Stage 2: Bastia > Ajaccio

It’s up, up and up (and dooooooooown, then up) on today’s 156km stage. Perhaps Kittel might fight to cross the sprint point at 33km first, but it’s unlikely he’ll be first across the line in Ajaccio after the four categorised climbs test the peloton. The summit of the Cat 3 Col de Bellagranajo comes at the 70km mark. There’s a descent before the Cat 3 climb to the Col de le Serra; the Cat 2 Col de Vizzavona climb starts with nary a pause. A long downhill follows, but there is a final Cat 3 climb of the Côte de Salario just over 10km before the finish and, whilst short, it has an average gradient of 8.9%.

We are still in Corsica and I very much doubt that they’ve developed an affinity for l’affinage de fromage de vache since yesterday. I’m sure the race organisers will have cleared cows from the road, but who knows? This was taken near the finish town of Ajaccio:

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Image: Tom Fiorina

Remember the part where the cows were set free because of changes to farm subsidies? They were intended to prop up veal production, so here’s a Corsican veal dish to keep you warm tonight. Cook it to honour the white jersey.

Veal with olives (Veal à la Corse)

 

Stage 1: Round-up

Flying boats? A bus stuck at the finish? Chariot racing? Stage one had it all…and vaches!

The unconventional where-is-the-finish finish threw all plans that weren’t already in disarray into chaos. Some of the expected contenders, including pre-stage favourite Cav, were caught behind a crash. In the end, Kittel won the day, and will start stage 2 in yellow. He also leads the points and young rider classifications. Euskaltel’s Lobato del Valle leads the King of the Mountains competition.

In injury news, Tony Martin’s run of horrible luck continues, although if he’s really broken a collarbone, as is being rumoured, he would surely be unlikely to soldier on as he did with his scaphoid last year. Contador went down, but – like the black knight – is claiming that it’s just a flesh wound. Hoogerland met with an advertising  banner which was fortunately barbed-wire free. Geraint Thomas was taken to hospital after his crash, which continues his season of poor fortune.

M Vache and I are hoping to get near a television once we reach Carcasonne – I’d better find out what “suitcase of courage” is in French if I’m to join in the drinking games. A fine return to competition for the Twitter peloton with added exceptional vache-spotting. Chapeau!

 

Stage 1: Porto Vecchio > Bastia

“Why isn’t there a prologue?” asks the official site, rhetorically. Those of us who are mourning the absence of the newly crowned Swiss National Time Trial Champion spit aggrievedly at the response: “Quite simply because we wanted to take the fullest advantage of Corsica”. That this is the first time on the island for the Tour would not be made any less memorable by the addition of a prologue in my opinion, but that is the last I will say of it.

The 100th Tour’s opener is a 212km stage with some ups-and-downs – including the category 4 climb of Côte de Sotta as the course loops back from Bonifacio to Porto-Vecchio. Still, it is predicted to be a sprinter’s stage and Cowvendish would look to be a strong favourite, fresh from his victory at the National Road Championships. Of course he’s not the only fast man on the road in a flashy new jersey, so it should be a hotly-contested finish.

But what about the cows?

The last thing the writer of a website celebrating cows wants to read is that the “national dish” of Corsica is a sheep/goats milk cheese. But it is, and it is called brocciu. I did find a mention of brousse, a cow’s milk alternative that is available in the summer months, but it is described as not nearly as good as the brocciu. Brocciu is not the only Corsican cheese, but it seems that this small island – although hosting a decent herd of cattle – is a shepherd’s delight.

Corsica does have an indigenous breed of cattle – the Corse. It is considered a “threatened” breed, which might seem strange to those who note that cattle roam freely and in rather threateningly large numbers on the island. As a result of  policy initiatives and subsequent back-tracks, previously subsidised cattle have been “freed” which appears to have not only compromised the Corse breed, but led to some less-than-friendly bovine-human interactions.

5041398-So_cute_CorsicaImage: Kokoryko

These cows might not be powering the local economy, but I’m hoping we spot some of the “dozy” beasts “snuffling along the sand” as the peloton makes its way up the coast.

This image was fittingly titled "Vache a la plage"

This image was fittingly titled “Vache a la plage”

Image: Dominique

What to eat? Well, there is a Corsican cheesecake you can whip up called Fiadone. Naturally, this is made with the aforementioned brocciu, however I’ve found a recipe that assures me you can substitute ricotta or cottage cheese, so let’s go with that.

Get your musettes ready, hide the remote control from anybody who thinks le Tour might not be essential viewing, and remember to hashtag any cow sightings with #lvdt. Keep me posted on the goings-on with #trolldj, too, as I’ll be living #sbstdf vicariously. Any screen grabs gratefully received!

Allez! Allez!

Les vaches en vacances

We’re nearly there, and by there I mean here, and by nearly, I mean we have our bikes and will be starting our own mini-tour (sans cols and time trials) tomorrow. We are riding from Toulouse down to Sète at a leisurely pace along the Canal du Midi, keeping a particular eye out for visible vaches as we pass Castelnaudary in anticipation of the race riding through later in the week.

What does that mean for Le Tour (Actual)? We’ll probably still be in our saddles as the pros take to theirs each day, but we are hoping to get to our hotels in time to see as much of the coverage as we can (M Vache has been investigating; we will be tuned to France 1 and 2 and trying to follow as they hop between channels). The pocket wifi has been working a treat since we left Spain and – touch wood – will continue to do so in the countryside so I can watch the twitter commentary and Tour Tracker. Barring any disasters on the trail, we’ll be in Montpellier to see the end of Stage 6.

