SALON-DE-PROVENCE, France (AP) After 19 stages, 3,414.5 kilometers (2,121 miles) of Tour de France roads, and unspeakable mounds of calories for those who followed the riders from Germany through Belgium and Luxembourg and across five French mountain ranges, the marathon of cycling, eating and drinking is almost done.
Soup, the signature dish of the venue for Stage 20, Marseille, could hardly be better timed.
BAGUETTE AND BUTTER: Home of the only French football club to win the Champions League, Marseille’s Stade Velodrome will stage the start and finish of this short 22.5-kilometer (14-mile) time trial. The challenging route with more than two dozen bends will take riders on mainly flat urban roads, along the Corniche and the Vieux Port. The main difficulty comes with a short but very sharp uphill climb to Notre-Dame de la Garde cathedral, the most famous landmark in France’s second-largest city.
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APERITIF: Visiting Marseille without trying pastis is like not tasting tea in China: A big mistake. This anise-flavored alcoholic aperitif, traditionally mixed with water, is a classic and not only quenches thirst in the heat of the Mediterranean summer but is also likely to earn a respectful nod from appreciative locals.
PLAT DU JOUR: La bouillabaisse, the must-try Mediterranean seafood stew. Good bouillabaisse requires patience and lots of choice ingredients, including several fish species (red rascasse, sea robin, gurnard, John Dory, monkfish, conger) and crustaceans (shrimps, little green crabs). First, cook a stock with the fish heads and tails, tomatoes and saffron. Put it aside overnight, then add the fish and potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender. Serve with rouille sauce: A garlic mayonnaise with red pepper. Delicious.
VIN DU JOUR: The rose wines of Provence are enjoying increased popularity in France, especially after many winemakers decided to abandon the use of sulfites. Grenache and Cinsault are the main grapes used to produce these light, refreshing and fruity wines.
HISTORY: Notre-Dame de la Garde is also called La Bonne Mere (The Good Mother). The statue of the virgin with child overlooking the city at the top of the cathedral is believed to watch over sailors, fishermen … and football players. When he left Marseille for Chelsea, Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba donated one of his shirts to the cathedral, which displayed it.
STAT OF THE DAY: 2. The number of stages where Edvald Boasson Hagen placed second at this Tour, including an agonizingly close photo-finish on Stage 7, before he finally won Stage 19, the longest of this Tour, on Friday.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: ”I’m not going to go out there and take any big risks” – overall race leader Chris Froome, on his plans to stay within his limits on the time trial course.
NEXT ORDER: Sunday’s Stage 21 is the traditional processional ride to the Champs-Elysees. As long as he keeps Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran, his closest rivals, at bay in the time trial, Froome and his teammates will be able to enjoy a glass of champagne on the leisurely final section into Paris before sprinters fight for the stage victory on the prestigious avenue.