This 199km stage contains the first category 1 climb of the Tour: a 5.9km climb at an average 8.5% (although some sections are up to 13%) right at the end of the stage. That’s not to say it will necessarily be easy going up until that point; there are two other categorised climbs along the route, both classified as Cat 3. The first is the Col de Grosse Pierre at 112km, 8km after the intermediate sprint point, and the second is the Col de Mont de Fourche at 150.5km. The final climb up to the ski station at La Planche des Belles Filles is making its Tour debut, which means we will be spared comparisons to the achievements of certain storied competitors of recent years. It will be interesting to see how the main GC contenders stack up at the end of today’s stage, and if and when a gruppetto forms. We will miss Didi on the sidelines in the mountain stages this year, but I’m sure there will be many other tifosi – any bets on how long before a mankini makes an appearance?
After yesterday’s horrific crashes, four more riders have withdrawn from the Tour: Poels, Vigano, Danielson and Astarloza. [Edited to add: make that five – Gutiérrez has just been reported as a non-starter. As of 6.33, Jonathan Vaughters has just added Hesjedal to the withdrawals. 7.47 – Mike Tomalaris has just tweeted that Robbie Hunter is also out.] With 27 receiving hospital treatment for injuries sustained during stage 6 we can only hope that the riders who are continuing aren’t in too much pain. The sprint stages are behind us for the time being, so a slower, spread out peloton might (fingers crossed) mean fewer accidents.
We’re about to head into the Vosges for some truly amazing cheese. Before you get stuck into the real hero cheese, warm up with some Gres de Vosges. It’s described as having a pungent aroma, which is not “offensively stinky“. I’m assuming that the person who decided that “stinky” equalled “offensive” is not a fan of one of my favourite cheeses, this stage’s star: Munster (also called Géromé in Lorraine). It’s recommended that you eat Munster with bread and match with a sweet white wine. This little cheese is quite easy to get hold of here. By “easy”, I’m not suggesting that the Fresh Food People or the Prices are Down folk will have it, but you will find it at specialty cheesemongers. Bill’s Farm is offering the Petit Munster as their stage 7 Tour Special – check out the gorgeous pic of today’s cow on their Facebook page.
The local cattle breed is, not surprisingly, the Vosges, a dual-purpose mountain breed with striking black and white markings. The herd is only a couple of thousand strong, at its largest in the Alsace, but we might get lucky and spot some tonight.
Image: Kranky Kids
In Fantasy League news, Make Some Noise has moved into first place with more than double the points of the struggling Moooooving Right Along. Ozone, the Roobaix Wreckers, SJT23 and the Inglorious Buzzards continue to find their place in the top five. Let’s see how these teams deal with the climbs!
Settle back, get into the rhythm of the mountain stages, and keep up the good work with your vache-spotting.