From there, we are flying up to spend a few days in Brittany and will be scoping vaches ahead of stages 10 and 11. Le vache tour part deux takes us through the Loire Valley, and we aim to reach Tours to see the Stage 12 finish. From then on, we will be scooting around in a petit Renault and will be popping up roadside and at various starts and finishes right through to Paris. Paris! Where, thanks to Ben, we have registered to ride in the Randonnée on the Champs Elysees on the morning of the final stage.

Daily previews of the cows to look out for and the vache-related snacks to prepare will be up at around 11.00am AEST and daily round-ups will follow each stage (tech willing).

It’s fair to say… I AM EXCITE.

National champions

British National Champion, Mark Cowvendish

British National Champion, Mark Cowvendish

Image: Road Cycling UK

Yesterday was a big one on the European racing calendar: the national road race champions were decided across the continent. While I siesta’d, Twitter tickered along with race updates and results. The full list of winners is here on Peloton Watch, but I wanted to take a pre-Tour de France minute to acknowledge all the cow-related champions (and there were many!), some of whom we will see wearing their new colours in Corsica in a few short days.

  • France: Arthur Vache-oh
  • Greece: Ionnis Ta-moo-ridis
  • Netherlands: Johnny Moo-gerland
  • Poland: Michael Quit The Cow-ski
  • United Kingdom: Mark Cow-vendish

It looks as though the Omooga Farmers will be the pre-eminent cow team in this year’s Tour, with both of their national road champions in the team along with Veal-its, the Slovak TT champion.  Speaking of which… don’t forget to join the LVDT Fantasy League on Velogames (code 15165543). If you’ve already entered, keep an eye on team announcements to make sure you have the strongest possible squad.

One week to go

Team rosters are being announced daily and whilst we will miss seeing some of our favourite riders contest the flat stages (no Moonen), rally their teams (no Bernie) and fill out a skin suit (no Cowncellara), there’s a lot to look forward to. Naturally we want to see Cowbell Evans doing well and I’ve had a special affection for Andy Schleck ever since he expressed a desire to make a bovine transformation. Cowntador should be cownted on to bring the attacks to Froome, who will have the wonderful, wonderful Bovine-Bison-Hagen in his corner. Let’s not forget Cowvendish in the points competition.

Of course, if all else fails, there are the vaches! We will be at the finish in Montpellier and Tours, and then pretty much following the Tour in our little rented car from Lyon onwards. Our itinerary gives us the chance to preview the Brittany stages, so I hope to be able to advise of potential vache-tastic viewing ahead of time.

Team Vaches was on the ball as usual this week, drawing attention to the excellent news that cows had been spotted during Garmin-Sharp’s alpine recons.

Vache HQ is currently in Barcelona and desperately trying to make on-the-road connectivity happen – everything is crossed that the mobile hotspot will suddenly start playing nice. Today we are visiting the pro-cyclists’ favourite base, Girona, and next week it’s France.

Allez!

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Image: Ryder Hejsedal

Tour de France: fantasy league

Before you tell me that Fabs isn't riding this year, I'll remind you that this is Fantasy Cycling.

Before you tell me that Fabs isn’t riding this year, I’ll remind you that this is Fantasy Cycling.

Image: Zimbio

With 13 days to go until the 2013 edition of Le Tour kicks off, this might just be the time to test your luck with a fantasy cycling team. Once again, Velogames has a competition up and running, with prizes for the overall winner, podium placings and stage winners. You can also join the Les Vaches du Tour mini-league – code 15165543. The overall winner of the league will get a cows t-shirt of their choice.  If the number 13 treats you particularly shabbily and you end up as Lanterne Rouge, some Udderly Smooth chamois cream might salve your wounded pride.

Cows in training?

Thanks, @OzKnitter, for passing on this story from Cyclingnews: Dodging Cows And Pacing Yourself. The full story is at the link, but below is the vache-news. It looks as though one of the cows did a bit of a Hoogerland.

As the gun went off at 9:00 am, we stood there for another 30 seconds, waiting before we could start rolling on our bikes. From here, it was go time, Kris [Sneddon], Spencer [Paxson] and I made like a bunch of angry hornets and started hammering up the sidewalks, weaving around hundreds of cyclists and eventually up to the head of the race in 10 minutes time.

Lucky for us, the start was on a wide road and was relatively slow. I looked at Kris and gave him the thumbs up as it looked like we had dodged a bullet. Nope, we got content again and drifted back into about 40th position and then the road turned into a gravel path which was still ok, until three cows got spooked and hopped in the middle of the road, blocking everyone out of the top 30. Spencer made a bold move and rode up the ditch. At the same time, one of the fat cows also moved to the ditch, pushing my teammate into a barb wired fence. With one hand on the cow’s ass, and the other one on his handlebar, Spencer pushed the cow out of his way and snuck by. I was cracking up, but also getting pissed at the cows as they weren’t getting out of the way.

I remember hearing about Steve Gaffney from Calgary getting kicked in the face one year by a cow he tried to pass on the Bow 80 course and wanted to avoid the same fate. Eventually the cows cooperated and we rode by them, only to have a panicked cow 100ft up the road try to jump out of his pasture. Being a fat cow, he instead went through the fence and hauled all kinds of wire into the middle of the road. All the Euros started yelling “Ashtung”.

fat_cow-12290

*Probably not the actual fat cow