Tour de France by the Glass 2019 Stage 11: The Pyrénées Loom Large after the Rest Day

After Wednesday’s rest day, most of the riders will feel refreshed, ready to tackle the easy route from Albi to Toulouse. It’s only 167 kms from start to finish, and boasts a measly two categorized climbs.

That said, some riders will come out of the rest day worse for wear, unable to summon the energy to contend for the stage win. Rest days affect everyone differently; it will be interesting to see how the peloton sorts itself out as the race evolves.

One thing is certain: this easy day in the saddle is but a prelude to the serious climbing stages that await. Yes folks, we are headed into the Pyrénées Mountains which separate Spain and France.

There’s something special about stages in the Pyrénées. Sure, the Alps are famous for climbs like Alpe d’Huez with its 21 switchbacks (see video above.) And, although they’re longer and higher routes than those on the Spanish border, they offer the riders a more humane gradual, steady path to the top. The Alps are cycling’s equivalent of a professional prize fighter: formidable, with a fearsome reputation as a winner, and tough as nails.

64-tourmalet-pyrenees ici et la nature
A glimpse of the Pyrénées slopes from icietlanature.com

The Pyrénées are the opposite: think of a street fighter who uses every resource within reach to strike down a foe. Roads are narrower than in the Alps and pitched at a higher gradient, meaning the path to the summit is steep, dramatic, and painful. Oh, and the road conditions leave a lot to be desired.

Spanish cyclists refer to the mountain stages in the Pyrénées as rompe-piernas: leg-breakers. You get the point.

What to Expect from Stage 11

Probably the most important thing to look for is which GC contenders are feeling good and have a strong contingent of teammates around them throughout the day. The race itself will be rather ho-hum but everyone in the peloton will be looking forward to (or dreading) the days to come. Stay alert for cagey maneuvers by Team Ineos and Jumbo-Visma as they try to solidify their mens’ place in the overall classification.

And it looks like another sprint finish, in which all our favorite speedsters will form a massive, flying crush to the line. Peter Sagan, Elia Viviani, Wout Van Aert, and Michael Matthews will try to get there first.

Tour de France by the Glass Recommendation

I’m skipping the wine today, in favor of another beverage from the southwest of France: Floc de Gascogne.

Floc
Armagnac + wine = Floc de Gascogne

Classified as a vin de liqueur, Floc is made by adding neutral grape spirit or eau de vie to grape must either before or in the early stages of fermentation. Adding the alcoholic spirit stops fermentation, resulting in a wine that is sweeter and higher in alcohol by volume, than traditional table wine.

There are many types of vins de mistelle, as these wines are called in France and, depending on where they are produced, different rules apply.

In Floc de Gascogne, which was granted AOC status in 1990, the spirit used to stop fermentation must be Armagnac (a grape brandy from the delimited Armagnac region) from the same property. Finished wines weigh in at around 17% abv and must be aged for at least nine months (doesn’t have to be in barrel.)

It’s a close cousin to Pineau des Charentes, which is made by adding Cognac (at least one year old) to a still wine. Some versions are made with Bordeaux grape varieties.

What to Pair with Floc de Gascogne

Vins de Mistelle Composite
Vins de Mistelle at the SWE conference.

I had the chance to taste through a flight of vins de mistelle at a conference of the Society of Wine Educators. The whole experience was new to me and I enjoyed learning about the wines and comparing them side by side.

We were served a plate of treats – some sweet, some less so – and they all brought out different aspects of the wines. My favorite was the cannelé, a cream-filled, caramelized pastry from Bordeaux! (It’s in the bottom right corner of the photo.)

Treats and Vins de Mistelle
Nuts, cheese, figs, chocolate, and pastry: all happy partners with vins de mistelle.

I hope you enjoy stage 11 and are looking forward to the next few days of racing. They’re going to be super-exciting, with changes in the overall standings all but guaranteed. I’ll be back tomorrow with recommendations for stage 12.

Vive Le Tour!

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