Did you watch stage 18 on Thursday? I’m still trying to recover!
First we had the disqualification of Tony Martin and Luke Rowe because of some unsportsmanlike conduct on the previous stage (I don’t think Martin should have been expelled); then there were the crazy team tactics of Team Movistar, riding hard to catch the breakaway group. Which included their number one hope for the yellow jersey. Yeah.
Despite his team’s best efforts to the contrary, Nairo Quintana won the stage handily, cycling alone up the Col du Galibier and then down the treacherous mountain roads to the finish. Julian Alaphilippe acquitted himself well, managing to keep the yellow jersey for another day.
My favorite part, though, was watching Alaphilippe catch the riders in front of him on the perilous descent of the Galibier. I’m not sure his tires were in contact with the asphalt! Whether or not he wins the overall yellow jersey in Paris, he has made this one of the most spectacularly enjoyable tours I’ve ever seen.
If you missed it, here’s a summary of the best moments:
What to Expect from Friday’s Stage
Another crazy day in the Alps, much shorter than Thursday distance-wise. However, the climbs will be harder and higher. By day’s end, the survivors of the peloton will have scaled five categorized climbs, with the two worst ones toward the finish.
It’s anyone’s guess as to who will claim victory on the summit finish: healthy teammates, adequate hydration, and a smile from the cycling gods will all play a part. I’m not going out on a limb to predict the winner, although it would be nice to see Nairo Quintana stick it to his team once again.
A Little Local Color, Courtesy of Saint John the Baptist
Day two in the Alps begins in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, the resting place of St. John the Baptist – or at least three of his fingers. An 11th century cathedral displays said digits, and the locals celebrate his life with an annual festival featuring a special bread.
No idea why bread is the chosen food item, but check out what it looks like:
Yep! The three fingers he left in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne!
Maybe he will be so kind as to look out for the riders today; they will need all the help they can get.
Tour de France by the Glass Recommendation: Nebbiolo Rosato from Alto Piemonte
Alto Piemonte is a collection of small towns nestled in the foothills of the Alps, in the far northeast corner of the Piemonte region, not far from where the peloton will be pedaling today. The climate here is a little cooler and the vines are planted at higher elevations than in the famous regions of Barolo or Barbaresco, resulting in wines that, in comparison, tend to be lighter in color and less tannic, with more delicate aromas and flavors. Intended for early drinking, they indulge the impatient Nebbiolo drinker, one who doesn’t want to wait years for a wine to mature. And because these wines come from relatively lesser-known areas, they are a bit easier on the pocketbook.
2018 Cantalupo “Il Mimo” Nebbiolo Rosato; Colline Novaresi DOC ($15 retail; 13.5% abv)
As you can see from the label, this wine takes its name from a mask – one that dates to Roman times, when vineyards were first planted here. It was unearthed in the alpine foothills of Ghemme, not far from the Cantalupo winery. The DOC comprises the eastern slopes along the Sesia River, where vines are planted at elevations of about 400 meters, on soils of gravel and clay. Under DOC rules, wines must contain at least 50% Nebbiolo, with Uva Rara, Bonarda, and Barbera frequently blended in. This wine is unusual in that it is 100% Nebbiolo.
In the glass, the Il Mimo shows bright, dense coral; quite vibrant. Delicate red fruit aromas of cherry and strawberry, with just a hint of the rose petal for which Nebbiolo is famous. A sip reveals that this is all Nebbiolo – rosé or not! Tons of acidity frame up the beautiful fruit, which ultimately reveals the supple spine of tannins that underlie it all. Rather robust for a rosé, but very much to my liking.
Enjoy our second of three days in the Alps. I’ll check in again tomorrow, after the race, with a wine for Saturday.
Vive Le Tour!