Where are we? Leaving France for Spain and Andorra! Heading 184 kilometers from Vielha Val d'Aran to Andorre Arcalis.
Vielha Val d'Aran A first time stage site and the capital of the Comarca de Val d'Aran in the Lerida Province. The regional tourist website tells me that Vielha, the capital of Val d’Aran, is a small Pyrenean city with approximately 4000 inhabitants and it is located at 974 meters above sea level. It is surrounded by peaks over 2000 meters. The village is built along the Garona River, at the point where both the Garona and Nere rivers meet.
The Sant Miquel church is dedicated to this saint, who was also a prince. It is in the center of Vielha next to the arcades of the Town Hall, the Tourist Office and the Post Office. Inside the church the valuable Christ of Mijaran is conserved. It is believed that this wooden bust of Christ was part of the scene of the Descent from the Cross, that would have been destroyed and only this portion remains. It dates back to the 12th century and was made by one of the masters of the Erill Workshop, who developed the Romanesque Lombard style in the nearby valley, Vall de Boí. The Gothic and Baroque paintings within the church are other treasures the visitors should not miss. The exterior of the church is noteworthy given its impressive octogonal bell tower and slender belfry with slate shingles, so typical of Val d’Aran.
LeTour Specialities: Olha aranesa (mountain stew), anditos (sausages), crespets (fritters)
Andorre Arcalis This is the Tour's second visit here. Andorra is a tiny (468 sq. km) independent state located between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains. It’s known for its ski resorts, and a tax-haven status that encourages duty-free shopping. The official and historic language is Catalan.
Ski Andorra tells me that Arcalis is the gem of Andorra – a site favoured by nature, ideal for gliding among the trees and beautiful landscapes. Its steep slopes, spectacular valleys, altitude and the fact that it is north-facing, make it the most alpine sector of Andorra. Here is the best snow, fabulous and easily reached freeride areas, as well as the longest run for beginners in the Principality – the Megaverde ( 8 km long). In Arcalis, the Family Park offers three theme circuits for kids named Agustina, Max and Leo the teddy-bear, after Vallnord figures known to children. There is also a speed ride school, a snowmobile circuit and excursions are proposed in a tracked vehicle or on snow-shoes. A bonus for visitors: WIFI connection is available throughout the sector.
LeTour Speciality: Brown trout
From LeTour: Christian Prudhomme's comment
The five climbs of the day are scattered between the Spanish and Andorran territories. In the final 50 kilometres, one will have to cope with the explosive climb to the Col de la Comella, then the rather irregular one to Beixalis that left rather bad memories to Christopher Froome on the last Vuelta, and finally the long climb to Arcalis.
The stage: So much early excitement. I woke up to this:
🚗🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴 Contador, Valverde, Pinot, Majka <1'10"> 🚗🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚴🚗 #TDF2016— Le Tour de France (@LeTour) July 10, 2016
But even as I was orienting myself, that had changed as Contador was dropped from that lead group. Behind, numerous riders were dropped from the main peloton and mark Renshaw abandoned the race due to illness. The revised break consisted of: Alejandro Valverde, Winner Anacona, Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Diego Rosa, Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Rafal Majka, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R-LaMondiale), George Bennett (Lotto-Jumbo), Mathias Frank, Stef Clement, Jérôme Coppel (IAM), Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data), Tom Dumoulin (Giant), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Rui Costa, Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida), Thomas De Gendt, Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), Dani Navarro, Nicolas Edet (Cofidis). However, they did not get a large gap.
Valverde though, would fall back to the yellow jersey group, which may allow the break some more rope. Sure enough, it looked like with Valverde gone, Sky would allow the break more time. 125 kilometers to go and they had about two minutes. As the camera tracks his every move, word that Contador has both a fever and digestive issues and a discussion as to whether or not her should abandon the race. 113 kilometers to go and 4 minutes for the break.
6' pour l'échappée, 100km à parcourir / The break leads with a 6' gap with 100km to go #TDF2016 pic.twitter.com/7tkseXzbHv— Le Tour de France (@LeTour) July 10, 2016
And then Contador abandoned.
The last 50km today sees the explosive Côte de la Comella, tricky Col de Beixalis & long Andorre Arcalis. #TDF2016 pic.twitter.com/6kUnPLrrIz— Le Tour de France UK (@letour_uk) July 10, 2016
Another abandonment: Cedric Pineau.
60 kilometers to go and the gap to the break had shot up to 8 minutes. 50 kilometers to go, they had reached Andorra and the gap was up to ten minutes. In that group, Peter Sagan took the maximum points at the intermediate sprint, climbing closer to Mark Cavendish in the green jersey competition.
35 kilometers to go and DeGendt was alone at the front of the break. Behind, the leaders peleton was down to around 50 riders and shrinking. DeGendt would completely crack and would be caught and dropped.
#TDF2016 8 leaders, @Natnaelb2 +4'12".— Team Dimension Data (@TeamDiData) July 10, 2016
Yellow jersey group +8'28".@MarkCavendish grupetto +16'48".
28km to go.
With 18 kilometers to go there were just over riders left in the yellow jersey group, including 6 from Sky. Would Quintana attack? Meanwhile, a weather update: rain! Up front, the break continued to attack each other. Dumoulin jumped out and got a gap. Could he stay away? Yikes, a spectator leaned into the road and was hit by George Bennett. Bennett continued riding, no news on the fan.
George Bennett's bodycheck worthy of the All Blacks pic.twitter.com/WS7SM3yUcn— the Inner Ring (@inrng) July 10, 2016
Hail at the finish! 7.5 kilometers to go and the peloton had hit the final climb. Would we see an attack? 5 kilometers left for the group at the front and Dumoulin had forty seconds over Costa and Majka. Attacks from Henao at the front of the yellow jersey group is shrinking the yellow jersey group even more. Eventually Froome, followed by Quintana. Porte bridged and attacked. Some regrouping though.
Porte, Froome, Martin, Quintana and Yates were riding together, but they did not get a true gap. Way ahead, Dumoulin would take the stage followed by Costa and Majka. Still behind, Martin, Yates, Froome, Quintana, Porte continued to accelerate. Gaps would eventually open behind them. The big losers on the day: Aru and Van Garderen.
Stage: Tom Dumoulin
Wine: Recaredo Brut Nature Gran Reserva Cava 2006
From the importer: Josep Mata Capellades founded Cavas Recaredo in 1924, naming the domaine in honor of his father, Recaredo Mata Figueres. Josep Mata Capellades built the cellars in his house, in the historic centre of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. Parts of the cellars are now over 80 years old and have been conserved in their original form. Recaredo is a pioneer in the production of totally dry cavas, in working with oak barrels and in longer-aged cavas. Cavas Recaredo is currently managed by Josep and Antoni Mata Casanovas, the sons of its founder, with Ton Mata actively involved and representing the succeeding generation.
Complex and mineral. Much more going on here than the other Cavas that I have had.
Food: Bayonne Ham
I admit it, Andorra was tricky. So how about some ham?
Bayonne Ham or Jambon de Bayonne is a cured ham that takes its name from the ancient port city of Bayonne in the far South West of France, a city located in both the cultural regions of Basque Country and Gascony.
I think the festival sounds fun: "All of the judges are artisan Bayonne ham producers, each with a long family history of charcuterie. They are joined by the members of La Confrèrie du Jambon de Bayonne — the keepers of the ham standards — a dozen men and women wearing long red velvet capes adorned with gold braid and medals, red white and green satin berets and sashes. Evidently, not much has changed in decades."