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Tour Stage 19: More Mountain Marching

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Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

Col d'Allos Dauphine 2015 ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images

Stage 19: Albertville - Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, 146 km

I wonder what will happen here...

What's It About?

Very slightly extending all the time gaps, and perhaps dislodging one of the lower members of the top ten. Ooh blimey, exciting, I hear you say. Yet again, this stage finish has been trialled in the Dauphiné, so at least we know what to expect in one two ways. The stage twists and turns through the French Alps: have a look at the map.

AmyBC's Food and Wine Pairings

Wine: Domaine Belluard Mont Blanc

I had not planned on this wine, but all the talk of Mont Blanc convinced me.

From Selection Massale: Ayze is only about 30 miles from Mont Blanc, but the Belluard vineyards are planted relatively lower to allow ripening. Dom has vineyards planted from 300 to 450 meters above sea level. Make no mistake, these are mountain wines. But they are not planted next to ski slopes. All are farmed biodynamically and were planted by selection massale. The vine ages vary from ten to sixty yearls old. Domaine Belluard has about half of the Gringet planted in the world.

Mont Blanc is a vintage méthode Champenoise that spends years on the lees, made from grapes grown at 450-meters in iron heavy soils.

Food: Beaufort Cheese

Fromages.com tells me that:

Beaufort has been celebrated since the Roman era. It takes about 500 litres (130 gallons) of milk to make a 40-45 kg wheel of Beaufort. The cheese is made from the milk given by the mahogany-coloured Beaufort cows, called the Tarines or Tarentaises. This ancient mountain breed originally came from the Indo-Asian continent. Beaufort cheeses come in three versions, Beaufort, Beaufort d'été (summer Beaufort),and Beaufort d'Alpage which is made in the mountain chalets and is the most tasty. Ripening takes at least four months in humid (92%) cellars with the temperature below 15° . The cheeses are constantly wiped and rubbed with brine. Young cheeses have a mild fruity, sweet taste then the taste become stronger and complex. The pate of the winter cheese is white, whereas the summer cheeses are a pale yellow, due to the cows munching on the alpine flowers.

Course Features

Will?

A relatively short stage that heads up immediately. More than any other stage, steep is the watch-word of the day. Collet de Tamié is above the Col de Tamié and passes the perched Fort de Tamié, one of many Savoyard stone forts built in the late 1800s. Next, the route heads north and will briefly ride along-side beautiful lake Annecy before climbing the fabulous Col de la Forclaz de Montmin (the old Moreau Dauphiné doping graffiti has washed away). On this north side, the final 2 kilometres average 11% with some steeper ramps. After climbing the 3rd Col de la Forclaz of this Tour, the riders will tackle the Montée de Bisanne (1723 metres). This climb is actually called Signal de Bisanne. This dead-end road goes to 1923 metres, but the Tour used the Montée name vs Signal as it will skip the last 2 steep kilometres. This is a quiet, monster of a climb above Les Saisies ski station.

The Beaufort region tourist office used to give out route cards for their 20 signed cycling routes (they probably still do). Of these 20, only 2 were labeled "Mythic" - not even the Cormet de Roselend merits a "Mythic," but this does.

Finally the route will climb to Le Bettex - starting just past the Route Bernard Hinault! This climb begins on a superb little road that is crazy steep (unfortunately used as a short cut by local drivers). There is a stretch of a few hundred metres that is 16% at least - the first km in the profile below starts out quite flat and yet still averages 12.9%.

Full kilometres all day long above 10%. Crazy tough stage.

Thunderstorms are forecast throughout the stage, which should shake things up the tiniest amount, but if you look at that profile, you can see what this stage says.

Did you miss it? Well, it's "death to attacks." The Collet de Tamie is uncategorised but tough, but its descent is not steep, and it's followed by kilometres of flat. The next of the Forclazes also is followed by considerable flat, and nobody's going to attack before the Bisanne anyway. And yes, the Bisanne is steep, but nobody in this race has been strong enough to escape the Sky led charge and get a gap. Also, just look at what follows. A flase-flat section. Just perfect for a climber to be pulled back. No, yet again, this course should lead to the GC favourites coming into the final climb together.

Now, that’s not a bad climb to make a move on. Very, very steep section, some flase flat to recover, before a climb to the finish, but there's no chance of someone gaining minutes here. No, there'll be squabbles for third place between some well-matched riders.

Riders to Watch

This has been a good Tour for grimpeurs who fancy a breakaway. The only mountain stage where the breakaway hasn't made it was the Tourmalet stage, and since the guy with the strongest team now has two stage wins, Sky shouldn't feel the need to bring back any move. This means we can expect to see some climbers attacking from the gun. By which I mean Rafał Majka, Ilnur Zakarin and Jarlinson Pantano. Majka has the KOM competition wrapped up as firmly as Froome has the yellow jersey, but he still hasn't gotten a stage win, coming close on...what is it now, three occasions? By the way Zakarin was climbing on Wednesday, he may be confident of another go at glory. Watch out also for some French riders looking to save their nation's Tour with a stage win. I'm looking at you, yes you, Warren and Pierre.

Back in the peloton, it could be the case...no, this is what will be the case. Wout Poels will continue to double his contract fee next year, Mikel Nieve will take over for what, the first time all Tour? And then, not too far from the finish, Froome and Porte will attack. Whoever was foolish enough to have a go beforehand will get dropped, but mostly everyone from second to eleventh will scrap for minor placings. The stage probably won't be at stake.

Pick to Win

Zakarin. Wow that guy was strong the other day.