Stage twenty-one: round-up

The individual time trial rendered me inarticulate; it should come as no surprise that the confirmation of Cadel Evans as winner of Le Tour has not resulted in me being any less of a gibbering mess.

The basic facts, then, in case you have been out of the news loop and have for some reason come here to catch up:

  • Cadel Evans (BMC) is the first Australian to win the Tour de France and relived the experience of being in a Schleck sandwich, this time on the podium in Paris, between second place-getter Andy and GC number three, Fränck.
  • Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) won the stage and the green jersey.
  • Sammy Sanchez (Euskaltel Euskadi) took the King of the Mountains award.
  • Pierre Rolland (Europcar) won the white jersey.
  • Jérémy Roy (Francaise des Jeux) won the “Super Combative” award and the informal award for the most extravagantly-pronounced name by Sherwen and Liggett.
  • There are no cows in Paris.

We have a winner!

Yes, Cowbell didn’t suffer any unprecedented final-stage calamity, but that’s not what this post is about.

The quality of entries in our mid-point competition was high, but there can only be one winner (and no, we didn’t think of having a sprint prize or recognition for climbing, youth or most combative!).

Our winner is… Shane, who shared this tip for staying focussed during the Tour:

Congratulations, Shane – we hope you enjoy the wine.

We would like to thank everybody who entered our competition.  Thanks, too, to DiscoverVin for the prize.

Stage 21: Créteil > Paris Champs-Élysées

We’ve come to the final stage of the Tour and tradition has it that the winner is already decided, barring an unprecedented attack or accident. Still, crossing the line on the Champs-Élysées is something the sprinters will be battling for – will Cowvendish be laughing at the end of today?

Starting a mere 8km outside of Paris, the pelaton will take a gentle, winding Sunday ride for 95 km until hitting the Champs-Élysées and letting the sprinters loose for a few circuits. This will give you plenty of time to view the background landmarks (look them up in your Frommers if necessary), drink some champagne and treat yourself to some …ummm…. readily available “speciality cheese” to  mark the occasion.

The Laughing Cow (French: La vache qui rit) is a brand of cheese products and in particular refers to the brand’s most popular product, the spreadable wedge.     Wikipedia  (Honestly we can’t make these things up!)

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Stage 20: Grenoble > Grenoble

It’s the individual time trial and we know what that means.  Either we’ll see no cows at all, or the same cows over and over and over again (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

The riders won’t have time to check the signage tonight.

Image: Tim

Of course, with Cowbell so close to taking yellow, we’ll forgive you if you are too nervous to spot bovines tonight.  Cowbell is not up until just after midnight, though, so perhaps cow-spotting will have a calming effect.  If you do see cows, see if you can identify the Montbéliarde, Villard-de-Lans or even Abondance.

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Stage 19: Modane Valfréjus > Alpe-d’Huez

Okeydoke folks!  Here we have it … the one we’re all been waiting for … the stage that is all about … CHEESE!

Yep – we saved it up for this amazing stage – the alpine cows, the rustic production techniques and the rare cheeses.

(Okay, okay, so there are some mountains in this stage as well but you know- we’ve seen Alpe d’Huez before .. yes?)

So what’s so special about alpine cheeses? When summer finally arrives in the French Alps, the local cows are led up the hills to graze on the new alpine meadows.  As the snow retreats they move further and further upwards, grazing on lush new growth grass. The herds are looked after by local alpagistes who stay in chalets, milk the cows and make cheese.  There are chalets dotted all over the slopes and the alpagistes move between them as the herd moves. By the middle of August the herd will have reached almost the snowline, and will start to descend over the same slopes which will be rich and grassy again. On Saint-Michael’s Day, 29 September, the herds return to their barns to eat hay, calve and winter cheesemaking begins. The alpine cheeses come from a lifestyle, not a conveyor belt. They come from small niche dairy farmers and cheesemakers who have been managing cow herds in the same way for hundreds of years. And the cheeses they make are sublime.

Luckily for us in Melbourne we can get hold of some of these lovely cheeses from a few select Cheesemongers: Richmond Hill Larder, Simon Johnson, David Jones should all be able to hook you up.

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Stage eighteen: round-up

Stage 18 was the first of the last, or the last of the first, or the stage that would determine everything, or the stage that would determine nothing, depending on who you listened to or even what particular time you tuned in to their comments. “Oscillating wildly” seems to sum up some of the pundits.  Whatever the result foretells, we are hoping it is not a precedent for the last of the cow spotting as we saw representations but no real ruminants.  We know there were cows about, as Jane managed to pick out a cow icon on one of the roadside signs as the riders climbed past, but they stayed away from the cameras.


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Stage 18: Pinerolo > Galibier – Serre Chevalier

The race is crossing back into France for the end-game of this year’s Tour.  The official race guide describes this as “the showcase stage of the 2011 Tour de France”.  We’re pretty sure they are talking about the challenging cols over this 200.5km stage – Col Agnel, Col d’Izoard and Galibier are all hors categorie climbs – but perhaps they are also talking about the cattle.  Galibier-Serre Chevalier puts us in the Dauphiné alps, so whilst there is no indigenous breed for this particular area, we remember the participation of les vaches in the Dauphiné-Libéré.  This time, we hope they take a more spectatorial interest than a participatory one.


Photo: Will Levy

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Stage seventeen: round-up

Yesterday’s stage was not much for cows; in fact, the only non-human life we saw was captured in this image by cowrespondent Bill:

Life is probably the wrong word in these circumstances, as by this stage I think the life force had departed this little bug.

We did hear cowbells throughout the stage, which must mean there were cows around, right?  When I wondered aloud what the purpose of cowbells were, my viewing companion responded that they are so “the farmer can hear the cows running away”.  Now every time I hear the bells I imagine a farmer saying “there go the cows again, Beryl”.  This is what happens when I don’t have visuals to distract me…

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