It’s the final chance to shake up the CG placings today in this 53.5km time trail, but is there any shakeability left in this race? Particularly over this course? It’s pretty flat, heading out of Bonneval towards Chartres via country roads, and was always predicted to favour the strong time triallists: Fab, Martin, Evans, Wiggins, Menchov. Well, Fab and Martin are long gone from the Tour (I’ll take a quiet moment to mourn the lost opportunity to admire Fab’s exceptional… power output) and Evans and Menchov are 9’57” and 22’42” behind Wiggins, respectively. We can hope that Evans is strong enough to make a good showing tonight, and it will be interesting to see how van Garderen performs after his strong outing in the Besançon time trial. Clearly Wiggins and Froome have been stand-out competitors in this format so far and they will have the added benefit of knowing exactly what times they are up against. Barring absolute disasters on the course, surely not much will change in the top 10. (Click here for the start schedule and don’t forget to add 8 hours for AEST!)
This could, therefore, be something of a trial for viewers. We have most likely exhausted our supplies of witty skinsuit-related repartee (that is unless the Astana outfitters have read of our disappointment over the low-sheen of this year’s lycra and have ordered replicas of last year’s kit). With riders going out at predetermined times, the likelihood of decent name-mangling by the Ps is low. And there might not be vaches.
That’s right. We could be vache-less.
The Departement of Eure-et-Loir is where we find ourselves for this penultimate stage and its economy is based on agriculture. Unfortunately for Team Vaches, this leadership in agricultural production comes in the form of rapeseed oil and wheat. Other notable contributions to the economy include rubber and plastics, pharmaceuticals and… well just guess what comes out of the Cosmetic Valley cluster. If this excites you, and your enthusiasm is further ignited by wind farms and photovoltaic parks, this might just be the stage for you. For those dedicated to all things cow? Not so much.
The Centre region has a number of gastronomic specialties, none of which involve cows in any way1. There are some lovely goats cheeses, rillettes, tarte tatin and the Andouillette au Vouvray sausage. I like these things as much as the next person (okay, so slightly less if the next person likes andouillette), but the input from cattle is fairly minimal. Things are looking bleak from a vache point of view…
I know I’m drawing a very long bow here, but this little find has given me a glimmer of hope that areas best known for their crops still offer options for cow tragics. Here’s a group of people from a state where the unofficial song is the “Iowa Corn Song” showing their commitment to cows and bikes over a period of several years and many more miles in the saddle. I’m talking about Team Cow Iowa, otherwise known as The Udder Team. They wear their dedication to the cow with pride, and appear to have a healthy – but friendly – rivalry with the Wisconsin DairyAirs.
So, yes… perhaps it is optimistic of me to see this as an omen, but we have to get something vachey out of tonight, don’t we? Maybe a combined effort of positive thinking and the precedent of last night’s donkeys will bring us something like this:
Image: A Twisted Spoke
We can only hope!
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1. Obviously apart from the butter needed for the taste tatin. Clearly they are shipping that in. And, anyway, it would fail a Masterchef test that required the contestant to “make the cow the hero of the dish”.