Stage 19: Saint Jean de Maurienne to La Toussuire – Les Sybelles

Tartiflette and Alsatian Riesling

Our race route traces a circle around Saint Jean de Maurienne that looks innocuous enough on the map.  But closer inspection reveals four very difficult climbs sure to test the riders on this second day in the Alps.  Just 15 km into the race looms the Col du Chaussy, a Cat 1 monster that sends the peloton scrambling up 1500 meters.  Following, there’s a short sprint just before the HC climb to the top of the Col du Croix de Fer (Iron Cross), which levels off at almost 2100 meters, before rapidly descending to the foot of the next climb, the Cat 2 Col du Mollard.  After suffering upward for more than 1600 meters, the racers plunge precipitously downward, navigating a very technical descent that will challenge them with pitfalls at every turn.  But there’s no rest for the weary warriors of the Tour de France yet!  Just then the road spikes upward again, toward the finish atop the summit of Le Corbier at 1700 meters high.  It will be another day of pain for the peloton, but surely a very entertaining day for us!

Who will prevail?  I keep waiting for Nairo Quintana to outpace the competition in the mountains.  With today and tomorrow the only days left in the Alps, his time is running out.  So let’s go Nairo!  As for the yellow jersey, Chris Froome seems to have it sewn up.

Stage 19 finishes in the Alpine ski resort of La Toussuire – Les Sybelles, which is part of the Savoie region of France.  This region hosted many of the ski events in the 1992 Albertville Olympic games and, as you can imagine, its biggest economic driver is tourism.  But there is also a flourishing cheese industry here in the land of fondue.  One of the stand-outs is Reblochon which, although delicious on its own, plays the starring role in a traditional Savoyard dish called tartiflette (see photo.)  At first glance this heart-warming casserole of potatoes, Reblochon, and lardons (bacon), seems like simple country fare.  Perhaps, but take a bite.  Tartiflette is much more than the sum of its parts!  On a cold day, there is nothing more comforting and delicious.  Okay, I realize it’s the end of July and most of us are basking (or baking) in the balmy temperatures of summer.  So crank up the AC for a bit, put on a sweatshirt, and indulge in a slice of gooey, cheesy tartiflette.  Close your eyes and imagine you’re lounging fire-side in a snow-covered chalet after a rugged day on the slopes.  Heaven!  Wash it down with a glass of Riesling as you toast the riders through their sojourn in the Alps.


Anthony Bourdain’s Tartiflette  (Food and Wine, December 2012)

2 1/2 lb potatoes, peeled
1/2 lb slab bacon, cut in small dice
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 lb Reblochon-style cheese, sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Place the potatoes in the pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily pierced with the knife.  Remove from the heat, drain, and let sit until they are cool enough to handle.  Cut the potatoes into small dice and set aside.

In the sauté pan, cook the bacon over high heat until browned.  Drain, leaving 1 tablespoon of fat in the skillet and add the onion.  Cook over moderately high heat for about 5 minutes until golden brown then add the bacon and wine and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the potatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the potato mixture from the heat and place half of it in the ovenproof dish. Spread half the cheese slices atop the potato mixture.  Cover this with the other half of the potato mixture.  Top with the remainder of the cheese.  Bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.  Serve hot.