192.5 kilometers of pretty flat cycling gets us from the Pyrenees to the Alps. The last day for the sprinters to shine and probably finalise the green jersey standings before they hit the Champs-Élysées. Mind you – if they come across any of our featured bovine for this stage, they’d better have their sprinting legs on [particularly those teams in red… I’m looking at you, BMC and Cofidis – Injera]! Mesdames et Messieurs may I present….Le Camargue!
Image: Kranky Kids
The Camargue cattle are native to the Camargue marshland created by the delta of the Rhone river as it empties into the Meditteraenean, just a bit further along the coast from today’s finishing town of Montpellier. The cattle are black and feature upward sweeping horns, what you might term your classic “bull” horns. As you can probably guess by our photo, the bulls are rounded up and used in bull fights in nearby Arles and Nîmes, and exported to Spain. Well, when they say “raised” it seems that they apply the term quite loosely as the cattle live pretty much wild, tended by cowboys called Gardians who ride the famous stocky white Camargue horses said to have been introduced by the Saracens.
They share the marshland with wild boar, cattle egrets and even flamingo.
The Gardians live on the marshlands in thatched huts called cabanes.
They climb the post out the front to keep an eye on the cattle. The marshland is very fragile and has been a national park since 1970. Phil and Paul could perhaps visit on their rest day tomorrow to spot some of the 400 species of birdlife on offer. The French AOC Taureau de Camargue guaranteed-origin breed certification was obtained in 1996. This denomination covers two local breeds, di Biou and Brave, and crossbreeds between them. On average, 2000 head of these beef cattle are raised every year, yielding 300 tons of meat.