Tonight we leave Liège and head through Namur en route to Tournai, in Hainaut. There is only one categorised climb – a four at 82.5km – but the route should give Paul and Phil plenty of opportunities to use the word “undulating”. The intermediate sprint point is at 153km, 54.5km before the finish, and it’s likely that the green jersey hopefuls will be chasing as many points as they can both here and at the finish.
The start town is Visé, which I reckon is close enough to Limbourg to excuse a quick trip over the provincial border for some Limburger. It’s described as tasting “milder than the aroma suggests”, with the American version being still milder (Roberta Muir). Still, it’s pungency was notable enough to inspire this Abbott and Costello sketch.
Last night’s stage was rich in bovine beauty and we can hope for more of the same tonight. Perhaps we might spot some Belgian Reds. The breed is from Western Flanders and is considered endangered, but who knows… Doesn’t this look similar to one of the groups from last night?
Speaking of beer, you might want to mark the night’s only climb – the Côte de la Citadelle de Namur – with a Blanche de Namur. It has coriander seed and orange rind flavours so should refresh you for the rest of the stage. By the time we get to Tournai we are firmly in saison territory. One local brew that is widely available around the world is Saison Dupont and, by the looks of it, today’s route will pass close enough to the brewery for the peloton to pop in for a drink. Saisons are a relatively high-alcohol beer, traditionally brewed in winter for consumption in summer as the conditions in summer were not conducive to brewing. They are a subset of the bières de garde – literally “beers for keeping”. The resident home-brewer has handed me one of his brewing bibles, “Farmhouse Ales – Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition”, but to be honest I started to glaze over at the Mesolithic era and by the Neolithic period I was craving a drink.
The “Visit Hainaut” site lists some other beer-washed cheeses as well as a number of local breweries (who doesn’t want to visit the Brewery of Silly?). As the website proclaims:
Hainaut, it’s crazy what you can do there!