The Tour de France got underway in Belgium this past weekend, with a sprint stage on Saturday followed by the team time trial on Sunday. Yeah, cycling races are perverse that way: last year’s Giro d’Italia began in Israel, and the Tour often ventures into Belgium, Holland, and Spain. I guess the race directors like to mix things up a little.
At present, the coveted yellow jersey sits on the shoulders of Michael Teunissen, a Dutch rider from the Jumbo-Visma team. His impressive victory in stage one came as a surprise: he burst out of nowhere to beat dynamo Peter Sagan (perpetual winner of the sprint competition) at the finish. Here’s a recap of what happened on Saturday:
But seeing his team, Jumbo-Visma, blast the best of the best to smithereens during the team time trial was mind-blowing. They beat Ineos (formerly Team Sky) by 20 seconds! Here’s a video summary of what happened on Sunday:
So where does that leave us?
- We have an unlikely candidate in the yellow jersey, one who will surely lose it in the coming days but who may ultimately challenge Peter Sagan for the sprinters’ green jersey.
- As a result of the time trial, two of his teammates (Steven Kruijswijk and George Bennett) are now well-positioned for the overall competition, which will heat up beginning with stage six.
- Over the next three weeks we’ll have the pleasure of watching the peloton traverse one of the most mountainous routes the Tour has ever seen. Should make for fantastic viewing.
- Superstar Chris Froome will watch this year’s race from a hospital bed, thanks to a life-threatening crash in last month’s Criterium du Dauphiné race in southwest France. His absence leaves a hole that many riders will attempt to fill. Again, should make for great TV time.
Stage 3: Leaving Belgium and Heading to Champagne
Monday’s stage might pale in comparison to one set in the Alps or Pyrénées but, coming after an exhausting team time trial, some folks will be feeling the pain. It’s relatively long (215 kms) with rolling hills for the first 170 kms. Then the riders will contend with four categorized climbs as they near the city of Épernay.
The last kilometer features a sharp incline at an 8% gradient that leads to the finish. Contenders for the stage victory will be those with the freshest legs and perhaps a teammate or two to launch them to the line. It could end up a mano-a-mano showdown and I’m already excited about it!
Tour de France by the Glass Sip-Along Suggestion
Champagne all the way, baby!
I personally plan to crack open a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage Brut as I sit on the edge of my seat cheering on the riders. The French word sauvage means wild and it applies equally well to both the Champagne and Monday’s stage.
About Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage Brut NV
A blend of 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Meunier, and 15% Chardonnay, this wine is a deep pink, almost red color – yes, sauvage! – and highly aromatic (think cherry, raspberry, and bergamot.) On the palate there are more red fruit flavors, plus a hint of biscuit (from the 24 months the wine spends on its lees.) There are some savory and spicy notes that make this wine an exotic pleasure to drink.
A few weeks ago, I attended a luncheon with new Piper-Heidsieck cellar master Émilien Boutillat and had the chance to taste four different Champagnes (more on that coming soon!) The Rosé Sauvage was one of my favorites: it paired wonderfully with the Indian cuisine prepared at Tamarind Tribeca and I can imagine it being an amiable partner with a wide array of flavors and textures.
A bottle will set you back about $60 retail, making it a splurge for most of us but, in my opinion, Rosé Sauvage over-delivers at that price point. It’s an impressive wine that’s perfect for celebrating friendship, family milestones, or a grand amour.
And, yes, even a thrilling stage of the Tour de France!
If you’re a fan of cycling and/or wine, I hope you’ll travel with me over the next 19 stages of the Tour. As I do every year, I’ll be back soon with more updates on the race and the wines you should pour as you watch. Santé!
Vive le Tour!