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July 6, 2018
LA ROCHE-SUR-YON, France — The normally clear-defined lines between land and sea will blend together during Saturday's opening stage of the 105th Tour de France.
Crosswinds will likely be a factor, too.
The race begins in the Vendee department on the Atlantic Ocean, alongside a road — the Passage du Gois — that can be used only at low tide.
The 4.2-kilometer (2.6-mile) causeway spends most of each day covered by the sea. But when the waters recede it can be crossed for up to five hours.
The Tour was originally slated to ride over the Passage du Gois. But when race organizers decided to delay the start by a week so as not to overlap too much with World Cup soccer, the schedule of tides no longer coincided with the racing hours. So the route will take the peloton over a neighboring bridge instead.
Known for its salt marshes and the world's most expensive potatoes, the area also lends it name to the Vendee Globe, a solo yacht race around the world that starts and ends in the Vendee.
The region was the site of a bloody uprising during the French Revolution, known as Wars of the Vendee,
Now in its third year, here's the opening edition of The Associated Press' daily gastronomic, sporting and cultural glance at the 2018 Tour route:
BAGUETTE AND BUTTER: Stage 1 is as flat as a pancake, running 201 kilometers (125 miles) from Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile to Fontenay-le-Comte. Crosswinds permitting, the first wearer of the yellow jersey should be decided in a mass sprint.
PLAT DU JOUR: Highly sought after for their chestnut flavor, Bonnotte potatoes from Noirmoutier have been known to sell for more than 500 euros per kilogram (about $250 per pound). The price is due to the hand-picked harvest and limited quantities. Best enjoyed simply in soups and salads where the aromatic and saline taste of the golden-colored skins are preserved.
CULTURE: Noirmoutier was the setting for the classic French romance film “Cesar and Rosalie,” starring Yves Montand and Romy Schneider.
VIN DU JOUR: After 63.5 kilometers, the route will pass through Brem-sur-Mer, which is known for its Brem white wines featuring apple aromas. The fruitiness pairs perfectly with the local oysters and mussels.
HISTORY: When the Tour traversed the Passage du Gois in Stage 2 in 1999, the slippery surface caused a mass crash that resulted in a six-minute split in the peloton. Overall favorite Alex Zulle, who was among those caught behind, would eventually finish second overall to Lance Armstrong as the American claimed his first Tour title. Armstrong later had all seven of his Tour titles revoked for doping.
STAT OF THE DAY: It's the third time in 13 years that the Tour will depart from the Vendee — after 2005 and 2011.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It was nice to watch him in the Giro and I hope he's buggered.” Richie Porte on rival and four-time Tour champion Chris Froome, who is attempting to become the first rider in 20 years to win the Giro d'Italia and the Tour in the same year. The late Marco Pantani achieved the feat in 1998.
DIGESTIF: Kamok, a coffee liqueur created in 1860 in the town of Lucon. In the 19th century, many Dutch workers came to the area to dry the marshes and since they were big consumers of coffee and alcohol, a drink was created to commemorate their stay.
NEXT ORDER: The Tour remains in the Vendee for Stage 2 on Sunday, another flat leg of 182.5 kilometers from Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to the department capital of La Roche-sur-Yon.