Tour de France by the Glass 2020 Stage 4: The First Summit Finish and Wines from the Collines Rhodaniennes

On Monday, the peloton (and spectators) breathed a collective sigh of relief: sunny weather throughout most of the day kept the race relaxed and safe. But, as with every stage in the Tour, there are always a few surprises.

Stress levels were low today, as the race was expected to go to the sprinters in the end, with GC contenders looking to maintain their positions rather than put in time against their opponents. The motorcycle cameramen caught glimpses of the riders chatting and laughing amongst themselves, pedaling at an easy pace and recovering from two tough days in the saddle.

But the Tour de France gods are fickle; while gifting the peloton a perfect weather day, they dealt a cruel hand to Anthony Perez of the Cofidis team. In his quest to win the polka-dotted jersey awarded to the climber accumulating the most points during the stage, Perez handily dispensed with his rivals, gaining top marks on the day’s two categorized climbs.

The jersey was his. All he had to do was finish the race.

And that’s where the gods decided to interfere. Perez had a punctured tire which led to an ugly crash. Which broke his collarbone. He’s done, no climbers’ jersey for him. Out of the race.

Caleb Ewan Wins the Stage, Blowing Past Everyone

After a relatively easy day, the sprinters’ teams lined up to launch their fastest guys to the finish line. All the usual suspects were up for the challenge: Peter Sagan, Sam Bennett, Elio Viviani, Matteo Trentin, Alexander Kristoff (stage 1 winner.) The only world-class speedster seemingly not in the mix was Aussie Caleb Ewan, whose diminutive size is no indication of his power.

Where was he?

Hidden in the crowd, perhaps, plotting the demise of his Stage 3 competitors. Or maybe hatching a plan for world domination.

See for yourself: he doesn’t even enter the picture until the very end, and he obliterates the field! (In the clip below, watch the far left side of the screen for a small rocket wearing a bright red helmet.) Does he have a motor on his bicycle? Don’t laugh: the Tour has a history of examining bikes after a stage win to ensure all victories are virtuous.

Looking Ahead to Tuesday and Stage 4

This will be the first summit finish of Tour 2020, and it will be no picnic. Clocking in at 161 km and including five categorized climbs, Tuesday will be a day to assess how well the GC contenders – and their teams – are feeling. Expect Ineos and Jumbo-Visma to control the race, protecting their cadre of yellow-jersey aspirants. And watch out for attacks during the most difficult climbs of the day. The final climb to Orcières-Merlette tops out at 6,000 feet – and it’s the last of the five ascents. Drama is definitely in order!

Stage map courtesy of http://www.letour.com

Wine from the Collines Rhodaniennes IGP

This part of France is more famous for its lavender fields than its wine, but despair not. We’re actually pretty close to the northern Rhône Valley, home to grapes like Syrah and Viognier, and the Collines Rhodaniennes IGP is often used by high-quality Rhône producers to make wines that don’t fit perfectly into AOC regulations like Condrieu or Hermitage.  While they might not adhere to the most exacting standards of the AOCs, they often represent great value for the money, and a taste of the classic wine regions without the hefty price tag.

2017 Chapoutier La Combe Pilate Viognier (13% abv; certified organic grapes)

Lighter in body and slightly less floral than a Condrieu, this Viognier delighted me! Its $30 price overdelivered in terms of classic Viognier experience: ripe peach and apricot aromas, medium+ acidity, long finish with notes of honeysuckle and stone fruit. Viognier was my first “wine love” and I’m unabashedly picky about it. If you feel the same way, look for this wine with the alchemic symbol for “spirit” on the label.

I paired it with a simple salad of boiled arborio rice and farro, mixed with dried apricots, goat cheese, arugula, and red onion soaked in orange flower vinegar. Perfect summer pairing!

Cheers to the Tour and our first race to the mountaintops. Who’s your pick to get there first?

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