they are the creation of skilful artists who made use of shading and perspective techniques to bring the figures to life.

Because the artworks and the cave itself are extremely fragile, opening the Grotte Chauvet to public viewing would be impossible.  So the local townsfolk built a replica of the Grotte: the Caverne du Pont d’Arc.  You can walk through a series of caves adapted to resemble the originals, down to the drawings, allowing you to experience the original artwork via expertly crafted copies.  In these panels, horses, lions, rhinos and other animals, have been captured in action:  running, hunting and fighting, just as they do in the originals.  It is quite a remarkable opportunity to go back in time and imagine the people who gave us this brilliant work of art.


TDFBTG Wine Recommendation for Stage 13 

The peloton has chosen the Ardèche region for its first of two time trials in this year’s Tour.  And it’s not a bad place to store your wine, either!  The region’s many caves make perfect cellars for the bottles you’d rather save than drink on Taco Tuesday.  Check out what Andrew Jeffords of Decanter Magazine had to say about it, here.

As far as wine-making is concerned, the Ardèche falls into the larger classification of the Rhône Valley, famous for its powerful reds like Hermitage and Côte-Rôtie in the North, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the South.  The Ardèche lies on the right bank of the Rhône River, and serves almost as a divider between those two illustrious appellations.  Wines produced in the Ardèche are granted IGP status (Indication Géographique Protegée), meaning that it must come from a specified geographic area as well as meet established standards such as grape varieties allowed; limited yields and production; and minimum alcoholic strength.  It must not be blended across zones, and must be submitted to a tasting panel for approval.  IGP replaces the former Vin de Pays category; both are less strict and rigorous than the Appellation d’Origine Contrôllée (AOC) standard.

LATOUR GR ARDECHE CHARDSome red wines are made here, but the whites have had more success.  Perhaps the best-known example available in the US is the Grand Ardeche Chardonnay made by Louis Latour, the negociant from Burgundy who needs no introduction.  For today’s recommendation, I suggest a nice, simple French Chardonnay.  How about the one from Louis Latour?  It’s a great everyday wine and pairs well with a wide range of food.  Roast chicken and a green salad come to mind.

Enjoy the time trial, and Vive le Tour!

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