Stage 16: Digne-les-Bains - Pra-Loup
Welcome to Hyphen-ville.
Pra-Loup means "wolf meadow."
This will be only the third stage of the Tour de France to visit the ski station of Pra-Loup and the first since 1980. The more famous of these was in 1975, when Eddy Merckx attacked at the top of the Col d'Allos, but cracked on Pra-Loup, for his rival Bernard Thevenet to take the yellow jersey, going past Merckx on the final climb. Merckx's team mate in that Tour de France, Jos de Schoenemaker, won in 1980. Pra-Loup itself was a very small hamlet until the 1960s, when a ski station was built. It is now one of the biggest ski resorts in the southern Alps.
AmyBC's food and drink pairings:
Wine: Domaine Les Terres Promises Jean-Christophe’s Domaine des Terres Promises is located in the village of La Roquebrussane, 1,300 feet above sea level, off-the-beaten track at the end of a long, steep road. Determined to farm organically, he found an area that made it more feasible. His vineyards are in a microclimate between Aix-en-Provence and Côtes de Provence that has colder winters and hotter summers on eroded hillsides that are composed mostly of limestone with gravel and flint. He did, of course, have a lot to learn about grape-growing and winemaking, but he learned quickly, with help from generous like-minded winemakers like Catherine and Pierre Breton and Marcel Richaud. He works with many different grape varietals, including Ugni Rosé (a sub variety of Ugni Blanc), Carignan Blanc, Vermentino aka Rolle, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan. He doesn’t use any chemicals in his vineyards, all harvesting is done by hand, and sorting is done in the vineyard. In the cellar, he uses natural fermentation and sulphur is kept to a minimum. He generally doesn’t fine or filter his wines and uses fiberglass tanks and oak foudres for fermentation. I say: Very light yellow. Very minerally at first taste, with the fruit coming out as it warmed up a bit.
Food: Beaufort Cheese: From French Food in the US: Beaufort is an exquisite cheese made in the French Alps in the departément Savoie. Beaufort evolved over its hundreds of years of production and gained its own distinctiveness and renown. This dense cheese is of a harder, smooth texture, with a varying shades of yellow depending on which seasonal variety is being produced. Like other familiar cheeses such as Comté, Beaufort’s firm texture is obtained by removing excess whey and moisture, first by pressing the curds and then by heating the cheese before leaving it to age. But the bold flavor of the cheese can be directly attributed to the meticulous diet and unconventional environment of its two approved milk producers: the Tarine and Abondance cow breeds. The unparalleled quality and flavor of Beaufort was recognized on the national level in 1968 when it received its status as an AOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) and again by the EU in 2009, when it obtained its PDO status (Protected Designation of Origin).
To quote Will's preview:
Welcome to the Alps. This is the stage that was previewed in the recent Dauphiné stage won by Romain Bardet. Tejay van Garderen was 2nd, and Christopher Froome 3rd. The highlight of this stage is the stunningly beautiful Col d'Allos - the highest point in this Tour de France at 2250 metres (now that Col du Galibier is no longer in the Tour). Thus, now the souvenir Henri Desgranges. Pra Loup is a small ski station, far from the most interesting road in the region, but perhaps perfect for an exciting stage finish.
And an excellent graphic detailing both climbs:
This is the exact same course as used in the Dauphiné in June, and it goes over the highest point of the Tour, with the Col d'Allos at 2250 metres this years Souvenir Henri Desgrange. It does make me wonder whether it's the first category one climb to be ranked thus. But the big stumbling-block (literally) of this stage is the descent of the Allos. It's been called "the most dangerous road in cycling" and when Bardet was sprinting down it in the Dauphiné more than a few people were just a little anxious. The stage will be won by an attack on Allos and a fast descent.
The first of the Alps stages, and just after the rest day. We know what happened after the last rest day, so maybe someone else will slip back, but I really don't see gaps of more than a few seconds. As in the Dauphiné, Pra-Loup really isn't selective enough, and while there's a chance of lightning storms, and there'll be speculation about Froome's descending, he's really looked pretty good to me. However, that's the only way that jersey will change hands.
This competition is over. A week go, I did some speculation and have been proved utterly, utterly wrong. I'm actually very impressed with the resilience and perseverance of the Slovakian champion. He's got in umpteen breaks, and will take his fourth consecutive green jersey. And he will do it without a stage win.
King of the Mountains
If Froome wins stage 20, he takes this jersey home. However, the person best placed to take it if he doesn't is Joaquím Rodríguez. He's close to Froome, and with 29 points available, may be in the break. For this as a competition to find the best climber, the 50-points on-mountain-finishes is absolutely the correct format. However, from an interesting competition point of view, I'm not sure I support it.
Nairo Quintana will wear the white jersey on the Champs-Elysees.
Romain Bardet is going to be mentioned in almost every preview, as he won this stage in the Dauphiné. However, that's exactly why he won't win. He'll be marked. However, I also don't think this will be another Froome fest. I think the stage will be won in the same fashion as in the Dauphiné, with a lesser GC favourite attacking near the top, and descending like a demon, and Nibali (who by now must count as a lesser GC favourite) fits into that perfectly. His attack on the Col du Manse may just be a warm up. However, he will be marked as well. Valverde's another option, but will he attack Quintana? I'd love Robert Gesink to win, but I don't think he'll be able to outclimb or descend other attackers. If a break does make it, Martin, Rodríguez,
Sagan and Pinot are names to watch.