Stage 17: Gap > Pinerolo

It seems like it taken an aeon but tonight … finally … the “incursion into foreign territory” AND The Alps!  Oh yes!

There’s also some nail-biting time as we watch descents and hope for a safe, accident free stage. Apparently the sun is shining in Pinerolo so that’s something to look forward to at least.  I don’t think any of the sprinters will be looking forward to today’s very lumpy ride. Four summits on the way to over 2,000m, then a long descent of 1500m, one more summit and a downhill finish.  I’m exhausted just writing about it.

Meanwhile though, as the peloton crosses into Italy, so we’ll take a look at the local cow, the Oropa also called the “Pezzata Rossa d’Oropa”. This red pied cow is said to come from Northern European pied cattle dating back to the fifth century Burgundi or Borgognoni, similar to Simmenthal.


Photo: Kranky Kidz

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Stage sixteen: round-up

We had anticipated that this stage might be devoid of cattle and we were not wrong.  Fortunately les agriculteurs ensured that Team Vaches’ bovine vigilance wasn’t in vain with their field art.

Thanks, @LacusCurtius, for the #lvdt tweet - you made it easy for me to find this in the recording!

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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

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Stage fifteen: round-up

It was only appropriate, in hindsight, that the stage from Limooooooo would give Team Vaches the Tour’s best bovine experience.  Of course, it didn’t start promisingly.  The landscape the peloton rolled through was notable for the absence of pasture, dominated by the vines of the Languedoc.  Paul helpfully informed us that the vines produce 130,000 hectalitres of wine per year.  “Well that should keep Paul Sherwen in stead for the rest of the Tour de France,” was Phil Liggett’s dry rejoinder.  It was at about this point that the helicopter gave us a long view of the terrain to come.

Sky shot – not a vache in sight.

That tweet was enough to persuade me to set the recorder and abandon for the evening.

See: Cows with Guns for what happened next…

After the excitement of the Cow tribute, the rest of the stage was a bit of a blur (yes, even watching it in replay – once I’d seen that fabulous montage I had to remind myself to keep watching the race!).  The wind continued to attack the peloton as they battled towards Montpellier and the breakaway wasn’t able to keep the sprinters, eager for a last bit of glory before Paris, at bay.  Cowvendish was able to take the stage victory and keeps the green jersey.  There was no change for any of the “heads of state” or jersey holders, so they will all go to the rest day almost as satisfied by the stage as Team Vaches.  Almost.  I’m not sure they will be on quite the same high…

The montage is up at SBS Cycling Central. Vive les vaches!



Cows with Guns

School night, peeps, off to bed… keep me posted with cow sightings #lvdt [ir]
July 17, 2011

My timing was impeccable.  Even if I’d seen this tweet from earlier, I’d have had no idea of its significance:

May have just completed the most ridiculous/awesome work of my career. Will go to air tonight.
July 17, 2011
But it all soon became clear.  Or clear-ish.

Stage 15: Limoux > Montpellier

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

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Stage fourteen: round-up

It was the last stage in the Pyrenees and we had our sights set on the cattle, of course. There were reports of cows at 114.2km and 112km from those in Team Vaches who were watching the web coverage (thanks Kate and Andrew), but when the SBS coverage began at 101km the route was barren of bovines. The recap editor missed a chance fo show us the earlier cows, for some bizarre reason focussing on the climbs we’d missed.  Huh.  There was a sense of resignation, another cow free stage. At least Paul Sherwen was thinking of the geologists among us, discussing a source of chromium in the mountains. And then:
Well, what would be rather nice if we could spot round here, there is a very well-known rare race of cows, the belle Gascon.  They’re actually white cows, but the youngsters have a brown coat.
This alone would have made the stage a winner for Team Vaches, but it was about to get better.  A sighting!

Paul Sherwen will have to talk about cows more often - he conjured these up!

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Stage 14: Saint-Gaudens > Plateau de Beille

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.

Gasconne Muqueusus Noires

Image: Farming in France

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Stage thirteen: round-up

Riders are approaching KM 0. It’s hot for a change. Watch out for cows that roam free on the Aubisque and Soulor.

That tweet from The Inner Ring is just the kind of thing Team Vaches wants to read as a stage starts.  After a number cow-free stages we were keen for #trolldj to go back to being a distraction from, rather than the focus of, our nightly viewing.  Our hopes had also been raised when we received this photo from cowrespondent David, taken on the road to Lourdes in 2008:

After the Taste Le Tour segment, my only cow-related concern ahead of the coverage starting was that we had no cheese to accompany what promised to be a riot of ruminant spotting.

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Stage 13: Pau > Lourdes

Tonight’s stage takes us from Pau, which is a regular stop on the Tour route, to Lourdes, which is hosting the finish for only the second time in Tour history.  Before the cyclists reach Lourdes, they will have to climb the hors catégorie Col d’Aubisque.  Let’s hope the roads are bone dry, as Lourdes is at the end of around 40km of descending. We are still in the magnificent Pyrenees and therefore still in the home of the seriously endangered French Pyrenees cattle breeds.  In yesterday’s stage preview we met the Aure et Saint-Girons, and tonight we’ll take a look at the two others: Lourdais and Béarnais.

Let’s start with the stage’s eponymous cow, the Lourdais.  There’s really not a lot I can tell you about this beast and, to be honest, we are unlikely to get a sighting of one tonight.  Whilst these days cattle are generally seen as “dairy” or “beef” breeds, with some cross-overs, this is a relatively recent development. Historically, cattle were all-rounders, and the Lourdais is described as

certainly the best all-rounder of all the Pyrenean breeds, with good physical proportions and good milk production of 20 liters a day after giving birth, without the use of special food rations.

Oklahoma State University

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