Caving in to Roquefort
More than any other place on Earth, France is synonymous with its gastronomical delicacies, the majority of which were developed centuries or millennia ago and remain unaltered. Perhaps more exemplary of this historical novelty is Roquefort cheese. Not long after starting Stage 15 of the 2018 Tour de France, the peloton cruises south through the UNESCO World Heritage Causses and Cévennes Mediterranean Agro-Pastoral Cultural Landscape. The town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, with less than 1,000 residents, sits below the Larzac Plateau, a volcanic formation that left its interior filled with caves. Somehow, the process of curing sheep’s milk cheese in these immensely humid caves at a constant temperature of 7 degrees Celcius, Roquefort has amazed visitors for as long as can be remembered. American scientific journals were writing about the Roquefort process since the mid-1800s, but Romans were praising the region’s cheese since the first century and Charlemagne fell in love with this blue cheese in the 700s. Indeed, the French crown awarded protection of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in 1411, long before it was awarded the first AOC status in 1925. There’s so much more to discover here, but the best way is to visit. See how the cheese is cured. Can’t get there? Pick up some at your local provider and taste for yourself.
Launching into a New Tour Climb
The Tour de France is full of annual surprises, not only in the peloton, but on the road as well. That is what I have learned after exploring every kilometer of the Tour’s route for the past four years. Just when you thought there wasn’t another climb to conquer, the Tour finds another unknown or forgotten summit to ascend. In 2018, this is the Pic de Nore. This peak in the Massif Central’s Montagne Noire rises 1,211 and visually looks quite a bit like Mont Ventoux, 240 kilometers to the east. On Stage 15, the Pic de Nore climb comes at the tail end of the day, a 19-kilometer climb of 1,002 meters with an average gradient of 5.4% and max of 12.2%. This blip on the elevation profile could be the perfect sling shot for a daring break-away to achieve victory during the last 38-kilometer descent into the medieval town of Carcassonne. While the top is exposed to the elements like its bigger sister Ventoux, Nore is perhaps more beautiful thanks to the prolific coniferous forest that protects most of the mountain. At the peak, a 102-meter tv transmitter tower (one-third the height of the Eiffel Tower) sits like a red and white stripped rocket ready to launch off its pad. Making its Tour de France debut, spectators should get to know this climb for it surely won’t be the last.