It’s the first weekend in July and you know what that means – the Tour de France is back! Cycling is one of the Derv’s favorite sports and each year I anticipate its return the way a five-year-old awaits Christmas. Three weeks of (almost) daily drama played out over the perilous pathways of the Pyrénées – not to mention the Alps, Vosges, Jura, and Massif Central. Rivalries among the General Classification (GC) riders vying for top honors at the end of 21 stages can be just as entertaining. There’s nothing better than watching former teammates duke it out in the final few kilometers of a stage, then watching them snipe at each other in the post-race interviews. (Chris Froome vs. Richie Porte, anyone?)
During this year’s Tour, the peloton will travel from Germany, heading southwest through Belgium and Luxembourg before crossing onto French soil. The course route meanders through the wine regions of Alsace, Burgundy (Chablis and Nuits-Saint-Georges,) and the Rhône Valley, where it dips further south to the picturesque villages of Provence. Then it’s back to the mountains, specifically the summit town of Le Puy-en-Velay, which should make for spectacular viewing. I’ve driven up those roads and can attest that they’re not for the faint of heart. I can’t wait to watch the climbers claw their way to the top.
The race proceeds in a southwesterly direction, toward the infamous slopes of the Pyrénées, the mountain chain that separates France from Spain. It’s always great fun to watch the Spanish riders navigate these narrow roads whose secrets they’ve uncovered over years of training. As we follow the peloton over the passes, I’ll be talking about some lesser-known wines (that should be better-known wines) made in Southwest France. From there we turn north toward Bordeaux, passing through the hub of Cognac and Armagnac production – no shortage of wines to explore there! And, finally, it’s on to Paris for the final podium ceremonies and the awarding of the last yellow jersey.
I hope you’ll come with me, over the next three weeks, as I visit the magnificent countryside of France, stopping to sample the culture and history of the towns along the way. And wine – oh, yes, wine! As the peloton pedals through each day’s stage, we will delve into the local wine scene. I’ll give a little background on the region and suggest a Tour de France by the Glass recommendation for you to try. It’s going to be a fun three weeks!
Stages 1-3: Dusseldorf to Liège to Longwy
For the first time since 1987, the Tour kicks off its Grand Départ in Germany. Stage One is an individual time trial, with each rider racing solo against the clock. Hardly a nail-biter, I know, but it might be fun to watch Tony Martin take this one. Why? Well, he’s a former world champion in the time trial event and he’s German. I think Saturday will be his day. (Plus I’ve got him on my fantasy team. Winning the stage and donning the Tour’s first yellow jersey would give me a lot of points! More on this in the last paragraph.)
Stage Two is a day for the sprinters and again we’ve got a slew of homeboys vying for top honors. Andre Greipel (aka The Gorilla,) Marcel Kittel, and John Degenkolb always threaten in the sprint stages; the thrill of winning on home soil could help them edge out other speedsters like Mark Cavendish and Alexander Kristoff. Sprint stages tend to come down to the last few kilometers, so if you’ve got chores to do, don’t wait until the final few minutes of the race. You’ve been warned.
Stage Three presents the first climbs of the Tour, giving our King of the Mountain contenders a chance to stretch their legs. There won’t be any mountain-top excitement, but at least the roads have a few undulations. The tail-end of the route nudges the riders slightly uphill, making this a great opportunity for Peter Sagan, the sneaky, all-purpose rider who has won the green jersey the past five years. Whether he wins or not, he’s always in the mix and never fails to provide entertainment for the spectators.
Which Wines to Drink as We Watch
Because we’re beginning in Dusseldorf, along the banks of the Rhine River, I think German Riesling is a perfect place to start. I’ve written in more detail about the nearby wine region of the Mosel in two posts for #winestudio. You can read about the wines of Weingut Max Ferdinand Richter here; and those of Karthäuserhof here.
Let’s Have Some Fun
I love reading velonews for its coverage of the Tour de France, and this week I found a couple of great items. First, there is an article on the course layout that explains how and why race organizers shook things up this year. Find it here. Next, Spencer Powlinson penned a great piece called A Fan’s Guide to the 2017 Tour de France in which he included this amusing yet totally vital accessory: the Tour de France Bingo Game. I say we all print the cards and play along as we watch. Glass of Riesling in hand, of course.
At the top of the post I mentioned that I’m part of a fantasy Tour de France league. It’s sponsored by Cono Sur Bicicleta wines from Chile and will be hosted by Jeff Kralik, aka The Drunken Cyclist. If you’re a cycling geek and want to participate, go to the post where all the rules are explained and sign up. But hurry – you have to enroll before the race starts Saturday morning!
Thanks for being part of Tour de France by the Glass 2017. Vive le Tour!