Today’s 143.5km, five climb stage is the last chance the climbers will have to grab big points and given that only 4 points separate Europcar’s Veau-ckler and Kessiakoff of Astana, they are bound to be hotly contested. It’s also the last chance the for the weaker time triallists to move up in the GC – Nibali’s moves were all marked last night and it’s doubtful that Sky will let him escape. Tejay might make a play for a higher placing, though, and I’d love to see Moobeldia having a crack. Evans, whilst conceding he’s out of podium contention, has suggested that he would like to make a move, but it’s probably unlikely that he will be allowed.
The course today is “short, but brutal!” according to Technical Director Jean-François Peschaux. The climbing starts early, just after 18km, with the Cat 1 Col de Menté. This 9.3km ascent has an average gradient of 9.1% but the first and third kilometres average 10.3 and 11% respectively and the rest of the climb ranges from 5 to 12%. The descent is described as “tortuous” and the Cat 2 col des Ares and Cat 3 Côte de Burs will no doubt come as a bit of a relief. The day’s toughest climb, the 11.7km of the HC Port de Balès, starts at around 100km. Expect narrow roads, the usual fan kerfuffle, and perhaps picture break-up because of the trees (although we’ve been pretty lucky with that this year). After descending to Saint-Aventin, the final climb of the day commences. It’s really two climbs: riders will tackle the Col de Peyresourde (about 9km), descend briefly and then climb again to finish at the ski station of Peyragudes. Finally – a mountain top finish! They seem to have been few and far between this year. I’ll leave the last of the stage overview to Cycling Weekly:
We can’t emphasise enough how hard today’s roads are. Crashes are a possibility; they’ve been frequent in the past when the Tour has been here and they’ve changed the race. And the climbs a all hard and unforgiving. Anyone who breathed a sigh of relief when they got to Luchon yesterday, thinking they’d got through the Tour, might have to think again.
Let’s leave the nasty prospect of crash behind as we look at today’s vache. Welcome back to the home turf of the Aure et Saint Girons!
Essjaymoo profiled this rare breed (latest figures for herd strength: 255 cows) for stage 12 in the 2011 Tour and it is rather telling that a google search of the breed name offers our profile as the fifth search result. As noted last year, the breed – also known as the Casta – is considered to be one of the oldest in Southern France. Details of its origin are somewhat sketchy, but it is most likely that it developed in the Aran Valley in Spain. Despite its lengthy history, it was not until 1900 that it was officially designated a breed, and the herd book was established in 1901. The future of this breed appears to lie with its potential for veal and beef production, but it is also still prized as a draught animal.
Their intelligence, their docility, resistance, quality of their members [not sure about the translation tool here!] and agility…did wonders for deep plowing. In 2007 there are five pairs of oxen used for small agricultural work, parties or demonstrations. Their appearance is always a hit (with) the public.
As we saw last year, the milk of the Aure et Saint Girons is used to make the local Bethmale cheese. There are three versions of this cheese: one from goat milk, one from cows milk and the last from a mixture of milk. The cows milk version is described as
pungent, with more of the mushroom and earth aromas that characterize a washed-rind cheese
Janet Fletcher, San Francisco Chronicle
This cheese is made in and around Bethmale, which is about 35km to the east of Couledoux, just after today’s first climb. Sounds like a reasonable detour for riders who have dropped off the back of the peloton. I haven’t been able to track any down here – ask your local cheesemonger just in case, but accept any substitutes of Pyrénéan cheese in lieu.
When I was looking at Kiva yesterday, I saw this project, also in Mongolia:
Batbold, 28, lives with his wife and son in a ger (Mongolian yurt) in Bayanhongor province, Mongolia. He started his garment retail business on a rental counter in 2006. His wife helps with his business. He is well known by the local residents. His business is sustainable and has many regular customers and suppliers. Currently, his wife usually runs the garment retail business. He wants to expand his business. Therefore, he has decided to start his new business repairing bicycles. He is a hardworking and humble man. The loan he is requesting will be used to buy some necessary equipment. He is requesting 3,500,000 MNT to purchase necessary equipment for bicycle repair.