TASTE OF THE TOUR: Duck legs and red wine in Carcassonne
CARCASSONNE, France (AP) — For the Tour de France riders having lost any hope of a good placing in Paris, or the legions of tourists not too obsessed with their diet following the peloton across France, the first stage entering the Pyrenees offers a vast array of culinary treats.
The 218-kilometer (136-mile) Stage 16 from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon starts slowly with only two small climbs in the first 100 kilometers. Riders will cross the border with Spain during the second half of the stage, which offers a more difficult challenge, with a succession of three big ascents and a technical downhill leading to the finish line in the spa town of Bagneres-de-Luchon.
Here’s a gastronomic, sporting and cultural glance at the route for Stage 16 on Tuesday:
BAGUETTE AND BUTTER: After a final rest day in the medieval city of Carcassonne, Tour riders are now in the third week of the race, with three hard days of racing in the Pyrenees. The main difficulty of Tuesday’s stage comes from its length, and this is where the fatigue of the previous 15 stages might start to take its toll. There are less than 25 kilometers of climbing, though, and the final summit is 10 kilometers away from the finish line.
PLAT DU JOUR: Most of the stage will take place in the Ariege region, where Atlantic salmon has been reintroduced in recent years. Salmon is protected in the area and can’t be on the menu anymore, but the Ariege gastronomy focuses on meat. The confit of duck is a classic and consists of duck legs seasoned a day in advance, then cooked in fat and wine. It should be served with a fresh salad and crispy sliced potatoes.
CULTURE: Less than a one-hour drive from Carcassonne lies the majestic Fontfroide Abbey, a former Cistercian monastery founded in 1093. The buildings nestled in the Corbieres wine region have been extraordinarily well preserved and restored. The courtyards and cloisters are impressive, and the rose garden is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the south of France.
VIN DU JOUR: Mainly grown on a rich soil of clay and sand, Corbieres red wines are now very popular in France after years of denigration. Made from Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Mourvedre, the best ones are generally well balanced with tannins, structure, freshness and fruity notes.
HISTORY: Bagneres-de-Luchon is a Tour de France classic, having hosted the race 58 times. Two years ago, Chris Froome took his rivals by surprise here with a daring downhill attack to move into the lead coming down from the Col de Peyrsourde. This year’s stage features the Col de Portet d’Aspet, where Fabio Casartelli crashed and died in 1995, and the Col de Mente, another famous mountain pass where Luis Ocana fell and lost the Tour in 1971.
STAT OF THE DAY: 0 — The number of stage wins achieved by French teams so far this year, with only six stages left before the race ends. French teams have always managed at least one stage win since 1930, when the Tour was run with teams for the first time.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It just seems to be a French thing. Like a French cultural thing. I’m not sure they’d have liked their football players being spat at in Russia (at the World Cup). I’m sure there would have been a word or two about that.” — Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford, reflecting on abuse aimed at his riders by French fans.
NEXT ORDER: Stage 17. This super-short 65-kilometer stage in the mountains from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan has been designed for attackers. With a final climb of 16 kilometers at an average gradient of more than eight percent, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme hopes it will be a “dynamite stage.”
Associated Press writers Andrew Dampf and Ciaran Fahey contributed.
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