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QUIMPER, France (AP) — It's time for the Tour de France climbers to stretch their legs on what Brittany proudly refers to as its cherished, if miniature, version of an Alp.
After several days when the sprinters shined, the race gets its first summit finish on Thursday at the relatively short, but steep, Mur de Bretagne to end Stage 6.
Riders will make two trips up the category-3 "wall" at the end of the 181-kilometer (112-mile) leg starting in the western port city of Brest.
Devoid of the spectacular heights of southern France, the cycling-crazed Bretons say the Mur de Bretagne is their version of the famous Alpe d'Huez, the mountain in the Alps etched into the race's lore that riders will venture up on Stage 12.
That comparison leaves their lovely Mur quite diminished, however.
While the Mur tops out at an altitude of 293 meters, Alpe d'Huez rises to 1,850 meters.
Here's a gastronomic, sporting and cultural glance at Thursday's route:
BAGUETTE AND BUTTER: Race favorite Chris Froome is 57 seconds off the lead, so he could try to gain back some time ahead of the treacherous cobblestoned Stage 9. In 2011, Cadel Evans won a stage ending atop the Mur en route to his Tour title.
PLAT DU JOUR: Don't miss Brest's specialty, "morue a la Brestoise," a baked cod dish of minced fish, potatoes, onions and leeks. Or try a filling mashed potato galette — a pancake with potato mixed into the dough that can be stuffed with salmon, sausage or bacon.
CULTURE: Sailing boats from around the world flock every four years to participate in Les Tonnerres de Brest (Brest Festival of the Sea). The next chance to observe skippers and crew parade their craft around the city's harbor will be in 2020.
VIN DU JOUR: Too tempestuous for winemaking, Brest has turned to brewing craft beers. Brasserie du Baril brewery offers a "Baril Originale" inspired by American beers, and a "Baril White," which resembles a German wheat beer.
HISTORY: A major naval base since the 17th Century and the home to France's Naval Academy, Brest was severely damaged when Allied forces retook the port from German occupation during World War II. When the Germans surrendered, Gen. Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke asked American commander Charles Canham to see his credentials. Canham, who had a lower rank than Ramcke, pointed to his troops and said, "These are my credentials."
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We always see a bit of action there." — Froome on the Mur de Bretagne.
STAT OF THE DAY: 89 — Earning the green points jersey for an 89th time on Wednesday, Peter Sagan surpassed Erik Zabel's Tour record.
DIGESTIF: Help put that hearty dinner to bed with a nip of Lambig, also known as Fine Bretagne, which is distilled from Breton apple cider. Besides being a popular digestif, it can be used as a flambe finish for crepes.
NEXT ORDER: A 231-kilometer (143.5-mile) flat ride on Stage 7 from Fougeres to Chartres is the longest leg of the race.
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