From a relatively short stage yesterday to the longest of the Tour today: a 226km route taking us over the last of the Alpine climbs. The first climb, the Cat 1 Col du Grand Cucheron, is a 9.7km ascent commencing at around the 21km mark with the summit at 34km. It starts slowly, at around 4-5%, but keeps on building with the final 500m at 10%. The Col du Granier – another Cat 1 – follows at 71km. This 9.7km climb has an average gradient of 8.6%, but from kilometre five it is closer to 10%. The final climb is the Cat 3 Côte d’Ardoix, starting at 201.6km. Cycling Weekly’s guide notes that the descents this stage are longer than their preceding climbs, which should give the sprinters the opportunity to stay in touch with the climbers and the GC contenders. After last night’s sorting out, it will be interesting to see what Nibali does and who will have a crack at a break. SBS is live streaming from 7pm so you don’t have to miss any of the cycling action.
Onto the vache action. There is no breed indigenous to this region, but I’m not leaving anything to chance: there are cows in the vicinity! Google Maps has been remarkably helpful with this shot taken on the route the riders will follow today:
Image: Mr Jalili
Let’s just hope they are out and about for Le Tour.
I’ve been struggling to find any solace for the lactose-challenged with beef dishes from the area. It might be that I’m not looking hard enough, or in the right places, but I did find an explanation of sorts on Saveur. Apparently the traditional staples of the local cuisine are pork products, game, fish, rye breads and polenta. And dairy products. So here’s a local cheese.
Saint Felicien was originally made with goats milk, but fortunately for us it is now more commonly made with (raw) cows milk. It is not unlike the St Marcellin that was profiled by Essjaymoo in Stage 16 last year although it is creamier and not as tangy. Roberta Muir describes it as “slightly nutty” and “spoonable at room temperature”. Like the St Marcellin, it is aged for two to three weeks and develops a yellowish exterior as it ages. It is generally bigger than its Dauphiné cousin, at 180g to its 80g, but is also often presented in a terracotta dish.
I don’t know whether it’s the late nights, Cowdell’s loss of more time to the Wigster last night, the prospect of another week or so with no chance of a shirt-changing Fab or a combination of all of the above, but I’m feeling as flat as a week one stage. Fortunately, Essjaymoo and I undertook a raid on Bill’s Farm earlier today and a fridge full of cheese is improving my disposition somewhat.
Allez Cadel! And Allez Les Vaches!