Stage 16: Bourg-de-Péage -- Gap, 201km
Are we there yet? How about now?
22 times a stage town, it's the Alps' answer to Pau. From Gap you can start climbing in all directions. It's a town which dates back before recorded history; was a crossroads in the Roman era and is now connected to Valence by one of their roads; and even hosted the Knights Templar in the middle ages. Not too shabby!
AmyBC's food and drink pairings:
Drink: A grape I knew nothing about: Domaine Nicolas Gonin Persan 2012
From a great interview on the importer's website:
Paul: How much persan is there? Nicolas: The whole production of persan in Savoie and Isère is ten hectares divided among twenty producers. Nearly all of them are organic. In fact, fifteen years ago persan had nearly disappeared. There was just one old grower left near Grenoble. After that the Grisard brothers planted some. Michel Grisard made a selection, and I have his selection. Under the influence of Michel others in the Savoie began to plant it. You have Gilles Berlioz, etc. And now non-organic producers want to plant it, which is wonderful. So I guess that there will be more persan, but we will have to explain to the non-organic producers not to let yields get out of hand because persan can have hard acidity when yields are high. With that kind of grape, either you make outstanding wine or you make disgusting wine. There is no middle ground. Persan is also sensitive to mildew and black rot, which is why it was abandoned it in the sixties. Before WWII, without herbicides, yields were very low and people were picking very late. Disease was less prevalent because vineyards were less vigorous. When herbicides appeared, yields exploded, and people were forced to pick early. The grapes were not ripe and the wines were undrinkable. It was an era when people were looking for quantity. That era is over and we have come back to a qualitative approach. This is what makes the old grapes interesting again. Paul: So how much persan do you have? Nicolas: 0.8 hectares. (Smiling) I am one of the largest producers of persan in the world. The name of the hill is le Coteau de Choulin, but we are not allowed vineyard names in the IGP appellation, only in an AOC. Paul: That’s nuts too. I say: Very deep red. Light berries and plums, white pepper and earth with enough acid to make it an excellent food wine.
Food: Pogne de Romans
Time for some bread. in this case, a sweet brioche. We liked this recipe enough that I ended up buying the book it was from, Scook by Anne-Sophie Pic. The recipe was clear and easy. On day one you make a poolish out of yeast, flour and water that ferments in the fridge overnight. The next day you add more yeast, flour, sugar, salt. eggs, milk butter and orange flour water to the mixture and knead until it forms a ball. You then let rise for a few more hours before shaping it into a ring and letting it rise for a two more hours. Finally, you brush the top with beaten egg and sprinkle with course sugar. It then bakes at 350 for about 25 minutes. If you are very lucky, like I was, your daughter will deliver a still warm piece to you at work.
Another transitional matter, but on the heaviest roads of the last three. It's also the day before the rest day. Breakaways might be even more certain than stage 15, with a cat-2 climb separating out the sprinters and whoever is left racing off the Col de Manse into town. Thor Hushovd won a heroic escape stage here the year he took the green jersey. If any sort of peloton arrives here, it might be a sprint, but the distance from the Col, a cat-2, won't allow for much time to organize one.
One last day to stay alert before the real work begins. Nothing should change here.
Another day for André Greipel to sweat it out. Peter Sagan need only stay in the peloton to get whatever points are left, knowing that Greipel won't be around at the front of the stage. But it's also the last chance for Sagan to lengthen his lead and put the competition out of reach, if he hasn't already. Its make-or-break for both riders, really.
King of the Mountains
A pair of cat-2s might get someone interested. But given what's to come, probably not.
Quintana Quintana Quintana.
Alejandro Valverde if it's a peloton. Maybe Nibali manages a move on the descent here; he's far enough back for Sky to not bother chasing when only a handful of seconds are at stake. And finally, I won't overlook Greg Van Avermaet again.