Hors Course Stage 3: Champagne and PFP

Into the Champagne region for stage 3.

Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.

Jump To Comments

Today’s it’s all about champagne because we race from Reims to Epernay. Reims is the birthplace of Pauline Ferrand Prévot, the only rider who won three individual world titles in the same season. 

She won the cyclocross world title in Tábor in January of 2015, the mountain cross country world champion in Vallnord, Andorra early September – plus the team event with France – and took the road race rainbow jersey a few weeks later in Ponferrada, Spain. Ferrand-Prévot was only 23 at the time.

Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock are after the same hattrick but so far unsuccessfully.

Reims was also the place where the very first world championships for women were held. In 1958 it was not a given that women took part in cycling races. Especially from the church, there were many objections against women on bikes. Races would not only be a danger to women on the bike but also to the spectators. It would be absolutely indecent when women crashed and clutch their chest when on the deck, said the Belgian sports organization of the Catholic Church. And what about the promiscuity when men and women had to share one changing facility? 

Also, medical objections would be reasons to not let women take part in cycling races. According to the doctors it should be avoided that women try on men’s sports and take part in hard endurance activities including athletics, water polo, football and cycling.

“Cycling as a competition for men can certainly be justified. But this sport goes against the nature of the woman herself. What man, who truly loves his wife, would allow her to participate in a women’s race? How could a bethrothed fiancé bear this?” read one letter in the paper.

Despite this way of thinking there was a world championship in 1958 in Reims. After just 59 kilometres, Elsy Jacobs was crowned world champion. The Luxembourg rider had a lead of almost three minutes on the competition. 

I don’t know if there was champagne on the podium but I sure hope so because we are in the heart of the Champagne region. This area where the subsoil consists of a thick layer of lime-chalk creates fertile soil above. It’s the perfect basis for growing grapes!

All wine fizzes during fermentation. Yeast cells do not only make alcohol from the sugar in the grapes but also carbon dioxide. It normally disappears. In cool areas, such as Champagne, fermentation used to stop because of the colder climate. When the temperature rose in the spring, the process started again spontaneously. An already delivered ton of wine then began to fizz. That was much appreciated, but in no time all the buzz was gone. To prevent this, the wine was sometimes bottled, which earned it the name ‘vin du diable,’ as the bottles often exploded.

It was the English who managed to produce glassware strong enough to withstand the pressure in the 17th century. At the same time, the monk Dom Pérignon invented the cork as a stopper material for wine bottles, with which bottles could be made really tight. Then it became possible to catch the bubbles. 

The drink was such a success that there are currently 15,700 different champagnes from the 200 champagne villages in this region.

Champagne is not cheap as you know and it can only be produced in this region. All sparkly wine from outside of the defined boundaries of the region can never be called champagne. It’s called crémant then.

Editors' Picks