Stage 2: Utrecht > Zelande

This 166km stage starts at 4m above sea level, before rising to a nose-bleed-inducing 6m at Brouwersdam, with 12km to go. I guess we’ll really see who has packed their climbing legs today. No, but of course the big questions1 for today are surely “will there be echelons?” and “if so, what impact will this have on the finish?”. ¬†Race organisers will be disappointed if the answer to the first is “no”, given that the course seems to have been designed to factor in the winds as a major player over the last 40km or so. Experience in local conditions will be sure to play a role in that case.

With all the talk of barbecues last night, maybe the “Griller”2, Griepel, will be even more motivated to take a stage win? The Cow that Won’t Quit’s team-mate, Cowvendish, will hopefully have a crack if he’s there at the end, and no doubt Sagan and Degenkolb will be hungry for the podium.

Speaking of hungry, at 48km we pass through the town of Gouda. Recognise that name? Yes, it’s the town after which the cheese was named. Gouda – the cheese – has a reputation for being a bit on the boring side, however that might just be because it’s not a protected name and the mass-produced local versions are a bit bland. Shop around for some Dutch Gouda, particularly the aged cheese which is described as “toffee-like” or “caramelly” and has a crumblier texture than the young cheeses. If you are snacking on a young Gouda, pair it with a beer; older cheeses match well with wines – a fruity riesling is recommended for medium aged cheese and richer reds for the older cheeses. Geert suggests having it with a spicy mustard. You’ll also find smoked Goudas, flavoured versions, spiced versions… it seems as though the options are almost limitless, although you’ll be hard-pressed to find the boerenkaas (raw milk) versions here, I’m afraid. If anybody has tracked some down, let me know!

So, all this cheese must mean cows, right?

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Stage 1: Utrecht > Utrecht

Here we go again!

This year’s Tour starts with a 13.8km time trial over a course so flat it would make a plate of poffertjes look like the alps. Obviously I’m looking forward to seeing how Cow-ncellara performs here, given that he’s talking about it being his last Tour, but I’m also hopeful that the Cow that won’t Quit puts on a good show. Our favourite Welsh cattle ambassador is predicting a good result from Tom Dumooooooolin, so here’s hoping. I’m keen to see whether the Ass-tanners are going to bring back the shiny skinsuits. And now I’m craving poffertjes.

The likelihood of cow-spotting tonight is low. This is an urban route and unless somebody is taking their pet bovine for a stroll in Park Bloeyendael, this cow will be the only possibility for a sighting this stage:

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Photo: Michael Coghlan

Of course, it’s always possible that a winner from last year’s Netherlands Film Festival is still wandering around Utrecht, celebrating their Golden Calf award. Who knows?

Golden Calf

Photo: Netherlands Film Festival

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