Embrun Solaire

@rosiesimpson writes rather a brilliant blog in the form – for the moment at least – of a wine guide to the Tour de France.  I haven’t read enough of it to know how she handled the time trial at Mont St Michel and other northern stages of the race, and next year’s grand départ in Huddersfield may present a challenge.   If you need a steer, Rosie, they do a nice pint in the clubhouse at Fixby.

Today’s time trial started at Embrun, a small town in a dry and sunny corner of the southern French Alps, with a particularly attractive old cathedral whose stripy black and white stonework and pink marble columns supported by lions are said to betray Lombard influence. Chris Froome must surely have taken inspiration from them before a stage winning ride that added more than 8 seconds to the deficit of desperate Contador.  

serre-ponconBig summer winds blow down the Durance, and Embrun’s local lake, the Serre Ponçon, is well known to hotshot windsurfers.  The town also serves as the gateway to the small ski resort of  Les Orres, where some friends of mine spent a happy winter and CB consoled his unhappy girlfriend with the immortal (and in his case accurate) words ‘skiing is a selfish sport.’   The relationship had soon run its course.    

The pistes at Les Orres are rather steep – more red than blue – but if you don’t mind that, there is no better small resort in the southern Alps.  The winter climate is better suited to cultivating a tan than deep-powder skiing, and when it came to thinking up a headline for the Les Orres chapter in The Good Skiing Guide, which I was then writing, the best I could do was Embrun Solaire.  I was in fact rather pleased with this, but The Daily Telegraph’s reviewer selected Embrun Solaire as the worst example of many cringe-makingly bad headlines.

Bring on Alpe d’Huez, one of many pretenders to the title, Home of the World’s Longest Black Run. Froome and co may be cycling up most of it.            

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