Stages 13-15 & TEW Takes Mt. Ventoux
Anne Pichon & Voeckler in the Leader’s Jersey
From Pau to Lourdes, Stage 13 circled a part of the Pyrenees in the southwest of France, and ended with a 16.4km hors categorie ascent up col d’ Aubisque. Originally created to classify mountain roads that cars could not expect to pass, the hors categorie climb still separates the climbers and the GC contenders from the rest of the peloton.
At 60km Jeremy Roy of FDJ launched an attack, only to be joined by nine others, including Thor Hushovd–an all around talented rider. A time trial world champion, a road race champion, and a sprinter who can dominate the field and beat Robbie McEwen, Thor attacked for a game of cat and mouse at the base of the final climb. On the decent into Lourdes with 3km to go, Thor jumped again and held it, bypassing Roy for the win. And though Hushovd will not be wearing yellow at the Tour this year, he was sporting his world champion rainbow jersey and is one hell of a talented rider.
Just a stitch north of the border with Spain, Stage 14 was a six-climb route, including two category-one climbs, from Saint-Gaudens to Plateau de Beille, which is not a plateau, but another hors categorie ascent. With only ten riders together at the base of the final climb, Sandy Casar of FDJ attacked and slipped away; Andy Schleck jumped but was stuck; and the “Belgian Tour debutant” Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) surged to chase Casar and got away without notice. Taking first place, Vanendert also scored himself a handful of polka-dots.
No strangers to the well-rounded high life of wine and bikes, the folks at T. Edwards Wines climbed our own hors categorie mountain in 2009. Inspired by the TdF, our love of cycling, and our relationship with Marc Pichon of Domaine le Murmurium, 17 members of the TEW family joined six others for a 1909m climb up Mt. Ventoux, a mountain that’s been on the TdF route for a total of 14 times.
With 68 days of training locked tightly beneath their cleats, our team flew with Cannondales to stay with Marc for a total of five nights. On Saturday, they lined the route at the 15km mark, where the route is straight-away and at a 9 to 11% grade. After the first 50 riders of the TdF passed, Team TEW watched the remainder of the splintered peloton suffering to keep cadence as they climbed. At home, everyone had kept charts of elevations and grades on their desks, with the intention of climbing Ventoux via Sault, which is a much easier route. But, since they’d made the journey here to watch Lance Armstrong win, as an homage, they had to climb via Bedouin, the most difficult way up.
Sunday evening, the day before Team TEW’s scheduled climb, they drove the route, which scared everyone sober, and then slept a sleepless night. “The climb starts mellow, at 2-3%, and you think, ‘I could do this all day long,’” says Peter, a veteran of the trip. “And they you make a left turn and your life changes…it’s like riding up a wall…completely relentless until Chalet Reynauld, just 4km from the top.” With crowds still camped out at their trailers, there was no shortage of cowbells and cheers. And just as the pros splinter, so did our group divide, with our fastest climber finishing in two hours, and the last man up in twice that time. Thankfully, a triumphant yet thirsty Team TEW met on the slopes with La Ferme St. Pierre’s Paul Vendran, who’d picked up a couple of bottles of his most excellent Cuvee Juliette, grown from grapes on the slopes of Mt. Ventoux, to share at the top.
Just an hour’s ride from the base of the climb sits the village of Mormoiron, home to Domaine le Murmurium, the winery of Marc and Anne Pichon. And though TEW cultivates relationships with all of our producers, our relationship with Marc is a special one. Beginning as a negociant, Marc has been a close friend of Tom’s for over 20 years time. And while their relationship includes business, it is the brotherly friendship between the two men that lays the foundation and sets the tone.
In 2008, Marc and his wife purchased 13ha of old vines on prime terroir; today they cultivate a total of 21. Engaging organic farming techniques since they took over, the couple manually tills their soil, hand harvests their grapes and practices 100% destemming. Producing super quaffable reds, whites, and rosé wines, Marc also serves as a negociant, who’s engaged in a partnership with TEW, one that works closely with our market in mind. How does he ride? I asked Peter. “Like Jens Voigt,” he replied, referencing the Team Leopard-Trek rider who went down twice in Stage 14, before getting back to the front of the pack so that he could work for the Schleck brothers, who finished the stage in 3rd and 8th place. “Marc pulls everyone until his heart and legs give out,” adds Peter, “and then he pulls some more.”
Sounds the spirit of team HTC, who once again led Cavendish to a win in Stage 15. At the end of the day Voeckler finished 71st, at the same time as the sprinters, which keeps him in yellow for yet another stage. Unlike Team TEW at the end of their tour of Mt. Ventoux, little in the overall standings at the end of stage 15 has changed.