It’s always exciting to get to the part of the Tour where the stage profile has additional graphics for the climbs. This 161km stage offers two such climbs, the Col de la Croix des Moinats and the Col de Grosse Pierre, both category two. I assumed that Pierre was grosse from eating all the tofailles vosgiennes, but then discovered that grosse pierre means boulder. Disappointing. The stage finishes with a category three climb, so it’s a chance for the climbers to come out to play, and for Contador to try clawing back some of the time lost on the cobbles. If the Cow that Won’t Quit has a good day, I’ll be happy, otherwise I’m putting my cow-related hopes with the Butcher, Tom Jelte-Slagter.
It’s also time for us to start getting excited about the cattle-spotting possibilities of the eastern mountain stages. What are our chances? I’m trying to figure out whether passing through Baccarat is a lucky sign or the reverse. I’ll go with lucky.
Here’s what to look for: the Vosges.
Image: Christian Amet
On 25 May, feast of St Urbain, these sub-alpine meadows become home to herds of the gorgeous black and white Vosgienne cow. They arrive from the valley to graze until St Michael’s feast day on 29 September. Their excellent milk is turned into a delicious soft cheese. The marcaires – high mountain farmers – sell it as Géromé on the Lorraine side and Munster in Alsace.
Beautiful animals! They are rare, so we might not be lucky enough to spot one tonight although we’ll have another chance in tomorrow’s stage which is still in their home region. Munster (which I talked about here a couple of years ago) is one of my all-time favourite cheese and a quick google came up with Gewürztraminer as a widely recommended wine match. None of that here, but I’ll flick through my slightly incoherent notes from the 4 the Love of Riesling event as I’m sure I put aside a bottle that would do the trick.
Perhaps you’re after something substantial? In that case, stewed potatoes – otherwise known as tofailles vosgiennes – is the dish for today. Potatoes cooked in cream and wine with bacon and smoked pork neck? Hell yeah. If you don’t read French, use google translate with caution with this recipe. The first time I tried I got pomme de terre translated literally.