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Stage 15 Preview: Kicking the Can Down the Road

Stage 15: Mende -- Valence, 183km

Which way to the Alps? Are we there yet?

About Mende and the Drôme Region

Short one today... Mende is a medium sized village built around a dramatic cathedral, known for its mismatching twin towers. One is a bell tower, the other I dunno, but it's very striking looking, as you can see above. The area is a gateway to the Causes and Cévennes world heritage site, where agricultural practices date back 3000 years.

Valence is back down closer to sea level, but the Drôme region is surrounded by the high Alps Departments of France. It won't be long now...

AmyBC's food and drink pairings:

Wine: Hervé Souhaut created Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet in 1993. Hervé works 5 hectares of old and ancient vines—between 50 to 100 years-old. He is very fortunate to own two vineyards in the Rhône Valley just opposite the storied hills of Hermitage in Saint Joseph. This region is widely recognized as being one of the finest areas for wine production on the planet; thanks in part to its elevation, ancient vineyard sites and the southeastern and southern exposures.

The domaine is located further into the hills of the Northern Ardeche in the tiny town of Arlebosc, about a 30 minute drive from St Joseph, winding through the hills. The winery is underneath the 16th century "les romaneaux" fortified farm and sits in the middle of the vines that make up the souteronne, syrah, and white cuvées. Hervé works with entirely whole grape bunches and semi-carbonic maceration.

His philosophy is to extract a delicate balance of tannins from the grapes, to make a wine with subtlety and finesse. This stands in contrast to many of the storied wines of the Northern Rhone, that are made with much more extraction of tannin, designed to be practically undrinkable in youth and soften and open with time. Hervé prefers to make a wine that is drinkable right away, but we must say his wines have such a fantastic level of purity and acidity, that the older bottles we have tasted have incredible potential to evolve into what we find to be one of the most spectacular natural wines in existence. :70% Viognier, 30%Roussanne—10 year-old non-cloned vines.

Vinification Method: Grapes are hand-harvested and undergo a very long maceration at a low temperature—without destemming the fruit. The wine is fermented in wooden tanks and aged on fine lees in second-hand oak casks for eight months. The wine is bottled without filtration. Total SO2 is only 25mg/L.

Tasting Note: Golden straw in the glass with lovely scents of white flowers, tropical fruit, wet stones and notes of oak. The palate is supple with loads of pear and fig flavors that are backed by elegant mineral notes. Moderate acidity, apple preserves and a warm note of oak lingers on the finish. I say: I've very much been looking forward to this one. Very aromatic. Flowers, fruit and minerals indeed. Both rich and slightly oily, but with plenty of acid. I was not disappointed.

Food: We are making aligot. The local tourist website shared this recipe:

Aligot Serves 6 :

Ingredients * 1 kg of floury potatoes * 100 g of butter * 250 g of creme fraiche * 400 g of tome fraîche de Laguiole * clove of garlic * Salt pepper

Cook: Prepare a classic mash potatoes, add to this purée the butter and the creme fraiche. Season with salt, pepper and a hint of garlic. Heat up the mash and add the cheese cut in small strips, then stir slowly with a wooden spoon. (This takes a little while and is very good arm exercise!) When the mixture becomes stringy the Aligot is ready!

Stage Details

It's a downhill stage. That's going to be decided by the uphill, to some degree.

Stage 15 profile

Want a map?

Stage 15 map

Purely transitional stage, but

Course Analysis

A bit of an amuse-bouche stage, heading in the direction of the final rest day (which isn't til Tuesday). The race leaves the rolling hills of Languedoc-Rousillon behind for a lowland finish and a place to chill out while waiting for all those shoes to drop next week. It's a good idea, since we are in for one of the most difficult third weeks of a Tour we've seen in a while.

But here, I think you can expect a breakaway to succeed. As I write this, stage 14 hasn't happened yet, but my hunch is that the GC riders will wind up having a say, and some of the less-well-placed climbers will see Saturday as a chance for a stage win. That means Sunday will really be left to whoever still hasn't had any satisfaction. The sprint teams won't do much about it, except Sagan's Tinkoff-Saxo squad, maybe -- if the break is close enough to reel in. It'll be time for the breakaway to get one.

If I'm right about that, it's probably time to shut up, because predicting the contents of a breakaway requires eerie powers.


General Classification

Maillot Jaune Tour

One to take off. There won't be many more chances to relax during a race so why miss this one?

Points Competition

Maillot Vert

Big trouble brewing for André Greipel here, if Peter Sagan can get over the Côte de l'Escrinet and Greipel cannot. Sagan may not win the stage, if Friday is any indicator, but secondary points will go a long way here. Greipel, meanwhile, has stayed in contention by winning intermediate sprints, and he'll have a chance to do so again, or at least to take the top score of the peloton. But he needs someone to take the stage win away from Sagan for it to matter.

King of the Mountains

Maillot a Pois

There is a cat-2, a 3 and two 4s on the course. Such points aren't enough to get anyone interested. Except maybe J-Rod, who trails Froome by nine points and may have given up on a top GC place.

Young Rider

Maillot Blanc

Not much of a competition anymore.

Stage Favorites

Another tough call. I'm sticking with the break taking it. And from the break I'll pick... Jerome Coppel!