Today’s 197km is flat. How flat? Pancake flat, according to the BBC. There are no categorised climbs and the intermediate sprint point is a little over halfway, at 109km. This is a day for the sprinters and we can hope to see one of those classic battles of the lead-out trains. Mark Cavendish would look to be a good bet on paper, but he came down in the last 3km of last night’s stage and we’ll have to wait and see what effect that will have today. Peter Sagan might be polishing a new dance move in anticipation of another win and Lotto will be fired up after Greipel’s stage four win.
Leaving the coast means moving away from those treacherous winds and – hopefully – the lumpy roads. The first week nerves should be starting to settle – perhaps the peloton will stabilise at 195 riders for a while after losing Rabobank’s Tjallingii before stage four. Sky’s Svitsov and Movistar’s Rojas were also casualties of stage three. Those watching in timezone GMT +10 will be appreciative of a relatively early night.
We are back to Picardie, finishing in the sub-prefecture of Aisne, the home of Le Creuset. Now, where would all those unctuous winter braises be without some heavy, cast-iron cookware? It’s Thursday, so if you let this oxtail stew simmer along tonight it will be perfect for Saturday, when we are closer to Alsace. Of course, if you are feeling particularly ambitious, The Guardian has this oxtail soup recipe listed under the heading “Best Difficult Recipes” (see no. 45).
There is no indigenous breed to celebrate, but the abstract for “Cattle Breeding and Dairy Control in the Department of the Aisne” reports that the Flemish, the Maroillaise, the Normande and the Belgian Black Pied are the dominant breeds, with some Bleu du Nord in there, too. Perhaps keep an eye out for some pretty Pie Rouge, too, since the internet isn’t being all that helpful regarding three of the four dominant breeds.
Image: L’Agriculteur Normand
The southern part of Aisne forms part of the Brie pouilleuse geographical region and borders Seine-et-Marne, which is renowned for the AOC cheeses Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun. David Leibovitz talks more about these cheeses here, as well as the non-AOC Brie de Nangis, Brie Noir and the scrumptious-sounding Coulommiers. The pictures alone are enough to ensure that the cheese market is added to the list of must-visits. Chez cette vache, we’ll be tucking into some Coloummiers we picked up from the Queen Victoria Market and perhaps a glass or two of chardonnay. That should keep the drink hashtag ticking along.
In fantasy league news, the Roobaix Wreckers had a few good days at the top of the table, but have slipped to second place after a great performance by Ozone. The top five is rounded out by Make Some Noise, Inglorious Buzzards and SJT23. Moooooving Right Along is, despite the gee-up by trolldj, proving that cow puns do not a pro-team make and is languishing towards the bottom of the table.