Where are we: Heading 195 kilometers from Leeds to Harrogate. Why, yes, like the Giro this year, Le Tour is starting abroad. And not just to challenge my wine picks. Starting abroad helps with increased international exposure for the sport and races, even if in this case, abroad is not very far at all.
Our start town is Leeds:From Leeds Trinity University: Since its first recorded mention in the Domesday Book of 1086, Leeds has been recognised as an important centre of trade for the Yorkshire region. From beginnings as a simple market town in Middle-Ages rural Britain Leeds had, by the Tudor period, established itself as an important merchant town, manufacturing woollen textiles, with continental trading links via the Humber Estuary. At one point as much as fifty percent of England’s total exports passed through Leeds.
My fine friends at Le Tour tell me that the regional specialties are: tea cake, ginger cake (The recipe here looks good).
Our finish town is Harrogate: From the city website: The Harrogate name can be found as far back as 1332 according to surviving documentary evidence. William Slingsby discovered the first Harrogate mineral well in 1571. Believing it to possess the same qualities as spa water, Tewit Well was likened to Belgium spa waters and was said to have health properties. Dr Bright dubbed Harrogate “The English Spa” in 1596.
By 1660, the town of Harrogate was expanding rapidly. Public bathing houses soon sprang up around the town. Doctors wrote about Harrogate waters and their health benefits, driving more people to seek medical cures in the town. People came from far and wide to bathe and drink the waters.
Specialities via Le Tour: Tea from Taylors of Harrogate
The route: Le Tour Preview: (A note about these previews: they are written well in advance of the race, so are a better look at what the race director had in mind, than at the actual action.)
The Tour de France will kick off with a road stage instead of a prologue, like in 2013, when its Corsican adventure started with Marcel Kittel pulling on the yellow jersey everyone expected to see on Mark Cavendish's back. The British sprinter is already plotting revenge. First of all, because the Grand Start will take place in Great Britain, on his home turf and in front of his home crowds. Second, because the stage finishes a stone's throw away from where his mother used to live. And finally, because pulling on the fabled jersey for the first time would fit in nicely with his numerous accomplishments. I think he is the odds-on favourite to take this stage with gorgeous landscapes and pancake-flat roads in the final 60 kilometres.
The race: So here we are again: The Tour. As delighted as I am with the fact that NBCSN is showing the complete stages today and tomorrow, 3 am is a hard time to wake up. But still, The Tour!
In case there is any doubt, I'm really hoping for a Mark Cavendish win today. Also, in case anyone is curious, my under-performing fantasy team is bringing a large contingent to the Tour this year: Adam Hansen, Alessandro Petacchi, Bernhard Eisel, Geraint Thomas, Gregory Henderson, Jens! Voigt, Marcus Burghardt, Mark Cavendish, Mark Renshaw, Peter Stetina, Simon Gerrans, and Sylvain Chavanel.
Huge crowds along the roads in Yorkshire, though the "stop and see royalty" bit seems kind of strange. Plus, planes. On the other hand Kate's hair looks good.
The Duchess of Cambridge opens the Tour de France #TDF pic.twitter.com/NBeZI6BjiE
— Tour de José LIVE (@TourLive2014) July 5, 2014
Finally, the flag drops and off they go. The early break: Jens!, Edet and Jarrier. In Northern Ireland, we had pink sheep. Here, yellow. The Podium Cafe folks tell me that, by the way "They're Swales (black face & white eyes). Upland sheep like Swales keep their tails."
Spotted on part of #tourdefrance route - welcome to Yorkshire! pic.twitter.com/RGftQaKjmH
— Aileen Evans (@Bushbell) July 5, 2014
Also on display today: dry-stone walls. Meanwhile, with still over 100 kilometers to go, the break was about three minutes ahead. Jens Voigt takes the intermediate sprint at Newbiggin and kept going, solo. Behind, Coquard wins the field sprint for points. With 97km to go Voigt was solo by 5'14" on the peloton.
The crowds at the Buttertubs climb:
WOW, quelle foule !! Combien de fans d'après vous ? / WOW what a crowd!! How many fans ? #Merci @letouryorkshire #TDF pic.twitter.com/7PBtRZsSfc
— Le Tour de France (@letour) July 5, 2014
Ooh, following that climb, the peloton has split into several groups.
Peloton delays catch of Jens Luxury Yacht ‘cause they really don’t feel like hearing the same story about the war again.
— nyvelocity (@nyvelocity) July 5, 2014
But catch him they did with about 60 kilometers to go, but only after he had taken enough points to be in the King of the Mountains (KOM/polka dot) jersey tomorrow. 40 kilometers to go and the peloton was almost all together.
Excellent chalking skills:
maillot sheep #TdF pic.twitter.com/PAXjeuob17
— peloton magazine (@pelotonmagazine) July 5, 2014
If you remember last year's race, this is funny:
Tout est sous contrôle / Everything is under control #OGErocks @ORICA_GreenEDGE pic.twitter.com/oOaV5Vjmxx
— Le Tour de France (@letour) July 5, 2014
10 kilometers to go and the peloton remained all together. I was nervous. 3.7 kilometers to go and OPQS came to the front. Hey, look Fabian! Oh damn. A crash and Cav went down hard. This did not look good at all. On an initial viewing, it looked like a collarbone injury. More to come.
Stage and Yellow: Marcel Kittel
The wine: 2011 Ridgeview Sparkling Cavendish
From the producer:
In 1994 we planted our original site at the foot of the South Downs in Sussex. With advice from Epernay we selected 13 French clones of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier on three different rootstocks. This way we can emulate “l’assemblage” of the Champagne Houses that combine together the vintages of small vineyards, thereby creating imaginative blends.
Like the majority of Champagnes, Cavendish is a blend of all three varieties dominated by the red fruits of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
A lovely golden straw colour and exceptionally fine bubbles. The nose is full with hints of red fruits. The pinot dominance brings depth and complexity to the palate with a long lasting finish, whilst the Chardonnay adds finesse and freshness. On early release the Cavendish is quite fruit focussed but will continue to develop more complex biscuit and bready characteristics over time.
More here on sparkling wine in England from Eric Asimov in the New York Times Also here: "The sparkling wines from Ridgeview Estate near the Village of Ditchling, and from a handful of other producers, are superb and will forever put to rest the notion that England is not capable of making good wine."
I say: My wine choice today was really tempting fate. Because, really Cavendish. But how could I resist?
Very, very bubbly. Like as in pour really, really slowly bubbly.
Straw colored. Long finish. Pears, apples, , maybe some berries, salt. Is this the best sparkling wine I have ever had? No. But did I very much enjoy it? Yes.