“Hands up: who wants the green jersey?” is the opening line of the stage description in the official Guide. Well, we know Sagan is pretty attached to it and has demonstrated clearly that the green jersey is the points jersey, not the signifier of the fastest sprinter. Does that mean he’ll win today? Not at all – Coquard and Demare have been showing some form on the flat. OPQS will be chasing some results and might get the Cav-less train organised for Renshaw. But, let’s face it, Kittel (if he pulls up alright after his encounter with the cobbles) is the fastest man at the moment and it would be good to see him celebrate his fourth win.
There are two category four climbs in this 194km stage, and the intermediate sprint comes not long after the first of these at 119km. Sagan should be well placed to pick up some points here and Lemoine will be wanting to extend his time in (restrained) dots. The Ass-tanners showed that they were perfectly organised yesterday and will hopefully keep Nibali safe in yellow for another day.
Today we start in Pas-de-Calais, pass through Aisne and finish in Marne. Although we were promised cattle in jerseys yesterday, it was fairly light on for bovines in the end and I fear we will have no luck today. We will definitely see cereal crops and vines, and we might even see some sheep (Aisne is known for its wool-weaving), but cattle look to be scarce. There is no local breed to keep an eye out for and the local cheese is made in Avesnes-sur-Helpe which is beyond our finish by a hundred or so kilometres. With a bit of luck we’ll spot a couple of smallholdings with cattle.
Image: Keith Weller/USDA
As mentioned above, today’s finish town does have a cheese. It’s called the Coeur d’Arras and is another riff on the Maroilles we met yesterday (the Vieux-Lille is another variation of that style). It is a soft, washed-rind cheese with a slightly orange tinge to the rind and it is formed into a heart shape. Naturally is has a strong smell and the flavour is said to be “powerful…with a sweet aftertaste“. If you have beer left over from last night’s stage, it is meant to be a good match. Of course, if you are keen to open some champagne, we are in the right area, but why not save the bubbles for Epernay and a less aggressive cheese?