Taste of The Tour: Fondue and sponge cake in Haute-Savoie

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MEGEVE, France (AP) A gastronomical, sporting and cultural glance at Stage 18 of the Tour de France on Thursday:

REGION: After two stages in Switzerland, the race crossed back into France for a 17-kilometer (10.5-mile) individual time trial from Sallanches to Megeve in the Haute-Savoie region.

BAGUETTE AND BUTTER: Chris Froome won the stage and opened up a seemingly insurmountable lead of 3 minutes, 52 seconds over his closest challenger, Bauke Mollema. Taking his second stage win of this year's Tour, Froome finished 21 seconds ahead of Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin.

PLAT DU JOUR: Most of the typical Haute-Savoie dishes are made with cheese and potatoes. At the top of the list stands the classic Fondue Savoyarde, which consists of dipping small pieces of bread into a pot of melted cheese (Comte, Emmental, Beaufort) mixed with white wine and garlic.

CULTURE: Megeve is not just skiing. Off the slopes, there are many other activities including an international equestrian contest as well as festivals of jazz and blues that recently featured performances from Paolo Conte and Marcus Miller.

VIN DU JOUR: The Vin d'Ayze is a rarity worth trying. Made with Gringet grapes grown on limestone soil in very small quantities, this white wine has intense flavors of peach, citrus and jasmine. A part of the production of Gringet is also used to make refreshing golden and sparkling wines.

HISTORY: Amazed by the panoramic views of Mont Blanc, French author Victor Hugo once wrote: ''The valley of Sallanches is a theater.'' Over the years, the Alpine town has become a major sporting theater too, hosting the cycling world championships back in 1980 when five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault claimed the rainbow jersey.

STAT OF THE DAY: 33.2. In kilometers per hour, Chris Froome's average speed. Froome was 0.4 kilometers per hour faster than time trial specialist Tom Dumoulin.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: ''Barring an incident, nobody can beat him in this Tour.'' - Five-time Tour winner Eddy Merckx, about Froome.

DESSERT: The gateau de Savoie is a light and soft sponge cake that dates back to the 14th century. Prepared in a fluted mould, it can be enjoyed with sugary icing on top, or marmalade and cream.

NEXT ORDER: The short but nervy 146-kilometer (91-mile) Stage 19 from Albertville to Saint-Gervais, which will offer spectacular views of Mont Blanc. It also features a climb never used on the Tour before, the Mont Bisanne. ''It will hurt the legs of many before the final climb to Le Bettex,'' Tour director Christian Prudhomme said.