First a recap of Stage 5.
Yeah, Wednesday’s ride was literally a jaunt through the countryside – very pretty, but low on excitement. Not even a break-away to keep us interested as the riders joked around, waiting for the sprint finish. Which was pretty good!
Wout Van Aert, strong support man for Primoz Roglic of the Jumbo-Visma squad, was the man of the hour, crushing (almost literally) the rest of the sprinters as he lunged for the line. But it was a long time to wait for a fleeting moment of glory.
In other noteworthy news, Peter Sagan, heretofore permanently attired in green, lost the points jersey to Irishman Sam Bennett. The contest remains tight but I’m not sure Sagan has the oomph to wrest it from Bennett’s shoulders: at the interim sprint point, he conceded points to all his rivals and his finish was lackluster. Definitely not what we’re used to seeing from him.
Perhaps the rest of the pack has just improved? A lot?
Regardless, he will be fun to watch over the next couple of weeks. Probably the best ambassador the sport has ever had – even non-cycling people know who he is and look forward to watching him pop a wheelie!
But the biggest shock of the day was what happened with the yellow jersey after the race. In fact, I switched off the recording and went about my business without listening to the final commentary.
That’ll teach me.
With a sprint finish on a leisurely day, we wouldn’t normally expect the overall GC standings to change unless one of the top contenders crashed or was disqualified for some reason. No reason to expect anyone to pull on the maillot jaune but Julian Alaphilippe, who has worn it for the past couple of days. He rode well, certainly no worse than his rivals.
Imagine my surprise when I visited the Tour website for info on tomorrow’s stage and saw that Adam Yates was in yellow. What the heck happened?
By now you know that cycling is a great sport but it has some really strange rules. If you’re caught breaking one, the penalty ranges from “nothing to see here; carry on,” to a fine, time penalty or even disqualification from the race.
Yep, Alaphilippe took a water bottle from his team car with less than 12 miles to the finish. That is a no-no, and he was docked 20 seconds for his thirst. Bye-bye yellow jersey; hello 16th place. I’ve been watching the Tour for 25 years and still don’t understand how and when the rules are applied, so give yourself a pass if you have no idea why this is taboo.
What’s Coming Up on Thursday?
We’ve traded one set of mountains (the Alps) for the Massif Central, a range of extinct volcanoes (puys) north of the city of Montpellier. Roads are narrow, steep, and dangerous, so we should be in for a good show. It’s obviously a day for the climbers but keep an eye out for the GC guys: this will be a great opportunity for them to test each other and to show off a bit if they’re feeling good.
There are three categorized climbs, then another 15 kms straight uphill. Doesn’t that sound terrible? Better the peloton than us, I say.
So, What Are We Drinking?
A couple of years ago I was introduced to the wines of Gérard Bertrand at VinoSummit Miami. Bertrand, formerly a French national rugby player, spent summers in his family’s vineyards in the 1970s, learning about the grapes from his father, Georges. When Georges died in an accident, Gérard was just 22 years old. After some soul-searching, he took the reins at the Bertrand Villemajou Estate in Corbières. Within five years he had broadened the business to include a range of wines from the South of France.
Today, Gérard Bertrand includes 15 estates around the region, encompassing nearly 2,000 acres. Right now, about 1,200 of those acres are farmed biodynamically; by the end of 2020, all of them will be.
2017 Château l’Hospitalet Grand Vin Rouge AOP La Clape (15.5% abv; $50 on wine.com)
Perched on a rocky outcrop at the foot of the Pyrénées Mountains, Château l’Hospitalet was once the site of the Hospices de Narbonne, a place of refuge for pilgrims on the holy route. It was once an island inhabited first by the Phoenicians, and then the Romans. Limestone soils and proximity to the sea imbue the wines with freshness and salinity. Thanks to long, sunny days and cool, breezy nights, biodynamic farming is the norm.
This wine is a blend of Syrah (60%), Grenache (30%), and Mourvèdre (10%), each vinified separately. Grapes come from plots located on each of Bertrand’s estates. Wine spends 12-16 months in 225-liter casks, with occasional lees-stirring. Only the best barrels of each variety are selected for the La Clape blend.
Color: Deep ruby, with glints of violet toward the edge.
Nose: Lovely aromas of red fruit, spice, wet earth, and spring leaves. There are layers that continue to emerge; wish I could elaborate over this wine for a few hours!
Palate: Ripe red and black fruit, silky tannins, moderate acidity. And then a wave of licorice, black tea, and leather. Then some punchy pepper notes on the long finish. Super wine!
Pour yourself a glass with a grilled steak or, as we did, with a hearty dish of braised chicken thighs with vegetables. Even on its own, you’ll dig it, especially if you think about being in the south of France, watching the peloton pedal by.
Enjoy Stage 6 and L’Hospitalet. It’s a winning combo!