Donkey ears on Alpe d’Huez

The pack speeds downhill during the eleventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 108.5 kilometers (67.4 miles) with start in Albertville and finish in La Rosiere Espace San Bernardo, France. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena )

A man watches as riders climb Montee de Bisanne pass during the eleventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 108.5 kilometers (67.4 miles) with start in Albertville and finish in La Rosiere Espace San Bernardo, France. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Spain's Mikel Nieve Iturralde rides breakaway during the eleventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 108.5 kilometers (67.4 miles) with start in Albertville and finish in La Rosiere Espace San Bernardo, France. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena )

The pack climbs Col du Pre pass during the eleventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 108.5 kilometers (67.4 miles) with start in Albertville and finish in La Rosiere Espace San Bernardo, France. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena )

The pack climbs Montee de Bisanne pass during the eleventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 108.5 kilometers (67.4 miles) with start in Albertville and finish in La Rosiere Espace San Bernardo, France. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Slovakia's Peter Sagan, wearing the best sprinter's green jersey, rides solo after he lost contact with the pack during the eleventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 108.5 kilometers (67.4 miles) with start in Albertville and finish in La Rosiere Espace San Bernardo, France. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena )

LA ROSIERE, France (AP) — Lasagna named after a donkey’s ears and a nip of Chartreuse liqueur await the cyclists of the Tour de France on their way up one of the race’s famous summits.

For the last of three days in the Alps, the Tour scaled arguably its most iconic mountain — Alpe d’Huez and its 21 hairpin bends — on Thursday.

Even before starting the 8.5-mile climb with an 8.1 percent gradient to the ski resort, riders were pushed to their limits to overcome the increasingly difficult ascents of Col de la Madeleine, Lacets de Montvernier, and Col de la Croix de Fer.

Here’s a gastronomic, sporting and cultural glance at the route for Stage 12:

BAGUETTE AND BUTTER: Riders have been saving their reserves for this final 109-mile ordeal in the Alps before the Tour heads to flatter terrain. The stage starts in Bourg-Saint-Maurice Les Arcs and it will be interesting to see how Team Sky handles its tactics with Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome sitting 1-2 in the overall standings.

PLAT DU JOUR: Oreilles d’ane (Ears of a donkey) is a lasagna-like calzone stuffed with wild spinach or meat between layers of pasta and cheese. Cheese features heavily in Alpine cuisine. And don’t worry — no donkeys are harmed in the making of this dish. Reassuringly, it’s named after spinach leaves that resemble donkey’s ears.

CULTURE: After 106 kilometers, the route enters the town of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, home to the wooden-handled Opinel knife beloved of campers across the Alps. The town is named after John the Baptist and the cathedral that is said to house his relics. It was founded for the purpose in the sixth century, later rebuilt and expanded. The cathedral houses a crypt considered a masterpiece of Romanesque art.

VIN DU JOUR: Isere, on the edge of the Alps, is sandwiched between two well-known wine regions — Savoie to the north and Rhone to the south — but it has its own specialties in Coteaux du Gresivaudan, Balmes Dauphinoises and Collines Rhodaniennes.

HISTORY: Fausto Coppi was the first to conquer the 21 bends leading up to Alpe d’Huez in 1952, before it became known as “Dutch mountain” due to a succession of wins by Joop Zoetemelk, Hennie Kuiper and Peter Winnen. Raucous Dutch fans still line the route to encourage their compatriots any way they can. And Dutch riders still lead with eight stage victories, followed by Italians with seven, French with four and Spanish with three.

In 2013, for its centenary, the Tour indulged itself with the treat of climbing Alpe d’Huez twice.

ADVERTISEMENT