Saturday, July 23: Megève to Morzine
Another day, another awful Alpine stage, or so say the riders. After almost three weeks of battling against Mother Nature, sketchy road conditions, and each other, the peloton has one more challenge to survive before the ceremonial cruise into Paris on Sunday. This one is a beast! On the surface it appears to be a typical mountain stage (i.e., leg-breaking). But take a closer look at the finish: it’s straight downhill from the summit of Col de Joux Plane, the Hors Catégorie climb topping out at just over 5,000 feet. After all that climbing, the riders will plummet almost straight down for 12 kms to the finish line.
As we saw in Friday’s race, anything can and often does happen on a mountain stage. In an instant, rain can turn the charming country roads into slithering, treacherous ribbons of asphalt, full of pitfalls for unsuspecting cyclists. We watched Chris Froome crash; same with Richie Porte. Time trial specialist Tom Dumoulin, who’s already won two stages of this year’s Tour, crashed badly and abandoned the race. Let’s hope his injuries don’t prevent him from competing in Rio next month.
All that chaos spurred a shuffling of the names on the leader board, with Bauke Mollema dropping from second place to tenth. Romain Bardet, who won the stage, moved up to second place, practically ensuring a Frenchman’s place on the podium on Sunday. But first everyone has to survive Saturday’s torture. This may well turn out to be the most dramatic stage of the 2016 Tour, so don’t miss it!
2016 Megève Polo Masters; http://www.polo-master.com
As the peloton passes through the quaint Alpine villages of France, it’s not hard to imagine how they look in the colder months: a landscape blanketed in snow, a winter wonderland. We see evidence of this every day in the ski lifts that cross the mountains, and the chalets that dot the surrounding hills. But did you know they play polo here – in the winter?
For more than 20 years, Megève, our starting point today, has played host to an international polo tournament. Megève Polo Masters takes place each January, pitting three-person teams against each other for the trophy. Men, women, and children all participate, and the whole community gets involved. In addition to the sporting events, attendees enjoy the Starry Nights celebration, which features local chefs and their creations, as well as music and cocktails, for a gala winter evening. The only other city in France to offer snow polo is the resort of Saint-Moritz.
Check out the video below for a peek inside the Megève Polo Masters Tournament from 2016:
Yesterday I ended my post by talking a little about the Crémants produced in most of the wine regions of France. They are sparkling wines made by the traditional method, formerly known as the méthode champénoise, for the process used to create the bubbly wines of Champagne. While they can’t call themselves Champagne, they are remarkably similar in style and offer savvy buyers great value in comparison. The Tour makes its way through the Savoie and Haute Savoie today, so let’s try some Crémant de Savoie. This region’s sparklers are usually a blend of at least 40% Jacquère and 20% Altesse, local white grapes. Other grapes, such as Chasselas, Aligoté, and Chardonnay may comprise the balance. Ask your favorite wine retailer about Crémant de Savoie, or the Crémants from other parts of France. They’re well-worth seeking out, especially if you’re planning a party and want a few delicious, budget-friendly bottles of bubbly to set the mood.
Enjoy watching the drama of Stage 20. I’ll be back with some suggestions for our final ride into Paris!