Stage 4: Abbeville > Rouen

Today’s 214.5km stage takes us from Picardie to Haute-Normandie. The four Cat 4 climbs are distributed across the route, with the intermediate sprint between climbs three and four at 94kms.  The relatively flat terrain “isn’t exactly torturous” according to the TdF Guide, however the coastal route has other challenges, not the least of which are the notorious coastal crosswinds. In Rupert Guinness’ preview of the Tour, Cadel Evans revealed that stage four was one of the pressure points in week one, due to a combination of week one nerves, unpredictable weather and narrow, winding, “lumpy” roads. We saw those factors in play last night, with a couple of riders abandoning after serious crashes and a number who will probably be feeling all sorts of pain for at least the next few days. Let’s hope things go smoothly tonight.

Picardie boasts a strong rural economy, with “considerable cattle grazing”, although there is no particular local breed. Once we cross into Normandie, look out for the pied Normande.


Image: Will Studd

It’s a dual-purpose breed, producing well-marbled meat and fat- and protein-rich milk, which is credited with establishing the reputation of Normandie’s many cheeses. Unfortunately, most of these are produced in Basse-Normandie, but we have identified a couple of more local heroes.

Taking a direct route between Abbeville and Rouen, you’d go through Neufchâtel-en-Bray, the home of Neufchâtel cheese.  You would also pass by Auvilliers, where the fromage frais Petit Suisse originated (David Lebovitz waxes lyrical about it here).  Instead, we are taking a coastal route where fruits de mer takes precedence over les produits laitiers. Fortunately, we have managed to bring them together. Last year’s cowrespondent from the Sarthe, @parisbug, has recently moved to Normandy and her tweeted reveries about moules à la Normande – mussels in cider – prompted some envy here. Her recipe, if I remember the twitter conversation accurately, featured one of the lovely cheeses from further south in Basse-Normandie: the Pont l’Evêque. See if you can find some cidre de Normandie and give this recipe a try, with Pont l’Evêque instead of the blue cheese.


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  1. Pingback: Tour de France 2012 – Stage 4 « Visible Procrastinations

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