SAINT-MICHEL-DE-MAURIENNE, France (AP) — At the foothills of the Col d'Izoard, the scene of some Tour de France memorable feats, the small village of Arvieux is home to a children's paradise.
Created in 1920, the wooden toys' cooperative "L'Alpin chez Lui," which roughly translates as the "Mountain Man's Home," has been entertaining generations of young boys and girls with its finely crafted toys.
Nearly a century after local craftsmen from the Queyras valley started the shared business, production methods have changed but the spirit remains the same in the small ski resort crossed by the peloton on Thursday.
"Most of the pine wood comes from nearby forests," says Giovanna Graziosi, who has been managing the cooperative since 2013. "In addition to jigsaws (tools), we also use computer-assisted machines to reduce costs and improve workers' safety. But we still ask painters to do the details on many objects with their brushes, like in the old days."
Toys come in all sizes and shapes. There are the classics, such as the mountain cable car, and new hits like the Yetis, a game challenging kids to pile up yetis on a wooden mountain without making them fall over.
Graziosi is currently working on a new collection that will be sold in Italy, where she says wooden toys have nearly disappeared.
"It's difficult to compete against tablet computers," she says. "But we keep on going. Hopefully we'll still be there next year for the 100th anniversary."
BAGUETTE AND BUTTER: Nairo Quintana posted a solo victory on Stage 18 in Valloire as Egan Bernal moved to second overall after gaining time on race leader Julian Alaphilippe.
Bernal is now five seconds ahead of Ineos teammate Geraint Thomas and lags 1 minute, 30 seconds behind Alaphilippe.
PLAT DU JOUR: The peloton reached the Savoie region in Valloire, and there is no better place to enjoy a Fondue Savoyarde, which consists of dipping small pieces of bread into a pot of melted cheese mixed with white wine and garlic.
DESSERT: The true Queyras specialty is the Guillestrine, a pie with a thin crust stuffed with fruit jam and covered with a criss-cross of pastry strips.
HISTORY: Down in the valley near the town of Guillestre sits Mont-Dauphin, a 17th-century stronghold that forms part of the fortifications of Vauban, which are recognized by UNESCO. Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban was a military engineer who designed a double line of fortifications along France's borders under the reign of Louis XIV. Mont-Dauphin was named in honor of the King's son, the Grand Dauphin. The stronghold was never besieged.
STAT OF THE DAY: 88.1 — In kilometers per hour (almost 55 mph), the frenetic speed reached by Alaphilippe in the Col du Galibier as he rode down the mountain at breakneck speed to limit his losses to Bernal.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "No matter where I finish in Paris, this Tour will have left a mark on French people." Alaphilippe on the growing enthusiasm and hope that the host country will finally get its Tour champion after a 34-year wait.
NEXT ORDER: Tour riders will tackle the Iseran climb from its tougher south side during Friday's 126.5-kilometer Stage 19 from Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne to Tignes. At 2,770 meters, the Iseran mountain is one of the highest road passes in Europe. This second Alpine stage concludes with a tough 7.4-kilometer climb effort to the Tignes ski resort.
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