Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bastille Day! Wine and Food of the Tour 2015 Stage 10: Zapiain Sagardoa Cider & Abbaye de Belloc Cheese

Stage 10: 167km
Tarbes / La Pierre-Saint-Martin

Tarbes: From Michelin: Tarbes, home country of the central Pyrenees, began to grown in the 19C thanks to its fairs and markets and to the industries created after 1870. It has been the capital of the Bigorre since the 9C. Tarbes also benefits from the nearby ski resorts. Tarbes is known as the city of the horse, thanks to its national stud farm, cradle of the "tarbais", a horse appreciated by the hussar regiments. They settled in this town in 1963.
Specialities: Tarbes beans, black Bigorre pork, Madiran and Jurançon wines

La Pierre-Saint-Martin: From the ski town's website: Between Béarn and the Spanish Pyrenees, La Pierre Saint-Martin ski station is strictly for families. At between 1,500m and 2,200m altitude, the ski resort provides perfect conditions for novice skiers who, apart from skiing, can also enjoy all sorts of activities such as tobogganing, snow shoeing, mountain biking and scooter riding on the snow, snow tubing and the big airbag.  On the programme – snow sports and fun! At the foot of the slopes, the village, with its authentic chalets in the heart of a pine forest awaits you for an idyllic holiday.
Specialities: Haut-Barétous trout, garbure (ham and cabbage stew), honey, Aramits cheeses, Jurançon

The stage: Christian Prudhomme's comment
After a well-deserved rest day, the change of scenery will be especially contrasted. The finish will be decided on a newcoming site, at La Pierre-Saint-Martin in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques area. The final ascent is demanding: the favourites of the Tour will be on the first lines, especially before the Col de Soudet where the climb is the steepest.

Rest day number one is done and it is time to climb. As always, the rest day brought with it all sorts of news, including the very sad news that Ivan Basso has had to withdraw from the race following a diagnosis of testicular cancer. Read more about that here and if you have a chance, take a look at his briefy press announcement. His composure, just a few hours after receiving the diagnosis is impressive.  He will have surgery tomorrow.
 On the road, it is time now to climb. And climb they will do for most of the next two weeks. Normally on Bastille Day there might be a breakaway and French riders hoping for a stage win, but the stage profile today suggests that it will end up a battle for the gc riders. Time will tell. Our surprisingly small break of the day consists of Pierrick Fédrigo and Kenneth Van Bilsen. 
I'm actually slightly bothered that one of the bikes is not yellow:

A crash and Warren Barguil, perhaps the last French gc hope, was down in the feed zone and not looking good at all. He did however get back on his bike and would chase back on. Mechanical for Mark Cavendish. You can read his blog post on the first part of the race and what is to come here.  Forty-five kilometers to go and the gap to the break was at 9:18. Time for the intermediate sprint. The winner: Andre Greipel., who would go back into the green jersey tonight. That done, probably grupetto time for the sprinters.
After the hacking stories of yesterday:

Thirty two kilometers to go and the gap to the break was down to six minutes. Meanwhile, it was all commercials, all the time on NBCSN as they prepared for their commercial-free period. These cows were not amused:
More commercials even:
Apparently the race was still going on:

And look at that, finally, bikes reappeared on the tv, just as they started to climb. There was that grupetto, as expected, but with a few unexpected members including Hesjedal. 

As they climbed, more surprising dropped riders and they were dropping quickly including Talanksy, Bardet, Peraud, and Pinot. This peloton would be very small, very soon. Ahead, Gesink attacked. Eleven kilometers to go and he was in the lead. Ouch and there went Nibali and Uran. 

Still glued to Froome's wheel: Tejan van Garderen. 

And then with about eight kilometers to go, an attack from Valverde. The peloton, with Geraint Thomas at the front, would chase him down. Geraint Thomas has really been having an incredible Tour so far. Wow, Contador in trouble. At the front, Porte, Froome and Quintana with six kilometers left to climb. Froome would attack that group and gain time over Quintana right away. 

According to time check, Nibali was around three minutes behind. 

Coming in alone and with a lot of time, Chris Froome wins the stage. Next up, Richie Porte followed by Quintana. That sure seemed like a decisive stage. But there are many more mountain days to come, so perhaps there will be a challenge to Froome. Perhaps.



Zapiain Sagardoa Natural Cider NV
From FranklyWines  $10.99

This cider is made in the Basque Country, where cider is king and is served with everything. This is a softer, easier style of Basque cider but with the typical iron note so common to the region.

From the producer: Gipuzkoa has been a major producer of apples used for transformation. The native varieties can be considered a cultural asset and the basis for making cider with its own personality.
We are currently self-sufficient in terms of raw materials, to the extent that each season we give preference to quality native apples and meet our remaining needs with cider apples from other parts of Europe.
Zapiain, together with a further 12 cider houses, takes part in the “gorenak” project, in which we are committed to using quality native apples and are expecting results in the medium term.

I say:  Very pale yellow, slightly cloudy. Lightly carbonated. Slightly sour and kind of funky.

Food: Abbaye de Belloc cheese 
Two more days of cheese ahead and this was by far my favorite of the two.
Info about the cheese from Cowgirl Creamery:
Close to the sea in the foothills of the Pyrenees, the Abbaye de Belloc profits from an oceanic climate that has allowed a pastoral civilization to thrive for centuries. The abbey was inaugurated in 1875, and the Benedictine monks there began producing this cheese in the 1960s. The cheese is still made in an artisanal manner in the monastery, exclusively with milk from the red-headed Manech breed of ewes. The season's first cheeses are produced in December and aged for 3 or 4 months. The last cheeses of the season are produced in June and are typcially aged a little longer -- 9 or 10 months.
Abbaye de Belloc has a smooth, dense paste with a pleasing elasticity. It offers a concentrated flavor profile of nuts, brown butter and a caramel sweetness.

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