TASTE OF THE TOUR: Bloody handkerchiefs in Cholet

There is a bloody past to the red handkerchiefs that many fans will wave during Monday’s third stage of the Tour de France.

”Les mouchoirs rouge” are the symbol of Cholet, the site of a team time trial that should shake up the overall standings.

The red-and-white checkered cloths were created following Theodore Botrel’s song first performed in April 1900, ”Le mouchoir rouge de Cholet.”

The song about the French Revolution recalls how, during the Battle of Cholet, Henri de la Rochejaquelein attached white handkerchiefs to his hat, chest and side to make himself more visible to his troops. But the handkerchiefs became easy targets and were quickly covered in blood.

As a tribute to the general’s courage, the red handkerchief became the town’s symbol.

Cholet is also the site of the Museum of Textiles and Fashion, where the handkerchiefs are weaved on the premises.

Named the ”most sporting city of France” on three occasions (1972, 2007 and 2014) by sports newspaper L’Equipe, Cholet has hosted every type of Tour stage: a team time trial in 1936, a normal road stage in 1998 and an individual time trial in 2008.

Here’s a gastronomical, sporting and cultural glance at Stage 3:

BAGUETTE AND BUTTER: The team time trial (TTT in cycling parlance) returns to the Tour after its last appearance in 2015.

Times will be taken from the fourth rider on each eight-man team to cross the line.

Three-time reigning world champion Peter Sagan should have a tough time holding on to the leader’s yellow jersey over the 35.5-kilometer (22-mile) route that begins and ends in Cholet.

PLAT DU JOUR: Beurre blanc – a ”white butter” sauce – is the specialty from nearby Nantes, capital of the Pays de la Loire region. Traditionally enjoyed with pike fish.

CULTURE: Maulevrier Oriental Park in Cholet features the largest Japanese garden in Europe.

VIN DU JOUR: Coteaux du Layon, a sweet white wine featuring aromas of acacia flower, honey, lemongrass and candied fruit. Pairs well with roasted pears and blue cheese and fruit tarts.

HISTORY: Sprinting standout Mark Cavendish won the first of his 30 Tour stages in 2008 on a leg that began in Cholet and concluded in Chateauroux. Cavendish needs only four more Tour victories to match the Tour record held by Belgian great Eddy Merckx.

STAT OF THE DAY: 57.6 kph (35.79 mph) – The speed Peter Sagan accelerated to in his sprint victory on a slightly uphill finish.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: ”I’m really back.” – Sagan, who was kicked out of last year’s Tour after race organizers ruled he caused a crash that broke the shoulder blade of Mark Cavendish in a sprint finish to end Stage 4.

DESSERT: Mouchoirs de Cholet. Designed with red and white chocolate to recall the Cholet handkerchiefs, they are a subtle mixture of almond paste with orange, pralines and hazelnuts.

NEXT ORDER: The Tour heads into the cycling hotbed of Brittany for Stage 4 on Tuesday, another mostly flat 195-kilometer (121-mile) leg from La Baule to Sarzeau that starts and ends on the Atlantic coast.

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