Stage 13: Muret - Rodez 198.5 km
In which we turn our attention into one of the classic elements of Tour de France route planning: "Which one of the 362 beautiful ways of getting from Pyrenees to Alps do we go with?"
About Muret and Rodez
Muret is a town that today is an outer suburb of the big city of Toulouse. Situated on the banks of the river Garonne it was a hotbed of feudal. Sitting right smack dab in the middle of the conflict between the Catholic church and the "heretic" cathars in the Middle Ages it was the scene of one of the deciding battles. And then nothing much happened of significance until modern times apparently. The Cathar wars are much of a feature of the entire stage as it passes through the beautiful Tarn region with fortified villages scattered across the landscape. Our finishing town Rodez is a town that appears to have spent much much of its early history being occupied by every marauding horde available, from visigoths via moors (moops?) to the English during the Hundred Years War. Most likely it is the last of these the French are least proud of and it might stir up bad memories as the Sky team-vehicle armada rolls triumphantly into town.
AmyBC's food and drink pairings:
La Ciaude Minervois: Anne Gros and Jean Paul Tollot, two winegrowers in Burgundy for over 20 years, have combined their expertise to serve the fine terroirs in Cazelles, in the Minervois. They say that "We chose Cazelles for the diversity of its soil, made of limestone, clay and sandstone, for the discovery of 4 main cepages (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault), for the quality and the wide age range of its vines, the privileged environment at the foot of the Black Mountain, its altitude of 220 metres (identical to Vosne- Romanée). " I say: Look for this one. Vibrant and rich. Lots of acidity with dark fruit and minerals.
I had trouble coming up with a recipe for this stage. Aligot is on tap for a future stage and I could not find an appealing recipe for pavé de Muret online. So, instead, I relied on the Aveyron tourist website for a recipe:
Recipe for fouace or fougasse: This very popular gateau is made right across the département.
Here is its recipe: mix together in a terrine 500g of flour, 100g of butter, 15g of yeast mixed in a few deciliters of milk, 3 eggs, perfume with a small glass of cognac and a few drops of orange flower water; soften with a little milk and leave the dough to rise for about 12 hours. Shape the dough into a circle on bettered baking paper, baste with a beaten egg using a small brush, sprinkle with sugar and cook on a low heat.
As written, it was pretty simple and slightly vague. First up, I subbed pommeau for the cognac simply because I had it on hand. I ended up letting the dough rise for a few hours before refrigerating it overnight. In the morning, I shaped it into a ring and allowed it to rise again before baking at 350 for about 25 to 30 minutes.
The verdict? Spoiler alert, but Pogne for Stage 16 is similar enough and more to my taste, so I'd make that one instead. That said, this dough is easy enough to make that it might be fun to experiment with a more savory version.
Transition-stage is such an ugly word but there you go. The GC men have had their fun and now they need a breather. Also we need to get the whole circus from playground A to playground B while throwing a bone to the riders who haven't had many chances so far. In short, this is a suitably hard course to give the breakaways a chance while simultaneous tempting the puncheur-led teams enough to turn it into a bit of a conflict. As "breathers" go it's a bit of a mockery as it's a hard hard grind with plenty of up and down and the infamously "heavy" roads of this inland, rural part of France as we move nearer to the Massif Central.
And the map:
Hard not to see this as a day for a hotly contested breakaway but in a TdF that offers fairly little for the fastmen you have to wonder if it won't tempt teams like Tinkoff and Giant (and Orica if they hadn't been crippled). Should they want to spend the energy the finish is sweet for their leaders and heaven knows Sagan and Degenkolb are hungry for it at this point. Making a sprint happen will be costly though in this terrain so will anyone actually have it in them? Should they make it the finale looks like this:
Transition stages mean no movement on the general classifications. If this is a breakaway day we could actually see some minor players catapult themselves back into the top 10-15 discussion though. That presupposes that there aren't teams willing to pull the race together for a chance at a stage win, and that may very well be the case.
This is the story of the day really and we should get some very good pointers on how this is going to end up from this stage. With a big enough breakaway the green action may be muted though with very few points on offer. The juiciest development would be Sagan and/or Degenkolb trying to get in the long breakaway themselves, a not entirely unlikely scenario actually. Especially for Sagan this should be tempting.
King of the Mountains
After the big hauls in the past few days today will be a restday for the polkadots. Three minor climbs that will do little to change the standings.
Much like the Yellow of course, virtual "restday"
Throw the numbers in a hat and pick one (not Tommy V please, even if we know 100% that he will be out there tongue-wagging his way to the front of the breakaway)? Maybe FDJ's Alexandre Geniez who is from Rodez, the finishing town of the stage, this could be just the ticket for a skilled climber like him, but not the real high mountains. In the end though I have the distinct feeling that Peter Sagan will find a way to take the win today.