Hors Course stage 1: Copenhagen, a city of bikes, history and New Nordic Cuisine

As heard on the CyclingTips daily Tour de France podcast, José Been is taking us off the race route for some local historical and cultural context for each stage, from Denmark all the way to Paris.

Copenhagen or Koebnhavn as the Danish say, is the capital city of Denmark. Denmark is not a very big country but the Danes have a love for cycling bigger than many others, so expect this Tour de France start, the first the country hosts, to be one big party.

Copenhagen is a cycling city and boasts over 350 kilometers of dedicated bike paths that are built slightly higher than the rest of the city’s roads. There are more bikes than cars in Copenhagen and that encourages yet more people to do more by bike.

A bike path in a Copenhagen dressed up in yellow for the Tour’s Grand Depart.

Queen Margrethe of Denmark rides bikes and the crown prince Frederik has often been spotted taking his kids around town in a cargo bike. He even took part in a 100-kilometre ride earlier this month called the Tour de Storebælt, lycra and all. The whole country is rather flat and has an estimated 12,000 kilometers of bike paths. Why wouldn’t you choose to get around by bike?

Speaking of the queen, Denmark is a monarchy. Queen Margrathe, who married a French count called Henry in 1967, was crowned in 1972. She was only 31 years young at the time, and this year she celebrates 50 years on the throne. The first king of Denmark was Gorm the Old in 900. His son was Harald Bluetooth Gormsson who introduced Christianity to the country where it is still the predominant faith. The Church of Denmark is protestant and about 75% of Danes are members, although only 3% of Danes regularly visit a Sunday service.

Copenhagen is known for having some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world. Noma has been voted The World’s Best Restaurant several times, most recently in 2021, topping a 50-long list with fellow Copenhagen restaurant Geranium in second. These restaurants hold three Michelin stars each, the highest accolade a restaurant can achieve. René Redzepi, Noma’s chef, is passionate about foraging his ingredients and cooking according to the seasons. He is a chef of the New Nordic Cuisine movement where ingredients are local and flavors fresh and…well, Scandinavian.

Noma offers three menus at different times of the year, with seafood season from January to June, vegetable season during the summer and game and forest in the winter time. On this year’s Ocean menu we see dishes like crab soup served in the shell, and an éclair with oyster emulsion and caviar, or a cod roe waffle with roasted grains and hazelnut oil.

We are talking 500 euros for the tasting menu plus an additional 300 euros for wines, or the fermented juices for the non-alcoholics. Add some water, maybe some cheese and a coffee, and you shouldn’t be surprised to leave the door about 1000 euros poorer. Despite these prices it’s incredibly hard to get a reservation at Noma. I wonder if they booked a table for Christian Prudhomme, the big boss of the Tour de France, on the eve of the Grand Depart?

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