From LeTour: Jean François Pescheux's view
A beautiful landscape: "A flat stage that's not too long (179km), which in theory should be the preserve of the sprinters, because bunch finishes are obviously one part of cycling that shouldn't be neglected. The landscape will be beautiful: we will be passing through the Baux-de-Provence. That said, it would be dangerous to view this stage simply as one of transition? The heat, which can be extreme, could have a role to play, especially after 219km the day before! And there's always the chance the wind can get up. On an almost identical course, the wind almost played a very nasty trick on Contador in 2009? However, logic would suggest the candidates for the green jersey will feast on this stage."
Another day in Provence, starting in Aix this morning is a reminder that I have not been there since K was born. Clearly time for a trip! It looks to be another sprint stage today, but adding some excitement is the talk of cross winds. In the world of cycling, this means the possibility of echelons. What is an echelon? From the Sky team site:
Stages along coastal roads are often susceptible to winds blowing across the roads. A bunch can be riding comfortably only to turn a corner and immediately be placed under pressure. Being buffeted by wind is not a pleasant feeling on a bike, so it is no surprise that riders will seek refuge from the gust behind the nearest object they can, the rider closest to them. This creates the formation of what is known commonly as an echelon.
Quite simply the riders fan out across the road in a line with their front wheel over-lapping the rear of the rider in front of them. This shields the riders from the wind as it blows across the road, with the man at the very front of the group taking the brunt of the gust. That rider will do his turn and will then peel off and begin to file to the back of the group, creating what looks distinctly like a conveyer-belt from the air. Each rider will do a short, sharp turn and then rotate in what has become the most effective way of dealing with the difficult conditions.
A well-drilled group can use this to their advantage when it comes to placing their rivals under pressure. Anticipation is half the battle, with teams moving to the head of affairs so as not to be distanced. If a break forms in the peloton it can be almost impossible for riders to close down the gap. This often leads to a number of small groups strewn out across the road. In these situations experience can be key in learning to read the conditions and being on the front foot.
My Podium Cafe Stage Predictor picks of day: Cavendish, Sagan, Greipel and Goss. Clearly, I'm hoping for another sprint finish.
On the road today, we have a single breakaway rider: Luis Maté. With about 30 kilometers ridden and 142 remaining, he had a four minute lead over the peloton. Two more non-starters today: Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Maxime Bouet. Christian Vande Velde, despite an injury involving plates and a screw, is up riding. More here.
So much for the breakaway rider: 10 kilometers after the initial report and Luis Maté's lead had dropped to barely more than a minute with the teams getting into position for the upcoming intermediate sprint.With 132 kilometers remaining, he was caught. Perhaps a new break will set out after the sprint point or it is quite possible that the crosswinds may lead to a group ride today.
Vaughters 5:40am via Twitter for iPhone
Nice scenery today. But the rides are unlikely to notice.
inrng 6:14am via Web
Wine: Chateau Simone Rosé 2011
From Franklywines $58.99
From the importer: This historic estate, situated in the hills just south of Aix-en-Provence, has been in the hands of the Rougier family for two centuries and holds a virtual monopoly on the appellation of Palette. I have admired the wines of Château Simone and have followed the evolution of this domaine over the years. Now, many years after my initial introduction (1981) to the Rougiers, we have been asked to marry our work to theirs. It is our privilege to do so.
Château Simone encompasses twenty hectares of vineyards that sit on limestone soils at elevations between 500 and 750 feet above sea level on the slopes of Montaiguet. The special microclimate of this appellation is influenced by the encircling pine forests, the mass of Mont Sainte-Victoire, and the Arc River. The vineyards were reconstituted after the invasion of phylloxera and many vines are over a century old. The Rougiers maintain the particular vinification methods developed and cherished over many decades. For those of you who are not familiar with these wines, whether rouge, blanc or rosé, we believe you will find them to be compelling and unique.
All of the grapes are hand harvested, destemmed, lightly pressed and fermented for 15 to 20 days in small wooden vats with only wild yeast, then put into small foudre to rest on the lees. The white is predominantly Clairette, with small amounts of Grenache Blanc and Ugni Blanc, and a dash of Bourboulenc, Muscat Blanc, Picpoul, Furmint and Sémillon. Fermentation takes place at a relatively warm 68 degrees and aged for one year in 20–30 hl casks then one year in older barrels. The red from Simone is an elegant yet well-constituted wine of great depth. It is primarily composed of Grenache and Mourvèdre but its special character reflects the presence of a mélange other grape varieties, albeit in small proportion, including Cinsault, Syrah, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Castet, Manosquin, Théoulier, Tibouren, Picpoul Noir and Muscat de Hambourg. (The rosé is the exact same blend) Bottled after 18–24 months of aging in foudres and one year or more in aged barrique, it is assembled without filtration. The wine is a classic that deserves to be aged in order to best appreciate its many nuances: plum, pine resin, cinnamon, truffle and spice among other sensations. We invite you to share our pleasure.
The Château Simone Rosé is a wine that belies the notion that rosés are simple wines to be drunk up young. We have indulged ourselves with 10-year old Château Simone Rosé and have marveled at the tenacity, vibrancy and complexity of this very serious wine. The blend is identical to the rouge: 45% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault, 20% Syrah, Castet, Manosquin, Carignan, Muscat Noir & Blanc. Aged in barrel, it is powerful and age-worthy with a steely character and a grey-tinted aura to the faded rose-petal robe. We import, on average, 1500 bottles per annum for the US market.
I say: One of my most expensive wines of the Tour. In contrast to the Corsican rosé I had earlier in the Tour, this wine looks almost like cranberry juice and there is lots going on in the glass. Very full-bodied, with raspberries, citrus and herbs. Visiting friend: "You could drink this with something heavy. It reminds me of a red but it has a thinner texture and more citrus." A really fascinating wine.