Stage 17: Digne-les-Bains > Pra Loup

We’ve finally made it to the Alps! The riders have had a rest, as have we, so no doubt we’ll attack the five climbs in this 161km stage with vigour. From what I’ve read, the biggest challenge here is less about the fourth ascent (up the Cat 1 Col d’Allos) than it is about the descent before the final climb to Pra Loup. It looks to  head upwards from around the 55km to go mark with the summit of the Col d’Allos 33km later before a “technical” descent “to delight Nibali and cause anxiety for Froome”. The way Chris Froome is looking at the moment, I think it will take a lot to cause him anxiety.

Keep your eyes open for more Montbéliarde in these parts. Interestingly, although the number of farms has decreased sharply – from 106 in 1988 to 37 in 2010 – the amount of agricultural land has increased over the same period – from 1002ha to 2989ha – with farmers turning towards sheep and cattle breeding. I’m hoping this makes for some vache-tastic viewing.

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Image: Arnaud 25

We are about to hit the mother lode of cheeses, however we are not quite there yet. There is a fromagerie in Barcelonnette, close to the finish at Pra Loup, that produces a range of cheeses. Have a look at their page as a guide to what you should look for at your local purveyor of things cheesy.

Now, about those sheep. They are responsible for a local delicacy, fumeton, also known as lamb ham. (When I say “also known as…”, that’s how it came up in the Google Translated Wikipedia page for Moutonesse.)  I can’t say it better than an auto translate of a crowd-sourced fact page, so here goes:

The slaughtered sheep was skinned and boned, cut his flesh, flattening the skin, generously salted, then the skin was folded and all highly compressed for a month after which the meat, unpacked, was allowed to dry in the sun before be smoke . The Fumeton, although inspired the lamb ham, is a totally different product, manufactured throughout the year from Walnut degreased and denervated leg, and this in a workshop with EEC located in Barcelonnette. There remains a small-scale producer in Pra Loup that sells about two tons per year.

Wikipedia – Moutounesse

I’m not even going to pretend to know what “Walnut degreased” means, but two tons seems a lot of compressed dried lamb. Apparently it can be added to a number of alpine dishes, including gratins and raclette, so there’s a turf’n’turf for you.

 

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