Perhaps I don’t really need to say too much about this stage. If you watched stage four, you will have already had a fairly comprehensive preview.
- cobbles are the drystone walls du jour
- it will be interesting to see how some of the lighter-weight riders cope on aforementioned cobbles
- stock up on light beer if you’re planning on participating in the injured-Chris-Froome-on-cobbles drinking game
- in case the Ps get confused again, the stage starts in Belgium, not Germany.
There are nine cobbled sections (15.4km in total) in this 155.5km stage. The weather over there sounds only a wee bit better than the weather we have here in Melbourne, so there’s an added layer of joy for the riders. So, who should we be watching? *Ahem*. Fabs insists he’s not racing the Tour just for stage five, but does anybody believe him? If not Cowncellara, then how about the Cow that Won’t Quit as an outside chance? Niki Terpstra would be amongst the favourites, but he came off the bike yesterday so might not be at his best; Greg van Avermaet is another one to watch. The Inner Ring has a comprehensive round-up of the main contenders.
We have been in these parts before and we met the local breed, the Bleu du Nord.
Image: Robert Scarth
If you haven’t seen a Belgian Blue – a close relation – you might be surprised to learn that this is a “smaller version” of that beast. It was originally known as the Belgian Hainaut, which ties it nicely to today’s stage. Like the Saosnoise (and many other multi-purpose breeds we’ve seen) it lost popularity, although its population never fell as low as yesterday’s breed. Its value as an efficient grazer was rediscovered in the early 1980s and it is now considered the “emblem” of the Parc Naturel Régional de l’Avesnois.
The milk of the Bleu du Nord is used to make the cheese matched to today’s stage, Maroilles, the “jewel in the crown” of the Avesnois region. It is said to be one of France’s oldest cheeses and has been produced in the region since the eighth century. It’s a washed rind cheese, not as stinky as the Vielle-Lille, but with a “pungent odour and piquant taste”.
Taste it just as it is at the end of the meal accompanied by beer glass or cook it in delicious gratins, in all the case you will regale yourself.
The meat speciality listed in the official guide for tonight’s stage is Tapjesvlees d’Ypres, which is described as “braised meat with lardons cooked on a bed of vegetables”. I’ve tried to track down a recipe with no success, but I was able to find a translation that suggests that the “meat” could be veal, so grab a shin and some pork fat and knock yourself out with some hearty slow-cooked goodness. Or, should I say, regale yourself.