Stage 12: Lannemezan - Plateau de Beille
More mountains. Loads of 'em. Our last day in the Pyrenees.
About Lannemezan and Plateau de Beille
Last time to Tour visited Plateau de Beille, in 2011, it also started in Lannemezan, of which the only thing of note I can find is that it has its own special cake, known as the Gateau des Bandouliers, not that I want to take Amy's job. Plateau du Beille has been a stage finish of the Tour de France five times, and four of those times the winner has won the Tour.
AmyBC's food and drink pairings:
Drink: Cazottes has become a yearly Tour tradition for me. Two years ado, it was his Wild Cherry. Last year, plum. So this year, the fruity and floral: Sweet White Elderberry. My friend Christy at Franklywines, had this to say about him "Authenticity Mercenary" Laurent Cazottes is on a mission - he revived vineyards planted in the 1970s, returned to specific cultivation and distilling techniques traditional to French master practices and set about a life among the orchards and vines in the tiny village of Albi. Using fruit from his organic orchard in the Albi area of Languedoc, Laurent distils eaux-de-vie and liqueurs with an unparalleled elegance and aroma. These elixirs have caught the attention of New Yorkers and some of the world's great chefs. Until Nicolas Palazzi started importing these lovely bottles, they could really only be found at the world’s top restaurants. Pierre Gagnaire, the renowned Grand Vefour and a host of others have honored his unwavering dedication to each "noble" essence. Surrounded by greengages, quince, cherries plums and a host of flowers, Laurent monitors all from his home and garden at the center of the domaine's orchards. It’s basically his garden in these bottles. And we’re happy it’s no longer a secret."
Food: Le Tour tells me that Croustades are a specialty of Plateau de Beille. So for us, Petite Croustades: If you have glanced around the blog, you may have seen that we are participating inTuesdays with Dorie. So when I needed a croustade recipe, I turned to Dorie Greenspan and her Baking Chez Moi. She describes them as a pastry that straddles the line between tarts and pastries. She also chooses to make smaller versions in a muffin tin, essentially making pouches with phyllo dough and butter before filling them with apples. We used peaches and nectarines instead.
Will's preview says:
Expect lots of comparisons between Plateau de Beille and Alpe d'Huez as they share similar statistics. Plateau de Beille is a touch longer, with more ascent, but far less developed than it's more famous Alps cousin.
This will be the 6th appearance of Plateau de Beille in the Tour. Pantani won the first stage here in '98. Mr. Armstrong won twice ('02, '04). Alberto Contador won here in '07 eventually winning the Tour that year - wow eight years ago? And Jelle Vanenert in '11. Note, early in the stage, the route will climb Col de Portet d'Aspet, passing the Casartelli monument. In 1995 the Italian cyclist - and Olympic Gold medalist - Fabio Casartelli crashed and tragically died here during the 1995 Tour.
Penultimate climb, the Port de Lers
Plateau du Beille:
There's a bit of a valley between all the climbs, which means that I suspect most of the action will be on the last climb. Plateau du Beille is one of my favourite climbs in the Tour, longer and steeper than several other climbs that tend to get in more often. The fastest time up it was set by Marco Pantani in 1998, 43:28. The three climbs beforehand will toughen up the race, but I don't expect to see any real attacks until Plateau du Beille. It is very slghtly more difficult as La Pierre St. Martin, though more regular. Oh, and 31 degrees celsius expected.
Just a big a stage for this as stages 10 and 11, though unlike the last summit finish, we have everyone three minutes behind Froome. Contador has happy memories of Plateau du Beille after his 2007 victory. I can't see the jersey changing hands, but Froome will be on the lookout.
Sagan had a great intermediate sprint and is back in green by seven points. He'll probably keep it in the intermediate.
King of the Mountains
If this is to remain a competition, I would like a break to win. With 75 points available, and 50 to the stage winner, Froome could sew up the competition just by winning the stage. Dan Martin and Pierre Rolland will try to get some points, but if Froome wants the jersey, there's not much he has to do.
Quintana, Quintana, Quintana.
Who'll win? Not Nibali. Not Péraud. Not Pinot. No one on last year's podium. The only one of the GC contenders who can challenge Froome is Quintana, though I don't expect Contador to be so far back. Froome may not risk so much with such a large buffer, though if it's all together at the start of the climb, he's the only one I see winning. I expect (and hope) to see Gesink up there as well. From the break, I would expect Pierre Rolland to have a go at this. I expected him to be in the break on stage 11, but he must be in it on stage 12, after his good form on stage 10. Dan Martin may be another pick for a high finishing position. Oh, and I expect Gallopin to finally crack.
Pick to win: Chris Froome
Wildcard: Pierre Rolland