Monday, the United States celebrated Labor Day, a holiday dedicated to the workers who drive our economy. The peloton was granted a bit of relief as well, taking the day off from racing. After the most difficult premier week in Tour history, I’m sure the riders appreciated some time off.
But, as with most facets of the Tour de France, rest days can be trickier than one might think. Yes, the legs and lungs get a breather, and the body has a chance to rehydrate and relax. By the next day, it’s “all systems go,” right?
Not necessarily. Sometimes the rest day brings problems of its own: a rider might come back feeling sluggish, his week-long momentum coming to a halt. It’s harder to put the mind and the muscles back into the grind, especially when there are still two weeks of racing to come.
So, you never really know what the effects of a rest day will be until you see the peloton back at it. Speaking of which . . .
Coursing Along the Atlantic Coast
Tuesday’s race will bring a dramatic change in the landscape: we’ve traded the perilous Pyrénées for the coastal flats nestled between Bordeaux (to the south) and the Loire River (just north.) Yep, it will be dead flat, from start to finish.
But it will be anything but boring!
Expect winds – and perhaps some rain – throughout the day. Crosswinds make a mess of the peloton but reward opportunists poised to take advantage. Remember what Team Ineos Grenadiers did a few stages back, when the winds caused the peloton to separate into multiple groups? If those conditions repeat themselves, get the popcorn ready because there will be quite a show. Whichever GC contenders have the legs and the team support to drive the pace will look to put the hurt on their rivals. Should definitely be fun to watch!
After a long Sunday of climbing, followed by a thrilling descent and dash to the finish, pre-race favorite Primoz Roglic of Team Jumbo-Visma took the yellow jersey. But that was just part of the story. Swiss rider Marc Hirschi of Team Sunweb went out on his own early in the day, facing most of the mountain ascents with no help from his team or other break-away riders. The closer he got to the summit of the final climb, the more excited we spectators became.
Maybe he can do it! He’s going to beat the best riders in the world and take the stage win. It’s his first Tour and – wow! – what a performance!
These are just some of the things I yelled to no one in particular as I watched.
In the end, a chase group comprising Primoz Roglic, Tadej Pogacar, Mikel Landa, and Egan Bernal – all serious contenders to win in Paris – bore down on Hirschi as he pedaled furiously to the final kilometer. Gabe and I were literally on the edge of our seats, cheering him on.
We were loud.
Then, the cameras panned back to the second chase group, which was on the heels of the first. Every time I looked at the ticker, they had shaved off another few seconds of the first group’s advantage. Which served as fuel for the insane collective horsepower of the Roglic group.
Hirschi didn’t stand a chance, but he gave it his all, throwing his best sprint at them only to be edged at the line by Roglic and Pogacar. It was simultaneously the best and worst moment of the Tour. Race organizers must have agreed, as they awarded Hirschi “Most Aggressive Rider” on the stage. He’ll be easy to find on the road on Tuesday – just look for the bright red number on the back of his jersey.
Pineau des Charentes: A Local Favorite
Perfect for your next apéro, Pineau des Charentes is what happens when you add one-year-old Cognac to unfermented grape juice (a process known as mutage) and leave it for a few years. The French call them mistelles, and versions are made in Armagnac (Floc de Gascogne), Jura (Macvin du Jura), and Occitanie (Clairette du Languedoc). The AOC overlaps the Cognac region, with most production in the coastal regions of Charente and Charente-Maritime ) exactly where we are today.
According to legend, its creation was an accident: a grower placed grape must into a barrel that held traces of Cognac in it. Years later, when the barrel was opened and the liquid sampled, the accident was labeled a happy one, and a new sipping tradition was born. A little bit sweet, a little bit hot (16-22% alcohol) and perfect if you’re looking for something new to please your palate.
White Pineau des Charentes can be made from Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Montils, Folle Blanche, Sémillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot Blanc, Jurançon, and Meslier St. François. Yep, some of these are new to me, too. Age classifications are as follows: Blanc (at least 18 months, at least 12 in barrel); Vieux Blanc (at least 7 years in barrel); and Très Vieux Blanc (at least 12 years in barrel.)
Red and rosé versions draw upon Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec. Pineau Rouge must age for at least 12 months (8 in barrel); Vieux Rouge (at least 7 years); and Très Vieux Rouge (at least 12 years.) Rosé methods are similar, with a shorter maceration period.
For further reading, I recommend these two articles, which I consulted in writing this post:
See you tomorrow for a preview of Wednesday’s race!