I can say without hesitation that this year’s Tour is the most exciting one I’ve watched – and I’ve been a fan of the Tour de France since the days before Lance Armstrong. Over the past few years, though, a lot of the thrills and fun have been missing for me. When a single rider – and his team – dominate almost every stage of every race, it just isn’t the same.
But no one could have predicted the story unfolding over the past two weeks. Until Friday, we’ve had a different stage winner every day. How’s that for variety?
And we have a new hero in yellow: the guy all the commentators keep saying will fade out on the next stage, ceding the jersey to one of the more conventional GC riders. I hope that after Julian Alaphilippe’s blockbuster performance in the individual time trial, they will reserve judgment until he actually shows some weakness. He kicked some very major ass today, gaining time on his closest rivals rather than losing any.
Plus, he’s fun as heck to watch as he flies down the perlious mountain descents.
Saturday he will face his first “real” mountain stage, and conventional wisdom would say that he’s not cut out for it. I say, let’s see him try. Perhaps he’ll conquer the Pyrénées as he did the time trial. Alaphilippe has fire in his heart; maybe it’s just enough to propel him up the Tourmalet.
Vive Julian! You’ve made this Tour one of the best so far. Keep going! All of us (well, except for Team Ineos) are rooting for you.
What to Expect from Stage 14
Saturday’s stage features one of the most famous climbs ever to grace the Tour de France: the Col du Tourmalet. Assigned cycling’s most difficult rating – hors catégorie (HC) meaning beyond any category – it first challenged the peloton back in 1910 and has haunted them 82 times since! This bit of road is the highest paved mountain pass in the French Pyrénées, topping out at almost 7,000 feet.
The riders will face this monster quite far into the stage, after having already survived 86 kilometers, including one category 4 climb and a category 1 (almost 5,000 feet high) earlier in the day. Whichever climbers survive to the end will struggle against each other to the finish, which lies at the apex of the mountain.
Definitely one of the rompe-piernas or leg-breaking stages for the riders, but one with beautiful vistas for the spectators. It’s almost a shame to predict a winner on a day like this, though. Anyone who survives the day – and the Tourmalet – will have won a great victory!
Tour de France by the Glass Recommendation
We’re still in South West France so let’s explore another interesting wine region for today’s recommendation. Irouléguy lies at the very border with Spain, in France’s Basque territory. Grape varieties are familiar ones, Tannat and Cabernet Franc, which must comprise between 50% and 90% of the blend. Cabernet Sauvignon contributes the rest.
Tannat is responsible for most of the rosé produced here, with Cabernet Sauvignon again playing a supporting role. As for the white wines, not much is made, but the local grapes Courbu, Petit Courbu, Gros Manseng, and Petit Manseng do come together to create a light-bodied and fragrant quaff.
These wines can be tough to find in the US, but similar styles can be found in the nearby Spanish regions of Navarra (rosés are noteworthy) and Txakoli. All that lies between them and their French cousins is a border.
Whichever wine you choose, enjoy the chaos that is the Pyrénées.
Vive le Tour!