Jul. 19, 2018 2:52 PM EDT
ALPE D’HUEZ, France (AP) — As the Tour de France’s weary cyclists get some respite after three days scaling mountains, the race enters the terrain of a truffle that is so highly prized it’s nicknamed the “black diamond.”
Stage 13 descends from the Alps and enters the Drome region, where black truffles are harvested in winter with the help of specially trained dogs — or four-legged gourmands — to find the coveted delicacies that can fetch several hundred euros per kilogram.
The Tour’s riders will appreciate having just two relatively minor ascents on Friday from Bourg d’Oisans through the city of Grenoble before following the course of the Isere river.
Just north of Valence, where the 169.5-kilometer (105.3-mile) stage ends, the Isere flows into the Rhone, well known for the quality of its valley’s wines.
Here’s a gastronomic, sporting and cultural glance at the route for Stage 13 on Friday:
BAGUETTE AND BUTTER: The sprinters who survived the mountains will appreciate having another chance to shine as they reach Valence. Five of the top sprinters at the Tour, including new sensation Fernando Gaviria and 30-stage winner Mark Cavendish, couldn’t make it through the tripleheader of mountain hikes.
PLAT DU JOUR: Known for its uneven color and a strong and woody aroma, the black truffle is used as a valued ingredient in many local recipes. The fungus finds the right conditions to grow in the Drome, thanks to its Mediterranean climate and favorable soil.
CULTURE: After 106 kilometers, the route enters the village of Pont-en-Royans, renowned for its old, colorful houses that seemingly cling to existence on the edge of a cliff overhanging a river. Three different castles have protected Pont-en-Royans.
VIN DU JOUR: Crozes-Hermitage AOC. On the left bank of the Rhone, the vineyard of Crozes-Hermitage produces some wonderful red and white varieties. Reds made with the Syrah grape and sometimes blended with the white Roussanne or Marsanne grapes have a fruity and well-balanced taste.
HISTORY: Napoleon Bonaparte stayed in Valence from 1785 to 1786 for his first posting as a lieutenant. It was the start of a military career that saw him build a large French empire that was to rule most of continental Europe.
STAT OF THE DAY: 1 — Geraint Thomas became the first rider to win on the legendary Alpe d’Huez summit while wearing the yellow jersey. Lance Armstrong won an individual time trial up Huez in 2004 while wearing yellow but that victory was later stripped for doping.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s one of those things that’s going to stay with me for the rest of my life.” — Thomas on winning atop Alpe d’Huez in the yellow jersey.
FROMAGE: The village of Beaufort gives its name to a cows’ milk cheese that is produced in the Savoie region of the Alps, where Friday’s stage begins. The cheese, sometimes served with wholesome brown bread, has a mild nutty taste.
NEXT ORDER: The going gets tough again Saturday on the foothills of the Massif Central as Stage 14 takes the riders from Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Mende. Over 188 kilometers, riders will have to contend with the passage through the Ardeche gorges, followed by increasingly difficult ascents through the limestone plateaus of the Causses and mountainous Cevennes areas.
Associated Press writers Joseph Wilson and Andrew Dampf contributed.
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