Stage 11: Pau -- Cauterets/Valle de Saint-Sevin, 188km
Finally! A stage beginning in a town that doesn't end in -es! Hopefully things will be different now.
About Pau And Cauterets
Pau is the capital of the Béarnais region, and notable these days largely for being the city that draws the Tour de France more than any other, besides Paris and Bordeaux. Do they even have to pay for the Tour to drop by? It's one of very few towns available to host the start of Pyrénéan stages -- e.g. big enough to have adequate hotel space, small enough to get in and out of with ease.
Cauterets is a spa town nestled among the highest peaks in the region. Saint-Sevin was the name of a monk named Sabinus, from Barcelona, who moved into the area and performed "miracles" like finding water where there didn't appear to be any and conjuring up milk from thin air to feed starving children. Like the saying goes, 75% of sainthood is just showing up.
AmyBC's food and drink pairings:
Drink: Wine, finally! and why not start with something slightly sweet? Millet Gros Manseng Moelleux 2012
From the producer:
100 % gros manseng Vinification: This variety is harvested as soon as it is ripe (not over ripe), once the must reaches 14 degrees. The slow fermentation stops when the must gets to 12.5%. There is a residual sugar naturally present that added to the fact that it is conserved on the fine lees, gives this wine fatness and structure.
Food: Time for a second sheep's milk cheese, this one a bit more available: Petit Basque
From Janet Fletcher in The San Francisco Chronicle:
"The cheese debuted only in 1997, created by the French dairy giant Lactalis, and its enormous success -- most cheese counters stock it -- testifies to its broad appeal. Lactalis exports about 400,000 pounds a year of P'tit Basque, half of that to the United States. . . . As its name implies, P'tit Basque is a diminutive cheese, much smaller than most wheels of aged sheep's milk cheese. The petite cylinder stands about 3 inches tall and weighs about 1 1/4 pounds. It's made with pasteurized sheep's milk and aged about 70 days, whereas Manchego, weighing perhaps 6 pounds, might be aged six months or longer."
Will's preview covers it best:
No Aubisque this year, but the usual visits to Col d'Aspin (72nd appearance) and Col du Tourmalet (84th appearance). In recent years Tourmalet has often seemed wasted mid-stage with an easy finish. But this year, it may be more relevant.
Col d'Aspin is beautiful and an excellent Cow Col. Then they'll be climbing the less scenic, Mongie-scarred, side of Col du Tourmalet through the ski slopes. After listening to Phil and Paul recount the usual Eugène Christophe forge story as the climb starts near St-Marie-de-Campan get ready for a tough second half, consistently between 8% and 10%. The first rider over the summit will win the prix Souvenir Jacques Goddet - as this is the highest point in the Pyrénées. There is a bust of the former Tour de France Director at the summit.
Col du Tourmalet, via La Mongie:
And the map:
No monkeying around today, it's straight into the heart of the mountains.
An all-around hard day, with a slightly longer route compared to stage 10, and a lot more climbing involved, including the highest point in the Pyrénées, the Col du Tourmalet. The profile, for once, is quite interesting as it calls for a completely different approach to the race. Nobody wants to leave it all on the Tourmalet, with 40km remaining in the stage, but it's 1500 vertical meters of descending, followed by the cat-3 Cote de Cauterets, a slope that shouldn't sort out much. Well, shouldn't doesn't mean won't; it is, after all, a climb to the finish line.
If Le Tour were designing a course to benefit Nairo Quintana, they haven't done a very good job of it. This stage favors excellence in bike handling and the ability to power up a modest slope, both skills one can attribute to others over Quintana. Overall leader Chris Froome should like the finale, and see it as a place to do a solo time trial to greater glory, as long as nobody can shake him on the Tourmalet.
André Greipel is back in the lead, nabbing a few points from Peter Sagan, who will ride (for once) in a normal team kit, or at least the Slovakian champion's version. But this stage could tip the battle back into Sagan's handsm with the intermediate sprint coming after the Cat-3 Cote de Bagneres-de-Bigorre.
King of the Mountains
Richie Porte will keep it warm for Froome, but the real story of this stage is that we should finally see a KOM competition emerge in earnest. The Tourmalet's distance from the line means the favorites will allow riders up the road as they contest the Souvenir Jacques Goddet, worth €5000 as well as 25 points. Of course, the only people within 25 points of Froome are his fellow GC contenders, but even if a KOM peloton doesn't take the jersey, they'll come close enough for us to identify them.
Quintana should have this in the bag, as long as he maintains his riding. Only Warren Barguil (+3.03) is within ten minutes of the Colombian ace.
Weird one. It should come down to who likes small climbs at the end of a hard day, and who isn't daunted by long descents. The possibility of a breakaway succeeding is significant, which means all bets are off. If not, I personally like Alejandro Valverde for the stage win, though Froome could just extend his dominance further if he chooses.