One hopes the rest of the Tour de France goes without any further hitch.
And may the best man win!
Encouraged by the some favourable comments that I received on my account of the Tour de France (TDF) last year, I thought I would repeat the exercise this year. However due to a bit of bother with health, I had to relinquish the idea.
Consequently not only am I not unable to watch most of the stages but, with the twin combination of side-effects from medication and stiff arthritic fingers, I am also not in the best of states to write much about anything. So, out went my one-year old plan to recount the TDF version 2017!
However I just could not bypass writing something on the 7th stage of the race. This one started on a hot, sunny Friday 07-Jul-2017 in the town of Troyes in the North-Central department of Aube and ended 213.5km later in one of my favourite region of France—the Eastern province of Burgundy, among the famous vineyards of Nuits-Saint-Georges. As the name Burgundy suggest, most of the 69k acres produce red wine of which about 2 pc (1.4k) are producers of Grand Cru (GC). The region produces some of the best wines in France; and there is enough to suit practically all pockets.
The Grand Cru
But not so with the GC. They are among the best and the most expensive wines in the world. They are produced from 50+ years old Pinot Noir grape vines grown on soil with extremely low yield. Thus it takes 3 grape vines to produce just one bottle of wine which partly accounts for its high price.
In 1996 one bottle of GC from Domanie Romanee-Conti (DRC) fetched an amazing USD28k! Even the youngest wine from DRC would set one back USD7k. The average annual production of this tiny vineyard of 2.1 acres is just 5k bottles which would partly explain the price. In 1780 the Archbishop of Paris described the DRC as “Velvet and satin in bottles.” British wine critic and expert on Burgundy wines Clive Coates eulogizes the DRC as “The purest, most aristocratic and most intense example of Pinot Noir you could possibly imagine. Not only nectar: a yardstick with which to judge all other Burgundies.”
Anyway back to the TdF. As in 2016, 22 teams of 9 riders took to the road on 104th edition of the Tour. Again as with last year, the distance to be covered is just over 3.5k Km and will be completed in 21 stages. As I begin to write in early July Christopher Froome of Team Sky is again favourite (4/6) to win followed by Italian rider Fabio Aru of Team Astana at 9/2. But until the last yard is run in the finale in the Champs-Elysees, the TdF is never won.
For example, Australia’s Richie Porte (Team BMC) was 3rd favourite at 5/1 until tragedy struck in the 9th stage (Nantua-Chambery 181.5 Km) which is run in the Jura mountains and is one of the most arduous with 7 cols and a vertical climb of 4.6k metres. Until the last downhill section, Porte had been leading on Froome. But travelling at 70 Kmh on a damp surface, he lost control on a bend. As he fell off his bike, the momentum carried his flailing, bouncing body to the opposite side of the road and everyone thought the worst as he hit a rock face. In the end, although he sustained a fracture to his shoulder and pelvis, this is being considered as nothing short of miraculous.
With stars like Richie Porte, Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas and Alejandro Valverde out of the race due to injury and World Champion Peter Sagan disqualified after a furious sprint to the finishing line at Vittel in stage-4, one hopes the rest of the Tour de France goes without any further hitch. And may the best man win!