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Taste of The Tour: Rugby and Noir cured ham in the Pyrenees

The pack passes a field with sunflowers during the seventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 162.5 kilometers (100.7 miles) with start in L'Isle-Jourdain and finish in Lac de Payolle. (Christophe Ena / Associated Press)
The pack passes a field with sunflowers during the seventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 162.5 kilometers (100.7 miles) with start in L'Isle-Jourdain and finish in Lac de Payolle. (Christophe Ena / Associated Press)
Associated Press

LAC DE PAYOLLE, France – A gastronomical, sporting and cultural glance at Stage 7 of the Tour de France on Friday:

Region: The stage began in L’Isle-Jourdain in the Gers region and followed a 162.5-kilometer (101-mile) route to Lac de Payolle in the Hautes Pyrenees.

Aperitif: Hypocras, a medieval recipe mixing wine, cinnamon, ginger, sugar and nutmeg.

Baguette and butter: British rider Steve Cummings won the stage, which came to a bizarre end when an inflatable arch marking the final kilometer collapsed. Adam Yates, a British rider with the Orica team, was hit by the arch and reached the finish with a bloodied chin. Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium, who was in a breakaway with Cummings, held on to the yellow jersey he claimed two days earlier. Overall favorites Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana finished in the main pack during the first stage in the Pyrenees.

Plat du jour: A plate of Noir de Bigorre ham. It’s one of the finest and softest cured hams in the world, made from black pigs fed with grass, cereals and acorns. Another local specialty is garbure, a mountain soup made with cabbage and chunks of ham.

Culture: The Pyrenees are part of Tour de France lore but the most popular sport in the Midi-Pyrenees region is rugby, which is like a religion in many villages. The most-titled club in France, Stade Toulousain, has won a record 19 French Championship titles plus four European Cups.

Vin du jour: Jurancon Sec is a dry white wine produced in the foothills of the Pyrenees with Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng grapes grown on mountain slopes then carefully hand-picked by local winemakers. It’s a richly-flavored wine with floral aromas and a well-balanced acidity.

Stat of the Day: 1. The complete peloton of 198 riders started the stage. It was the first time in 103 editions of the Tour de France that the entire bunch was still racing this late.

Quote of the Day: “I had no time to react. It’s a good thing it was just me on my own. It could have been a lot worse with the peloton sprinting at 70 kph (45 mph). Adam Yates, after getting hit by an inflatable arch.

Dessert: The spit cake, or gateau a la broche, has been baked in southwestern France for centuries in wood burning ovens. The traditional recipe with flour, eggs, butter, sugar, salt, rum and vanilla is quite simple but requires patience as the dough needs to be dribbled very slowly over the spit.

Next order: Stage 8 on Saturday is a much more challenging 184-kilometer (114-mile) leg from Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon featuring four serious climbs, beginning with the Col du Tourmalet, which is so difficult it’s labeled “beyond classification.”

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