So we enter France, finally! Today’s 197km stage looks to be fairly flat for the first half, but once the intermediate sprint is done at 119 km there are six categorised climbs to test the peloton, finishing with a Cat 4 at Boulogne-sur-Mer. The BBC Tour coverage hopes that Cav will be able to keep up with the leaders, however the Tour Guide has technical director Jean-François Pescheux saying
There is no chance of us seeing the sprinters in action at the finish… I think there will be lots of splits in the peloton.
In his column analysing Green Edge’s chances for sprint points, Rupert Guinness predicts that the sprinters will be aiming to be in the mix at the finish, with Peter Sagan a contender in a finish similar to his stage one win. Whatever happens, at least we’ve seen from the last couple of stages that BMC is working really well for Cadel, and that perhaps the same can’t be said for rival Wiggins with his Sky team.
We’re in Nord Pas-de-Calais today, which Janine Marsh describes as “France’s best kept secret” in her piece on Ma Vie Francaise. So, shhhhhhhhh, don’t tell anybody! There is an attractive local cow to look out for here – the Bleu de Nord. It is a dual purpose breed, described as the French version of the Belgian Blue, although she doesn’t look nearly as intimidating as her more muscular sister. According to French Wikipedia
She wears a white dress speckled with gray, blue or black.
Image: Amie Des Vaches
The Dairyman site has some rather confusing information regarding the herd size in this neck of the woods:
Nord-Pas de Calais has about 3,900 dairy farms. This number does not cease to decrease whereas the number of farms with beef cattle grows. Also the number of dairy cows is increasing. Overall between 2007 and 2009 dairy livestock has reduced by 3.5%. However, the quantity of delivered milk stagnates around 1.22 billion litres per year. This is the result of an increased milk production per cow (6,900 L in 2010) and an increased delivery per dairy farm (315,000 L in 2010).
So… there are fewer cows, or more; they are producing less milk or the same amount; we should eat beef… or something.
A local cows milk cheese from this part of the world is mimolette. It is described as resembling a Dutch style cheese, with a distinctively orange colour. It’s a huge cannonball of a cheese that could quite easily be used as a weapon. A delicious weapon. In her book 500 Cheeses, Roberta Muir notes that the aged version of the cheese is is one of only a few cheeses infested with cheese mites (not to be confused with cheesymite). Anybody who has seen Andrew Zimmern dealing with casu marzu will probably be reaching for a bucket around about now, but this sounds rather more appetising. Sydneysiders can get this delivered through Ocello‘s online store and Melburnians can pick some up at either Bill’s Farm or The French Shop at the Queen Victoria Market (they gave me a taste of it the other day – run, don’t walk!), or Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder.
Another local cheese is maroilles. It’s a soft, washed-rind cheese with a “tangy” flavour and pungent aroma. According to Roberta Muir, the Maroilles Abbey is the burial place of St Hubert, the patron saint of cheesemakers. What a pity it’s proving hard to find here! The Gourmet Sleuth recommends Pont l’Evêque as an acceptable substitute. If you decide to make Tarte au Maroilles for this stage, this recipe suggests “ripe Veritable Chaumes or extra-sharp Cheddar cheese” as alternatives. Nord Pas-de-Calais is clearly a confusing place.