But first, the race. La Vuelta is the third of the season's grand tours, following the Giro and the Tour de France. The year's route map is below:
What do we have?
Running from Saturday August 23rd to Sunday September 14th 2014, the Vuelta will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3239,9 kilometres.
5 flat stages
13 hill and mountain stages
1 team time trial stage
2 individual time trial stages
Distinctive aspects of the race12,6 kilometres team time trial stage
44,5 individual time trial stages
I'm going with "the gang's all here" as my theme for this year. Because, Vincenzo Nibali aside, essentially all of the top GC riders are here from Nairo Quintana to Alberto Contador to Chris Froome and many more. Not here, with a last minute withdrawal is defending champion Chris Horner, due to low cortisol levels apparently resulting from a Bronchitis treatment. You can check out the complete startlist here. I'll also suggest checking out Viewers' Guide to the 2014 Vuelta a España! For Indifferent Spanish Cycling Fans on Podium Cafe. Because, really, Chris is funnier than I am.
For our opening stage we have an oddly shaped 12.6 kilometer team time trial. Within those kilometers, 22 roundabouts!
If you are new here, I like team time trials, but not everyone agrees with me. I've explained team time trials before, here and here, in brief, in a TTT, each team rides together with the time taken as the fifth rider crosses the line. As they ride the course they take turns pulling on the front and then return to a place in line with their teammates. As I've also said before, a TTT rarely wins a Grand Tour for a rider, but a loss of time to rivals can be significant, though with a course this short, perhaps not as much as in other races.
Off they went, with MTN, the first team on course coming in at 14:42. Orica sets an early leading time of 14:19. Next in the lead, Cannondale, by less than one second. Coming in 3 seconds down, Trek. Perhaps their reported crash this morning slowed them down? Slow times for many teams today, with bigger gaps than expected. Sky in at provisional 8th. OPQS in at fourth. It was looking good for Cannondale. But at the end, Movistar, by six seconds.
The wines: Hidalgo Napoleon Amontillado
San Leon Manzanilla
Both from Frankly Wines
Since they are riding in Jerez, Sherry was the clear choice. And why not two to compare styles? After all, I am still searching for the Sherry that makes me say "Yes, I get it now."
About those styles:
Manzanilla is a variety of fino sherry. It is generally pale, delicate and salty.
In contrast, amontillado begins as a fino Sherry which contains around 13.5% alcohol. The cap of yeast though that makes a fino is the key to amontillado as well, however it is the inadequacy of such layer that makes the wine. Without this layer, the amontillado Sherry has to be fortified until it contains 17.5% alcohol, after which the Sherry is allowed to slowly oxidize in porous oak casks. The resulting Sherry is therefore darker in color and richer in flavor than a fino.
So what did I think?
As you can see on the left, as expected. the Sherries were very different in appearance.
The Manzanilla was a very pale yellow. It tasted both slightly bitter and salty. It was mild and easy to sip.
In contrast, the Amontillado was a much deeper, brown color. It was dry but full bodied with what we decided were non-sweet caramel notes. It also paired really well with the shrimp burrito I tried it with. As I said to a friend, it may very well prove to be my "gateway sherry." Which would be great, because I have felt for a long time now that I was missing out by not having developed a Sherry love. Thanks for encouraging me to keep trying Christy!