Stage 16: Carcassonne > Bagnères-de-Luchon

With the Tour’s longest stage on offer today (237.5km) the riders will know that their rest day is over. Today’s route includes five categorised climbs, the last of which is the HC Port de Balès. From the summit, it’s approximately 20km of descending to the finish at Bagnères-de-Luchon. Nibali wasn’t looking too weary before the rest day but with three Cat 1s and an HC finish on tomorrow’s stage, he won’t want to spend it all today. Still, he doesn’t seem to be able to resist the opportunity to attack and he’s a strong descender. I’d be happy to see a duel between Rodriguez and Majka to break the points tie on the KoM competition although I’d be equally pleased to see Voeckler cross the final climb in a good position just in case he goes off-piste on the descent.

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Image: Roland Darré

We’ve been in these parts before – the home of the endangered breed, the Aure et Saint-Girons. With only 179 of them listed in the most recent census we remain unlikely to spot one but keep your eyes open just in case. It might just be a better stage for those moutons. Two of the dishes listed as specialities of the finish town are “pétéram (a dish prepared from sheep tripe) [and] pistache (mutton based cassoulet)”. Speaking of cassoulet, we ate many versions of this in this region last year but I didn’t see a beef one. Perhaps I just didn’t look hard enough…

Stage 15: Tallard > Nîmes

A long transitional stage the day before a rest day? Hmmmm, I’m already starting to nod off… What we can expect from today is an ulimately-doomed breakaway and a sprint finish. I’m hoping Sagan gets over the line first as I’m getting twitchy about a stage-victory-less green jersey winner.

Sadly, my tip-of-evil for yesterday’s stage failed to have the desired effect; Valverde remains in second position overall. Nibali has continued to extend his lead and will no doubt be looking to stay safe, maintain his advantage and conserve energy as much as possible. Yesterday’s stage winner, Majka, has the same number of KoM points as Rodriguez, who retains the polka dot jersey. With no points on offer today, we can enjoy the colour coordination until at least Wednesday.

The last couple of stages have been tough going for vache fans. We’ve made do with Taste le Tour cattle and bison but I do have a positive feeling about today. I’m sure my sighting of a gorgeous Highland bull this morning was a good omen. We probably won’t spot any of those – we are in Camargue country!

Stage 6Image: M Vache

Last year some of these cattle featured in the stage from Aix-en-Provence to Montpelier, and in 2012 Paul Sherwen gave us a positive ID of a group in the stage from Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Le Cap d’Agde. What to eat? Well, you really can’t go past the Gardiane la Camargue, which is also known as Gardiane le Taureau as it’s traditionally meat from the bull that is used. This stew is perfect for a winter’s night! Follow with any leftover alpine cheeses as when we return after the rest day it’s the Pyrenees.

 

 

Stage 14: Grenoble > Risoul

A fabulous mountain stage is ahead of us tonight. We can look forward to three big climbs over the 177km route and an early (8:30pm AEST) start to the broadcast. First, there’s the Cat 1 Col de Lautaret, then the HC Col d’Izoard and the finish is at the ski station at Risoul, another Cat 1 climb. Nibali is looking really strong, but I’d like to see Mooooooollema have a crack tonight. I have demonstrated my complete lack of tipping ability (sorry, Richie!) , so in the interests of using my Kiss of Death for good and not evil, I’m going to tip Valverde for the stage tonight.

On to the cows!
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Chagne Farm

I have no idea what breed of cattle they keep at La Ferme de Chagne, or what types of fromage de vache they make from the milk, but I think this is the most excited I’ve been when researching cattle of Le Tour:

Every Tuesday at 5.30 pm.
Visit the Chagne Farm  in Risoul Village and
help milk the cows.

Meet up at the farm at 5.30 pm :, 3€ per person.
1 litre of milk offered per family.

Risoul Tourism

I want to be there now. Well, on Tuesday at 5.30, to be precise…

More breed-specifically, we are near Villard-de-Lans territory, which means our cheese is the Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage. The people of the region take their cheese very seriously and dress up for their get-togethers to celebrate their produce. They’re not too serious for a cute logo, though…

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Have a look at this page for a description of the cheese-making process (in French), as well as pictures.

