Well, if the first three stages of the 2019 Tour de France are any indication, cycling fans are in for an exciting – and very surprising – few weeks. In my post yesterday I recapped what happened over the weekend in Belgium. The Jumbo-Visma team from the Netherlands took top honors both days, ending up with the team yellow jersey as well as the individual one.
Monday’s stage showed fireworks in a different form: the bright blue flash that is Julian Alaphilippe from the Deceuninck – Quick-Step team. Most of the long day was rather uneventful, with rolling hills coursing through charming French towns. We caught glimpses of the famous vineyards of Champagne and enjoyed the antics of spectators perched along the roadside. Pretty boring, actually, until . . .
Whoosh! With about 15 kms to go, Alaphilippe blasted past the leaders of the peloton on a grueling stretch of road that seemed to pitch forever upward. As he went by, he looked at the other riders as if to say, “Follow me; I dare you.” Daring, indeed.
The remainder of the course twisted up, sometimes at gradients that seemed impossible to bear, followed by death-defying descents that had me gripping the armrest of my sofa. Surely no rider could (or would even possibly consider) flinging himself down a narrow, mountain road at 50 miles per hour. Yet that’s what Alaphilippe did, holding off the last desperate challenges from the peloton to take the stage win.
Afterward we learned that several weeks prior to the Tour, Alaphilippe had spent a few days getting to know the terrain of this stage. He focused on the last 30 kms, committing every twist, turn, and ascent to memory, making sure he knew how to beat the course – and all the other cyclists, too.
It was a beautiful thing to watch – the perfect illustration of how preparation meets opportunity.
Here’s a clip of highlights from Stage 3. I dare you not to be impressed.
Stage 4 and the IGP Côtes de Meuse
Tuesday’s race settles into the land between Champagne and Alsace. Well, that’s the way we wine lovers see it when we look at the map. And both of those regions offer up wonderful wines to sip while we watch Stage 4. But I was looking for something new to recommend, maybe a grape variety I hadn’t tasted or perhaps a relatively obscure area of production.
Please allow me to introduce you to the IGP Côtes de Meuse.
The Côtes de Meuse region inhabits the landscape between Belgium and Luxembourg and experiences a cool, continental climate where vineyard placement is essential: hillside slopes facing south and east ensure that grapes are exposed to enough sunlight to ripen fully. Larger hills and forests act as wind- and rain-blocks, protecting the vines from the harsh weather systems coming off the sea.
Winegrowers utilize familiar grapes such as Chardonnay, Auxerrois, Pinot Noir, and Gamay, and make wines that are blanc, rouge, or gris. I have to admit, I’ve never seen these wines in my market or, for that matter, anywhere online but, now that I know they’re out there, I’m determined to find one to taste. In the meantime, I’ll probably “settle” for a glass of Champagne as I watch the race. Such hardships . . .
What about you? Have you tried a wine from the IGP Côtes de Meuse? Please do leave a comment and tell me all about it!
Now, Back to the Race
It’s likely to be another long, flat, boring day on the road: 215 kms of pretty countryside, with the peloton clocking the minutes (hours) until they can take a shower and hit the sack. But, as the first three days have shown, you just never know. Clearly the 2019 Tour is an event in which anything can happen.
I’ll be watching . . . .
For more detailed information on the wines from IGP Côtes de Meuse and an overview of other things to see and do in the region, check out the local tourism website.