TASTE OF THE TOUR: Legendary mountains, miracles at Lourdes
SAINT-LARY-SOULAN, France (AP) — In Lourdes, where villager Bernadette Soubirous said she had visions of Mary while gathering stones back in the 19th century, Chris Froome will need a miracle heading into the Pyrenees’ final stage of the Tour de France.
The site in southern France near the Spanish border annually draws pilgrims, including sick and disabled believers hoping for a cure from the famed spring water in the Lourdes grotto.
A four-time Tour champion, Froome is trailing his Sky teammate and race leader Geraint Thomas by 2 minutes, 31 seconds, with time quickly running out before the race reaches Paris on Sunday. Thomas has been in superb form since the start and Froome has given up any hope of overturning his deficit.
Stage 19 takes the peloton to the town of Laruns for a mammoth 200.5-kilometer (124.6-mile) trek in high altitude featuring legendary passes including the Aspin, the Tourmalet, and the Aubisque.
Here’s a gastronomic, sporting and cultural glance at the route for Stage 19 on Friday:
BAGUETTE AND BUTTER: Friday’s stage is the last chance for rivals to try and knock Thomas off his perch, though not literally. The route takes in the 1,490-meter Col d’Aspin, 2,115-meter Col du Tourmalet and 1,709-meter Col d’Aubisque, with a steep descent to Laruns providing a challenging finish for riders still competing for the yellow jersey.
PLAT DU JOUR: La Garbure. Very popular in the region, it’s a centuries-old stew with cabbage, beans, leeks, turnips, carrots, onions, potatoes. Confit duck, lard rubbed with garlic and confit ham are added, depending on the recipe. It is traditionally served with rye bread.
VIN DU JOUR: Jurancon dry and sweet white wines from the west and south of Pau are made from Manseng grapes, a local variety resistant to the cold Pyrenean climate, with fruit growing high on the vine, protecting it from spring frosts.
CHEESE: The Ossau-Iraty. Made in the Pau area and in the Basque Country from sheep’s milk. Enjoy it with black cherry jam and a glass of robust red wine.
CULTURE: The Bareges valley, located 119 kilometers into the stage route, once was a small independent republic with its own customs and inhabited by mountaineers who proudly defended their freedom. The town’s thermal baths have reputed healing properties.
STAT OF THE DAY: 63.5 — In kilometers per hour, the speed of Arnaud Demare in the last 500 meters of Thursday’s stage to Pau, where he became the first French sprinter to post a stage win on two different Tours de France since Jean-Patrick Nazon in 2003 and 2004. It’s the equivalent of just under 40 mph.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’re expecting the worst, hoping for the best. It’s the last mountain stage and I think guys will try to take every opportunity they can.” — Geraint Thomas, about Stage 19.
NEXT ORDER: The only individual time trial of this year’s Tour. Stage 20 between Saint-Pee-Sur-Nivelle and Espelette is not particularly long — just 31 kilometers — but the route in the Basque Country features many ups and downs and some technical sections, making it difficult especially after several exhausting days in the Pyrenees.
Associated Press writers Andrew Dampf and Ciaran Fahey contributed.
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