What's Cool In Road Cycling

Tour De PEZ: Wine Country

PEZ Roadside Stage 6 – Amid the crowds and chaos of le Tour you can find a few moments of serenity and scenery. Le Tour de PEZ goes off-route today to take you to the heart of the French wine country. we’re in the town of Beaune, a few kilometers east of stage 5’s finish in Autun.

Trying to accurately describe the beauty of this region is like trying to tell a friend how something tastes, or smells, or feels. Simple words can not convey the entire experience of what it’s like to be here, but we’ll do our best to give you the feeling of this idyllic corner of France.

In the daily grind that is the Tour de France, it’s a rare treat indeed to be able to spend two nights in the same hotel. It’s an even bigger treat when your journey lands you in a place like this. Beaune is a town of only 2,500 people, and unlike the bigger cities of France, they actually like Americans here.

We mount the bikes early in the morning, headed for the vineyards in and around Beaune. But before we can get to the vineyards, first we have to find the vineyards. Not an easy task in a country where the usual directions are just, “Oh, go to the right down here for a while, then go left a couple of times.”

Er, um…OK.

Blind luck eventually leads us to what we’ve been searching for. If there is a heaven for cyclists, it must look like this. Paved paths through row after row of nothing but grapes, as far as they eye can see. And not a car in sight.

This is the Bourgone region of southeastern France. Some of the world’s finest wines are produced here, and these fields have been producing fruit for centuries.

With all due respect to California’s Napa and Sonoma valleys, this is the real deal. These chateaus were not built just to show to the tourists…
these homes and wineries date back hundreds of years, long before California even became… California.

The dedicated bike paths are clearly marked, and car traffic is restricted. The only other vehicles you’ll encounter here are the occasional farm tractor or solo scooter. How great is that?

I know, I know…I’m supposed to be working, right? But this is all part of the job when you’re a part of the PEZ-Crew for le Tour.

About 25km out of Beaune, we roll into the village of Chassagne-Montrachet. It’s time for a lunch break, and it looks like pretty slim pickins in this place, but…

…as we make a turn through the town, we run smack-dab into this bunch of crazies.

These tourists in the pink togas are all part of a trip organized by DuVine Adventures of Somerville, Massachusetts. There here for the same reasons we are… take in all the sights and sounds of France, and chase the Tour along the way.

And the togas? It was a spur-of-the-moment idea. They were getting a bit bored, so they boosted the sheets from their hotel, and decided to turn them into togas. Nice.

We made ‘em a deal…”We’ll put your pics in our PEZ piece, if you feed us lunch.” Pas de problem, oui?

How’s this for a PEZ-worthy roadside lunch? Prosciutto, mozzarella, salad greens, tomatoes, fresh French bread, and…

…a fine local red wine to wash it all down. Just enough to take the edge off the day, but not enough to hinder or hamper my riding.

And for dessert we leave you with Dr. Kristin’s top-of-the-wall handstand, perhaps the perfect way to cap a nearly-perfect day.

… but if that doesn’t do it this will…

The evening ends in a Beaune bistro, sipping Grand Marnier and studying the roadbook for the Tour. With the Alps looming in the distance, we bid adieu to this beautiful region of France. The route of race gets much, much tougher from here. Our transfers will get longer, the nights will be shorter…but it’s still a helluva adventure.

Vive le Tour!

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