Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tour de France Stage 18 Back to France

From LeTour: “We return to France and there are three very big cols on the menu. The Agnel will be tackled for the first time ever from this side, then there’s the Izoard and its legendary Casse Déserte, followed by the Galibier. This will be our chance to celebrate the centenary of this mythic climb’s first appearance on the race route back in the 1911 Tour de France. In addition, the finish, located at an altitude of 2,645 metres, will be the highest in the race’s history. It will remove from the history books the place held since 1986 by the 2,413m Col du Granon. This stage will certainly see a match-up between all those riders who are in contention for the overall title, as will the stage the following day. Whoever is leading the race runs the risk of succumbing to such physical demands.”

Well now, that was a bike ride with some very interesting tactics. Attacks were expected and indeed they came. Andy Schleck won the stage after attacking on the penultimate climb of the day, the Col d'Izoard. To my surprise, his competitors let him go and he gained valuable time.
Frank Schleck and Cadel Evans finished second and third, after Evans towed, with essentially no help at all, the leaders group up the Galibier to turn keep things much closer than it looked like they would be. Ivan Basso crossed the line fourth. Thomas Voeckler continued to defy expectations by holding on for 5th on the stage. He may want to thank Evans for the assist.
The story of the day was the change in the GC (see below) and the cracking of Alberto Contador on the final climb. Can he improve tomorrow or is the knee injury combined with the Giro miles too much?
My rides of the day: Andy, Cadel and Voeckler, all impressive. The question on every one's mind now is will these riders pay for their efforts tomorrow as it is another day in the Alps.
Also via Podium Cafe:
Mark Cavendish retained the Green Jersey, but not without a bit of drama. The grupetto finished outside the time cut, but because the group numbered some eighty riders, the race jury applied the 20% rule and allowed them to continue the race. If 20% of the race field is outside the limit, they will not be time cut, according to the rules. The race jury did apply a 20 point penalty to the riders in the group. Cavendish now leads the points classification by 15 points over JJ Rojas. 

General Classification
  1. Thomas Voeckler
  2. Andy Schleck :15
  3. Fränk Schleck 1:08
  4. Cadel Evans  1:12
  5. Damiano Cunego  3:46
  6. Ivan Basso  3:46
  7. Alberto Contador  4:44
  8. Samuel Sánchez  5:20
  9. Tom Danielson  7:08
  10. Jean-Christophe Péraud  9:27

Wine:  Le Cellier du Palais Apremon
100% Jacquere, another Greg Borden suggestion
 Charles Neal: The property surrounding Le Cellier du Palaishas been in the Bernard family since 1700. Bottling at the domaine started two generations ago; Rene took over for his father in 1974, and his daughter, Béatrice, has now taken over the vinification. Their small vineyard is scattered over just 7 hectares. Some of these have a subsoil very rich in chalk, others with decomposed glacial deposits. The Bernards have three grapes planted, Jacquère, Altesee and Chardonnay.
Béatrice works her vines according to the practices of lutte raisonée keeping treatments to the absolute minimum while organically working the soil to promote healthy support for the vines. Some leaf plucking and green harvesting helps to maximize the concentration of the remaining grapes.The harvest is done by hand by a small team of workers. A gentle pressing is followed by a cold fermentation in an effort to guard the maximum aromas of the grapes. Afterwards the wine stays sur lie for between 4 and 10 months, depending on the cuvée. The wines do not undergo malolactic fermentation, so that they retain their bright, refreshing acidity. Le Cellier du Palais, the name of their winery, comes not only from the name of its location (called Le Palais) but also from the play on words with what we taste wine, the palate (palais in French). Production at the domaine averages 45,000 bottles a year (3,750 cases).
The Apremont cuvée in the United States is made with pure Jacquère, and provides clean, citrus fruit notes along with soft mineral notes and thirst-quenching acidity. This wine makes for a light and crisp aperitif, and is also excellent at the table with trout, perch, smoked salmon, or mountain cheeses like tomme and raclette.

The wine: Vibrant. Crisp with  minerality and green apples. Another one to refresh after a long day riding or, you know, watching.

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