 

Stage 13: Saint-Etienne > Chamrousse

Stage 13 contains the first HC climb of this year’s Tour de France, with the ascent to the finish at Chamrousse. Although the stage profile looks relatively passive for the first 134km with “only” a Cat 3 climb at the 24th kilometre, we could hear the phrase “false flat” fairly frequently. The second climb, the Col de Palaquit, starts at around the 138km mark and has some challenging 10+% sections. This climb hasn’t featured in the Tour before, which always makes me happy as it means no tedious comparisons to certain performances by certain past riders. There’s a descent into Grenoble, and then the climb to Chamrousse. Let’s see what Richie Porte can do tonight!

As far as vache-spotting goes, we could see some more Montbéliarde – in fact, I know we will. Last night’s Gaté preview primed us for the Taste le Tour segment featuring this breed. 

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Image: Injera

There is also a mystery beast that seems to come from this region. I can find nothing about it beyond a mention on the Isère Specialities page under “Livestock”, so I’d go ahead and identify any breed you don’t recognise as Chambarans.

Maybe the lucky bovines of Ferme des 13 fontaines are Chambarans cattle?

Have you ever heard of cows listening to the radio? Well, they do just that at the ‘ferme des 13 fontaines’ in Brézins! It is an ultra-modern educational farm where the cows decide when they are ready to be milked while having a snack. Stress? They do not know the meaning of the word and there is nothing they enjoy more than parading in front of the many visitors who go to this unusual milk farm. Would you like to find other milk producers ?

vache-brézins

Tourisme Bievrevalloire

What to eat? Well, Saint Marcellin is the local cheese we’re looking at today and by “looking at” I mean there was a tour group six deep outside my favourite cheese shop at the market, so I wasn’t even able to see if there was any available. A pity, because I do enjoy this cheese.

St. Marcellin is a delicate little cheese that requires protection from the world—so much so that it arrives at your home in a tiny terra cotta crock, sheltered from the bumps and bruises of commercial life. And for good reason, too. The rind of this cheese is almost non-existent at room temperature, and once warmed, even the gentlest prod of a cracker causes it to burst forth a fountain of sensuously unctuous cream.

Stephanie Stiavetti

Unctuous!

Gabriel Gaté uses this cheese, along with some crème fraiche and a terch of berter for tonight’s recipe, a zucchini flan.

If you are in need of a stage-appropriate winter warmer, reach for some Chartreuse. You won’t be sorry, unless you don’t like Chartreuse…

Stage 12: Bourg-en-Bresse > Saint-Etienne

Assuming that Talansky makes a start today, the peloton is at 179 riders. Nibali is looking comfortable in yellow, with Rodriguez rocking the red-knicks-polka-dots combo and Sagan holding on to the green. Richie Porte starts today in second place and Valverde is in third. This 185.5km stage takes us through the Beaujolais mountains with four categorised climbs, but it’s feeling distinctly Glühwein in these parts. Is this a sign? Will Marcel Kittel bring it home for the cattle? Will we even see what’s happening at the front of the race or will we get the derrière of the peloton again tonight?

The cow forecast should be looking fairly rosy. We are approaching Charolais country and Beth noted these blond beasts at the top of the second climb.

stuckinoregon_2014-Jul-17Sure, it’s possible that they’re sheep… but let’s go with cows.

We might even catch a glimpse of the Ferrandaise. This is not the first time we’ve tried and we haven’t been successful in the past, but perhaps we will be lucky this time.

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Image: Jean Colas

In 2011 we discovered that the breed was endangered, having dwindled from an early 20th century population of over 70,000 to a mere 700 or so but last year we found signs that its popularity – or, at least, its marketability – might be increasing. According to the folk at EuReCa, it is trending upwards!

What should we be eating and drinking tonight? Anything to stay warm and awake. I heartily recommend a chipotle hot chocolate but it’s  neither geographically appropriate nor a good food match. Same can be said for glühwein, I guess…  It’s probably to late to hit the cheesemonger for a Bleu de Bresse, but clearly this is the cheese pick for tonight. If you have any “rich and buttery” blue cheese, you are in the ballpark.