We are really in the mountains now. Given the length of the stages we’ve seen so far, you might look at this 157.5km stage and think “well, at least I’ll get some more sleep before the week starts”. Not so fast. There are seven climbs packed into today’s route. The first is a Cat 4 at 20km, and they get progressively steeper (a 3, three 2s and then a 1) as the day progresses. We’ll see some pretty unlikely “sprinters” collecting points today, with the intermediate sprint coming after the day’s fifth climb.
The finish today is in Switzerland, so we should expect a lot of auditory false alarms as fans ring their cowbells. Hopefully it will give our own Cowbell Evans a boost. If we do see any cows, they might be the local Braunvieh (Brown Swiss) or Simmental.
Image: Wikimedia (Creative Commons)
The gentle-looking Braunvieh is an ancient breed; the breed society claims it may be the oldest pure breed in existence and it is certainly well-suited to its environment. Approximately 40% of Switzerland’s cattle are Braunvieh and why not? They’re the quadruple threat of the bovine world, by the sound of this catchy slogan:
Braunviehs put it all together: Maternal, Muscling, Marbling, and Performance.
The Simmental is another well-established breed and takes its name from the valley (of the Simme River) where it originated. The valley is about 150km south of our finishing point today, but given how enthusiastically the breed has been embraced around the world they will have made the short trip north. Like the Braunvieh, the Simmental is an all-rounder. Its days as a draught animal might be behind it, but the high milk production ensures its popularity in a country with what could be described as a cheese obsession.
As we discovered when we looked at the Tour of Switzerland last year, this little country packs in around 450 types of cheese and most of them are made from cows milk. There are seasonal cheeses such as the Vacherin Mont d’Or, which is a soft washed-rind cheese with a centre so creamy that it’s suggested you remove the top and scoop out the tangy, mushroomy, earthy goodness. With a spoon. The website has a handy countdown to it’s availability. You can either head over to Switzerland in 67 days for the new release or you can look out for some local versions, such as the Jackson’s Track from Old Telegraph Road.
For this weather, a raclette would be perfect. The first time I went to the ASCA Cheese Show I just wanted to keep joining the queue for the oozy, warm, nutty raclette at the Heidi Farm table. If, for some bizarre reason, you didn’t use last year as an excuse to invest in a racler, read this typically mouth-watering post by David Lebovitz for your vicarious raclette experience. Then go and buy some Gruyere and Emmentaler and make a fondue.
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