BERGERAC, France (AP) After the heavy, duck-based dishes of France’s southwest, time for solid mountain fare.
Venturing into the Pyrenees – a perennial fixture of the Tour de France – forces riders to take on more calories to fuel their mountain climbs. Over Thursday and Friday, the Tour will scale a total of six ascents that are either Category 1 or ”hors categorie,” meaning beyond rating, on cycling’s sliding scale of climbing difficulty.
Wednesday’s Stage 11 is what Tour riders call a ”transition” day – an easier ride that takes them to the gateway to the mountains, the town of Pau. Here is a sporting, gastronomic and cultural guide to the 203.5 kilometers (126 miles) from the picture-postcard town of Eymet in the Dordogne, a tourist hotspot with its castles, caves and other sights, and long popular with British retirees who settle in the region for the French good-life.
BAGUETTE AND BUTTER: For the second day in a row, a stage for burly sprinters before they make way for lighter riders who do better on climbs. Stage 11 is almost completely flat, with a slight downhill final stretch. It will be the Tour’s 69th visit to Pau, making it the race’s third most-visited town after Paris and Bordeaux.
PLAT DU JOUR: ”Poule au pot” (chicken in a pot). This recipe is said to have won the favor of Henri IV, the 16th-century French king born in Pau’s castle in 1553. The chicken, stuffed with sausage meat, garlic, onion and parsley, is stewed with carrots and leek until the meat falls easily off the bone. Served with rice that is cooked in the juice of the stew.
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 sometimes cold Pyrenean climate, with fruit growing high on the vine, protecting it from spring frosts.
HISTORY: Pau-born King Henri IV is known for the era of prosperity he brought to France after ending the Wars of Religion…