After watching Sunday’s stage, I think we spectators needed a rest almost as much as the riders did! On what would have been deemed an easier day in Tours past, we had road battles for every competition. Team Jumbo-Visma put the GC contenders – most notably Egan Bernal, last year’s winner – in a spot of bother, as cycling expert and Tour commentator Phil Liggett would say.
In the past ten years, I can’t remember a race in which the competition was so fierce – and so wide open. Day after day we watch teams execute tactics designed to take advantage of tiny windows of opportunity – that instant when a rival rides alone or drops off the back of the peloton.
It’s so exciting that I’m already dreading the end. Watching the Tour every day has lifted my spirits and, just for a little while, let me believe all is right with the world. I’m sure cycling fans everywhere feel the same.
Stage 16 Takes Us into the Alps
Let’s hope the riders recovered well on Monday; they’re going to need every bit of energy to survive the next two days. Tuesday covers five categorized climbs, with the finish atop the final Category 3 ascent. Which comes right after the hardest slog of the day, the Montée-de-Saint-Nizier-du-Moucherotte, stabbing the sky at 3,500 feet.
Given the cracks (chasms) opened in the GC race on Sunday, expect more pain today as Team Jumbo-Visma tries to solidify Primoz Roglic in the yellow jersey position. As you’ll see in the video clip, Tadej Pogacar rode like a mad man in the final few kilometers, nabbing the stage victory and a critical time bonus. Fellow Slovenian Roglic was right on his heels, perhaps a scenario we should anticipate in the days to come.
The furious pace of Team Jumbo-Visma cracked the whole Ineos Grenadier squad, even Egan Bernal, who now sits eight minutes twenty-five seconds behind, in 13th place. Barring an uproarious comeback (and the concomitant demise of a dozen riders) he’s out of it.
But a few riders moved up the rankings: veteran Rigoberto Uran (literally) climbed into third place; Miguel-Angel Lopez rose to fourth; and Adam Yates moved up to fifth. Aussie rider Richie Porte had a great day, ending in sixth position over all. I’d love to see him stay in the top ten as we head to Paris.
The green jersey competition is tighter than it’s been in a decade, with Sam Bennett at the top (269 points), followed by Peter Sagan (224) and Matteo Trentin (189). Bennett deserves to win it: who didn’t love seeing him overcome with emotion, and his self-effacing reaction during the post-race interview after winning Stage 10?
Frenchman Benoit Cosnefroy (36 points) has held the climbers’ jersey for 12 days but he’s likely to lose it by Wednesday. We have two arduous mountain stages ahead, which will benefit the next two in the rankings: Pogacar (34) and Roglic (33). We love you, Benoit, but there’s no way to stop the Slovenian mountain climbing train.
Vins des Côteaux Alpins
As we traverse the Alps, we’ll pedal past many small winegrowing areas; some so small that their wines might not be readily available in our local shops. The trade organization Vins des Côteaux Alpins seeks to remedy this issue by serving as a collective marketing bureau for several Alpine appellations.
The tagline is “Three terroirs, one unique passion,” and it applies to the following IGPs:
- Vin des Allobroges, covering parts of the Savoie and Haute-Savoie areas, plus the Seyssel canton of the Ain.
- Côteaux de l’Ain, with four specific terroirs:
- Côteaux de l’Ain Pays de Gex
- Côteaux de l’Ain Revermont
- Côteaux de l’Ain Val de Saône
- Côteaux de l’Ain Valromey
- Isère, with two distinct subregions:
- Isère Balmes Dauphinoises
- Isère Côteaux du Grésivaudan
Grape Varieties – the Old and the New
I tallied 30 varieties currently grown (from a list on the bureau’s website) but there are quite a few others that, while indigenous to the region, are no longer produced commercially. But still, 30 different grapes!
Some are familiar – think Chardonnay, both Cabernets, Gamay, Marsanne, and Viognier. Some I’ve never heard of – Etraire de la Dui, Gamaret, Mècle, Veltliner Rouge Récoce. Should make for a fun day of research with my copy of Wine Grapes.
I highly recommend a visit to the bureau’s website. It includes history on each region, viticultural data, and a list of participating producers, with links to their sites. Most of the information is in English, which makes it an enjoyable way to learn.
My interest was piqued by one producer in particular: Les Sartos du Bec – Bachelier Bernard, in the Allobroges region.
The Allobroges (named for Celtic inhabitants in the 3rd century BC) is the largest expanse of the Côteaux des Alpins, bordered to the north and west by Lake Geneva and the Rhône River, respectively; the Isère River runs on its southern edge, and the Alps loom to the east. Most vineyards lie on the foothills, at altitudes from 250 to 600 meters above sea level, and experience a continental climate. Wine has been made here since Roman times, and is largely based on local varieties that have adapted to the unique microclimates of the region.
Les Sartos du Bec – Bachelier Bernard specialize in crafting wine from what they call “disappearing” varieties: they have some of the oldest plantings of Mondeuse in France, and some of the only traces of Persan, Douce-Noire, Etraire, and Joubertin. Beginning with the 2017 vintage, all parcels are farmed biodynamically (certifed AB).
Coming soon is a project called Acceuil Paysan, which includes a rental cottage for those interested in agritourism and who want to become acquainted with local products and traditions.
Now I’ve got another item on my travel to-do list!
Enjoy the Alps and the excitement Tuesday’s stage will bring. And imagine yourself sipping a glass of local wine as the sun sets on the vineyards. Maybe I’ll “see you there.”