Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tour de France Stage 21
From LeTour: “It has been the tradition since 1975 for the Tour de France to end with a prestigious stage finish on the Champs-Élysées. At the start in Créteil, we will remember Laurent Fignon, who held a licence with the local club. In 1989, his duel with Greg LeMond maintained the suspense right to the finish, where Fignon was sure that he would be the winner. That was the only occasion that the final stage was run as a time trial. Every other time, it has been a road stage that has been decided in a bunch sprint, except on four occasions. Those exceptions were the victories taken by Alain Meslet in 1977, Bernard Hinault in 1979, Eddy Seigneur in 1994 and Alexandre Vinokourov in 2005. It is incredibly hard to get a telling gap on this stage when breakaway riders are always within sight of the peloton.”

We have reached the end. Three weeks, thousands of miles and a compete disruption of my sleep schedule have come to their expected conclusion--a dramatic sprint along the Champs-Élysées. I have said this before, but my love of the sport stems from coincidentally being in Paris for the final day of the tour in 1998. I was charmed. Each year since, I have said that I will return to watch. It hasn't happened yet, but as they say: There is always next year.

The day began with the four jersey holders (Evan, Cavendish, Sanchez and Rolland) at the front, along with the two Norwegians, Thor Hushovd and Edvald Boasson Hagen, for a moment of silence to honor the victims of the recent tragedies in Norway. 167 riders started today, which means that 31 have dropped out along the way, many due to crashes. A special shout out to one of my favorites with a stat that amazes me: Riding in his 16th race, George Hincapie has now ridden for NINE tour winning teams, seven with Lance Armstrong, one with Contador and today for Evans. Fingers crossed that he comes back next year to complete what would be a record setting 16th tour as he did not finish his first attempt. 

Next up was one of the scenes I have come to expect: The yellow jersey wearer drinking champagne on the stage. Indeed, a glass was passed from the team car to Evans. I wondered, as always, exactly which champagne?

Meanwhile, back in the race, it was time for some actual racing as teams struggled to get riders into a break. That established, it was time for the intermediate sprint point. Important of course, because unlike the other jersey wearers who were enjoying a relaxed day, Cavendish's green jersey was still in play. With six riders up the road, Cavendish easily took the seventh place, padding his lead slightly. However, rather quickly afterwards he flatted, adding additional drama as he had to use some energy to catch back on as the tv coverage treated us to the beauty of Paris. 
As expected, the teams with stage win dreams came to the front, intent on bringing the break back in time for some final drama. And: Cavendish! The stage win, number 20 for him, and the green jersey after yet another brilliant performance by team HTC. Now I can hope that Cavendish and Renshaw remain together next year.

Stage: Mark Cavendish
Yellow and our winner: Cadel Evans

Wine: As is tradition, champagne: H. Billiot "Brut Reserve"

From the importer (I'm not objective, but will say that his book is a joy. Note that a paperback edition is coming with fall with a new preface): 

Henri Billiot at a glance: 100% Grand Cru, particularly satisfying Pinot Noir here. Fresh, bracing red-grape Champagnes with long, swollen mid-palate flavors. Just 5 hectares in size, so availabilities are scarce!  How the wines taste: Billiot does not filter his wines, and they never undergo malolactic fermentation. That makes them very frisky and reductive when they’re first disgorged, and occasionally a Billiot bottle will show a slightly metallic aroma for the first few minutes. That’s rare and nil if you hold the wines six months after disgorgement. Billiot seems to want liveliness most of all, as he can presume upon lavish and deep fruit flavors.
 If you know the wines of Egly-Ouriet (Billiot’s friend and neighbor) they couldn’t be more different. Egly pulls  you down into its mealy-ripe depths; Billiot lifts you up on a billowing fountain of fruit. His wines have marvelous stamina and brightness. They’re hedonistic but not sloppy. Too firm and impeccable to be sloppy! 

My thoughts: I actually consulted with said importer, as I was deciding between this and another bottle. He said "Billiot if you want something full and sumptuous" and as this is a day of celebration, that sounded just about right.

1 comment:

  1. zum Wein ein Stück leckerer Käse geschnitten mit dem richtigen Messer. I Love Wine, every day one 0.2 ml glass red Wine mmmh