Stage 16: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux > Gap

After a much-needed day of rest, the Tour restarts in the Drôme and finishes in the Hautes-Alpes.  The route profile shows a consistent uphill gradient, but only one categorised climb: a Cat 2 at 151km creating an 11km descent into the finish at Gap.  Who will make a break this stage?  Will the God of Thunder have a crack?  Should we keep an eye on Simmental Gerrans? And what can we expect from this part of the world?  Well, there is an AOC cheese – picodon – from the Drôme department, however it’s from the wrong four-legged mammal, the goat.  Other specialties from the area include an AOC olive oil, truffles, herbs and white garlic.  Do you see anything missing here?  I was very excited when I came across “coeur de boeuf“… only to discover that it is a tomato.  Surely there must be some produit de la vache?  Monsieur Google teased me with a result for “cheese, hautes-alpes” that really got my attention: an article in Time Magazine called Restaurants for Cheese Lovers. Sudi Pigott refers to “Le Testard from the Hautes-Alpes”.  Could it be? Well, the only other reference to Le Testard I could find in the entire interweb was on a blog that reproduced the Time piece.  Please let me know if you are familiar with this cheese.

Provence Web mentions cattle grazing in the Hautes-Alpes in the Drac Noir valley, which is north of Gap, but maybe the helicopters will take pity on us and sweep over the area during the presentations.  Otherwise, this may be as close as we’ll get to une vache tonight.

Cows in Gap

Photo: Will Levy

We are entering the Alps and there is a lot of great cheese (from cows, natch!) ahead of us.  Anthony at The Cheese Room is opening a Beaufort d’Alpage, which he describes as “the King of Gruyeres”, tomorrow to mark the alpine stages of Le Tour.  We’ll be talking more about the Beaufort for stage 19, but I see no reason to wait until Friday to enjoy it!

I’ve done a bit of research of cheeses from the Drôme… it’s France – there must be some! I’ve come across Saint Marcellin. This is a soft cheese made from cow’s milk, produced in a geographical area corresponding to part of the former Dauphiné province (now included in the department of Drôme in the Rhône-Alpes région). It is generally small in size, weighing about 80 grams (50% fat), with a mottled creamy-white exterior. The degree of runniness increases with age as the exterior gains blue, then yellow, hues within two to three weeks after production. In Australia we will often see it presented in a small terracotta dish, as a soft young cheese.

Saint Marcellin


Well know food writer David Lebovitz wrote about that cheese that …” their presence is so pervasive that I once bought a ticket on the bus in Lyon and instead of change, the driver handed me a ripe Saint Marcellin instead.”  I always knew I wanted to work in Public Transport in France!



3 thoughts on “Stage 16: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux > Gap

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