The last Pyrenees stage, and we’ve leaving on a high (hah!) note with six climbs in 168km along the Spanish border. Easy! (umm… no not really). We can expect to see the leaders keeping a close eye on each other, and looking for opportunities to grab some time ahead of their rivals. No doubt you’ll hear this a few more times during the commentary tonight, but to get in first .. . note that every rider who has previously won at Plateau de Beille has gone on to the win the Tour that same year.
From a bovine point of view, we can expect to see some of the tough-hoofed Gasconne cattle, winners in the cattle race in Southern France.
Image: Farming in France
The breedbook for the Gasconne cow was set up over a hundred years ago. Bred in the Ariege region to be suitable for high summer pastures, and winters inside eating hay these cows have been known since the 16th century. And, get this, they are not rare! We may even get a chance to see them as the race goes by!
They are well kitted out for mountain life, with hard hooves to withstand long journeys over the hard ground to graze on the sparse grass, and black mucosa around the nose to be resistant to sun damage; they also suitable for fattening on rich grain crops. There is significant investment being made into strengthening the breed and building the brand of Gascon Beef with consumers. Yep, they even have a Facebook group.
“At the other extreme, on the eastern Pyrenees, is the rare, semi-wild Alberes or Massanaise, which has more in common with the primitive Iberian cattle of Corsica, Sardina and the Camargue.” (we’ll cover the Camargue in more detail in stage 15, which is closer to their point of origin). From Cattle – A Handbook to the Breeds of the World.
Thankfully these beasts are rare, but this is what to look out for.
The Uk Telegraph newspaper however sees fit to warn us that it is…
Tourists have been seriously injured by cows in recent weeks. One woman was left unconscious after being trampled by a herd as she tried to cross a field near Font-Romeu and a male walker was charged by a cow, sustaining cuts to his arms and head injuries.
“The animal threw him to the ground violently and walked on him,” the newspaper La Dépêche du Midi said. The aggressive behaviour has been blamed on the season and holidaymakers visiting the region during the summer months have been warned to keep well away from cows. A police spokesman said that Pyrenean cows were “generally of the Béarnaise and Blonde d’Aquitaine races” were particularly ferocious during the summer when they have their calves with them, according to the Times.
But there has been a backlash against tourists among locals, who believe the cows are being harassed. “You shouldn’t go annoying the cows on the pretext that you’re on holiday,” one resident wrote on an internet chatroom discussion board. “They were quite at home in their field.” “Some of these tourists and walkers don’t respect anything,” said another: “They trample on flowers and mountain plants and get on cows’ nerves.
So don’t say you haven’t been warned!