Where are we? In the la Manche department of Normandy traveling 188 kilometers from Mont-Saint Michel to Utah Beach, Sainte-Marie-du-Mont.
Mont St. Michel, from the local tourist site: UNESCO has classed the Mont Saint-Michel as a world heritage in 1979 and this mecca of tourism welcomes more than 2.5 million visitors a year. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches built and consecrated a small church on the 16th October 709. In 966 a community of Benedictines settled on the rock at the request of the Duke of Normandy and the pre-Romanesque church was built before the year one thousand. In the 11th century, the Romanesque abbey church was founded over a set of crypts where the rock comes to an apex, and the first monastery buildings were built up against its north wall. In the 12th century, the Romanesque monastery buildings were extended to the west and south. In the 13th century, a donation by the king of France, Philip Augustus,in the wake of his conquest of Normandy, enabled a start to be made on the Gothic section of the "Merveille ": two three-storey buildings, crowned by the cloister and the refectory. In the 14th century, the Hundred Years War made it necessary to protect the abbey behind a set of military constructions, enabling it to hold out against a siege lasting 30 years. In the 15th century, the Romanesque chancel of the abbey church, broken down in 1421 was replaced by the Gothic Flamboyant chancel. The Abbey was turned into a prison during the days of the French Revolution and Empire, and needed to be restored before the end of the 19th century. With the celebration of the monastic's 1000th anniversary, in the year 1966 a religious community moved back to what used to be the abbatial dwellings. Friars and sisters from "Les Fraternités Monastiques de Jerusalem" have been ensuring a spiritual presence since the year 2001.
LeTour Specialities: Salt meadow lamb, calvados, cider, seafood, Mère Poulard omelette, Louise Bonne d'Avranches (type of pear).
Utah Beach, Sainte-Marie-du-Mont Utah Beach was, of course, one of the D-Day landing sites. From Dday.org: Overlord was the largest air, land, and sea operation undertaken before or since June 6, 1944. The landing included over 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes, and over 150,000 service men. After years of meticulous planning and seemingly endless training, for the Allied Forces, it all came down to this: The boat ramp goes down, then jump, swim, run, and crawl to the cliffs. Many of the first young men (most not yet 20 years old) entered the surf carrying eighty pounds of equipment. They faced over 200 yards of beach before reaching the first natural feature offering any protection. Blanketed by small-arms fire and bracketed by artillery, they found themselves in hell. When it was over, the Allied Forces had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties; more than 4,000 were dead. More at UtahBeach.com.
LeTourSpecialities: Seafood, shellfish (famous oyster farms and farmed mussels), part of the AOC Isigny Sainte-Mère geographical area (butter, cheese, cream), cider, apple juice, Dupont d'Isigny caramels at Carentan
From LeTour.com: Christian Prudhomme, the Tour general director says:
The Mont-Saint-Michel! Who could have dreamt of a more spectacular GrandDépart to a Tour de France under the sign of aesthetics? From there, it'll be a rather smooth start: flat terrain on all the stage. At the finish, the riders will have a meeting with history, arriving at Utah Beach, one of the beaches chosen on the 6th of June 1944 for the D-Day Landing operations. The sprinters should have the final word.
The stage: 198 riders are off and on their way. Our first break of the tour features Voss, Howard, Howes, Barta and Delalplace. Forty kilometers in and they had over 3 minutes. It would be surprising if that lead were to balloon, as a sprint finish is likely in the cards today and their teams won't want to let the break go to far up the road.
Paul Voss 1er au sommet de la Côte d'Avranches / Paul Voss 1st at the Côte d'Avranches #Maillotapois #TDF2016 pic.twitter.com/db3leQm374— Le Tour de France (@LeTour) July 2, 2016
With more than 100 kilometers to go, it has been a quiet day so far, which is exactly what the sprinters would like. Suddenly, crosswinds and some action, with a small group off the back. All of the expected gc riders and sprinters were in the main bunch. Contador crash! Back up quickly, but it looked like he fell hard on his shoulder. Geraint Thomas wheel change as well. Ahead, the peloton appeared to slow and they would make it back, though Contador would both change his shoe and spend a lot of time at the medical car.
Sixty kilometers to go and the gap to the break was holding under one minute with Howes and Delaplace together out front.
Cow field art!
Oh, and here are the jersey cows as well! https://t.co/j0sglW31dj— LesVaches DuTour (@lesvachesdutour) July 2, 2016
Thirty kilometers to go and the gap to the two ahead was only ten seconds. Twenty five kilometers to go and the gap was back up to twenty five seconds.
Les équipes de sprinteurs occupent toute la chaussée / Sprinters teams already in position #TDF2016 pic.twitter.com/8Ltpmgow2J— Le Tour de France (@LeTour) July 2, 2016
Ahead, the two breakaway riders were taking turns attacking each other. Fifteen kilometers and still twenty five seconds. Ten kilometers and nineteen seconds. Is this a good time to mention the Greipel tour video?
And there was the expected crash followed by the finish I was hoping for. Cav!!!!!!
Stage and Yellow: Mark Cavendish
Wine: Domaine de la Minotiere Brut Cidre
From the importer: Domaine de la Minotiere is a small 15-hectare single domaine of cidre orchards cultivated under 100% organic certification. The specialty is traditional farmhouse cidre produced both in a dry (Brut) and sweet (Doux) style. The Domaine de la Minotiere owns a long tradition and elaboration of farmhouse cider coming from the fruit of its orchards, in a place called the "Golden Triangle" - known to be the best area to produce cider. The orchards contains a variety of apple trees (Binet rouge, Bisquet, Noeldes champs, Clos renaux, Petit jaune, Peau de chien) producing multiple kinds of fruit flavors such as sweet, bitter or acidulous. The cidery follows the Organic chart for all operations. Manually sorting out apples and pressing at a very slow process called “presseà paquet” which is the traditional way in Normandy.
I say: Crisp and slightly funky. Some ciders make me think of wine, some of beer. This falls in the beer camp. Apple and lemon peel.
Food: Teurguole Rice pudding! The name apparently comes from the Norman language and means twist mouth, a reference to the faces supposedly pulled by someone tasting it due to the spiciness of the dish. There is even a regional brotherhood dedicated to the dish, with an annual contest. It is a very simple dish: rice, milk, cream, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla, baked in an a relatively low oven for many hours. We used this recipe. The crust darkens, while the interior remains creamy.