Stage 12: Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille

Snowy Plateau de Beille

Biking the Ski Resorts

Have you ever tried riding your bike up a ski slope?  Well, you can watch the peloton try to do exactly that in Thursday’s race up the Plateau de Beille (see photo).  It will be a day chock-full of mountain drama, dragging the riders over four steep climbs to a tip-top finish that Tour fans know well.  Lance Armstrong was twice victorious here, before his wins were vacated after his admissions of doping.  Sammy Sanchez, riding in this year’s tour, has been the runner-up once, and Thomas Voeckler, the opportunistic French rider has won it twice.

For my pick to win the stage, I’m going to count on the competitiveness of Sammy Sanchez, who will surely want to replace his second-place finish in 2011 with a stage win in 2015.  As for the yellow jersey, I’m going to hope that Tejay Van Garderen has made up some time on the other GC contenders, and that he’s pulling on the Maillot Jaune at the end of the day.

Irouleguy VineyardsWe’re still in Southwestern France so let’s explore another interesting wine region for today’s recommendation.  Irouléguy (see photo right) lies at the very border with Spain, in France’s Basque territory.  Grapes are the same as before, with Tannat (blended with Cabernet Franc) making sturdy reds and aromatic rosés, and Gros Manseng responsible for the lean and clean whites that are so refreshing.  These wines can be tough to find, but similar styles can be found in the Spanish regions of Navarra (rosés are noteworthy) and Txakoli.  All that lies between them is a border!  Enjoy the day and Vive le Tour!