Stage 21: Chantilly > Paris Champs-Élysées

So it’s come to this – the final stage of the 2016 Tour de France. Traditionally, this means champagne for the yellow jersey, a slow roll towards the metropolis, some laps of the cobbles and a frantic sprint finish. Oh, and no vaches. And with a late start today, it probably also means a very thinned out couch peloton.

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Image: Wiki Commons

Enjoy raiding the fridge for leftovers. I probably won’t see you for much, if any, of the stage, but I’m looking forward to La Course!

I’m trying to figure out how I can make the final quiz work this year – with reduced Ps time, the obvious questions really aren’t jumping out at me as much as they have in the past. Stay tuned, and thanks for a fabulous three weeks.

Stage 20: Megève > Morzine-Avoriaz

Mike Tomolaris suggested that yesterday’s stage was the final test. He may have jumped the gun a little, although the conditions certainly were testing for the riders once the rain started to come down. Still, we have two stages to go and whilst I’m happy to write off the final stage as a formality, this one has a number of challenges. There are four categorised climbs, culminating in the HC Joux Plane. The official guide tells us that this is a climb that struck fear into the heart of he-who-shall-not-be-named. The finish is a descent into Morzine and with more rain forecast today, it could be dicey. Here’s hoping there aren’t any result-changing chutes.

As we are still in the Savoie and Haute Savoie, we can continue to watch out for the alpine cattle profiled earlier. We spotted a number of cows during stage 19, including what looked like a group of Tarentaise taking an interest in the race.

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Image: Guilhem Vellut

As long as you watch Taste le Tour, you are guaranteed vaches, as Gabriel Gaté visits some Abondance. The reblechon cheese is made from the milk of these, along with Tarentaise and Montbéliarde.

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Image: SBS – Taste le Tour

Remember that tartiflette I posted a couple of days ago? Well, it looks as though he is making one tonight. Here’s the recipe. A crisp white wine would go down well with it, I reckon.

Stage 19: Albertville > Saint Gervais (Mont Blanc)

We’ll be hearing Col de la Voecklers again tonight, but this is a different climb, on the other side of Mont Blanc. The Col de la Forclaz is both the first and second categorised climb of the day, with riders taking two passes in the first half of the race. The third climb is the HC Montée de Bisanne and the stage finishes in Saint Gervais Le Bettex after the climb up the Côte des Amerands. It’s 146km in total. Spectacular scenery is guaranteed; I guess we will just have to wait and see how hard the riders in the top ten are willing to fight for a place beside Froome on the podium.

Let’s look out for the Abondance cattle tonight, and hope that my autocorrect is right in telling me that they will be in abundance. (I feel sure I’ve made this exact joke before, but with a two ascents of a second mountain called Forclaz, I think deja vu is the order of the day.)

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Image: Fromage Abondance

The milk of this cow (not specifically the one pictured above, but… you know what I mean) is used to produce a number of alpine cheeses, including the Abondance.

Abondance cheese is made by hand in the traditional way, by the combined efforts of some 60 farm producers and local craft cooperatives known as “fruitières” (literally, “fruit trees”), using milk supplied by local dairy farmers.
All production and maturation sites must be located within the geographical area specified by the AOC/PDO labels.
From the very start of the process through to the moment the final product has fully matured, the skills of each dairy farmer, cheese maker and maturer are what make Abondance cheese so special and unique.

Fromage Abondance

If you can’t find Abondance cheese, there is Beaufort, Comté, Tomme de Savoie… all those cheeses mentioned yesterday and more! After clicking through links on the above site, I am adding a cheese tour of the Savoie to my wish list: Les Fromages de Savoie.

Enjoy the stage, particularly the extended coverage tonight and tomorrow!

For Stage 19 – thanks, @thedrinkslist

A photo posted by Les Vaches Du Tour (@lesvachesdutour) on

Stage 18: Sallanches > Megève

The final TT is an uphill 17 km, promising spectacular scenery and small gaps between the favourites. To be honest, I’m more excited about this information from the On The Road section of the official website:

Specialities: … Reblochon, tomme de Savoie, tome des Bauges, Abondance, Chevrotin, Emmental de Savoie (cheese), tartiflette, raclette, fondue savoyarde.

Honestly, I don’t know how you are going to choose a cheese or cheese-adjacent dish for tonight with so much choice. One thing I do know, though, is that you can’t go wrong.

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A tartiflette I enjoyed in the Haute Savoie in 2013

Local Simmental with a marrow sauce – I am still dreaming of this from Annecy in 2013

IMG_4363Oh, and did you notice the mention of the Rock’n’Poche festival on the Le Tour site? I couldn’t resist looking it up… Check out the logo!

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Stage 17: Bern > Finhaut-Emosson

We are in Switzerland all day – 184.5km, four climbs and a summit finish. You’d hope the riders spent part of yesterday eating for tomorrow, which is – of course – today.

According to the Australian home of Raclette cheese:

Apart from the magnificent Swiss Alps themselves, Switzerland’s greatest natural resource is the cow.

and Switzerland certainly brought us a bovine bonanza before the rest day. I am hoping we will have more delights today. The buffalo were a bit of an unexpected surprise on Monday; today we are travelling through the home of the Simmental so we should be assured of a sighting.

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Perhaps we will also spy some Braunvieh, complete with cowbells (if the roadside randoms have left any for the cows).

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Image: Ikiwaner

 

Clearly this is a stage for chocolate and/or cheese. There are a lot of alpine cheeses to choose from, but if you can get your hands on one of these, tonight would be the perfect night for bunging it in the oven:

800px-Vacherin_Mont_d'OrImage: Wikimedia Commons

when baked, it’s like a brain wreck of everything going on – fat, funk, fresh cream, wood, garlic, rank, and a peculiar buttery sharpness scrambling all of your senses together in each single mouthful. And if that description didn’t scare you away, then you’ll be rewarded with a life-altering eating experience.

David Lebovitz

Now, if that doesn’t make you want to rush out in search of this cheese, I don’t know what will.

Stage 16: Moirans-en-Montagne > Bern

What exactly is this stage? 209km, lumpy, a border crossing, only one categorised climb (a cat 4 at the 183.5km mark)… and a finish in Bern. Clearly, this is a Fabs stage, designed to give him a stage win on home turf in his farewell year. Spoil my farewell Fabs party AT YOUR PERIL, peloton!

Even if Cancellara doesn’t win, I am confident there will be vaches. There must be! So. Much. Cheese. One of the cheeses we should be eating tonight is Comté, which is only made from the milk of Montbéliarde (remember them?) and French Simmental cattle.

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Simmental

Image: Richard Bartz

Comté is one of my favourite cheeses and if you have a good cheesemonger, you should be able to find some beautiful aged cheese. If, however, all you have available is a crappy supermarket, fear not! You can still be regionally appropriate with your cheese choice because La Vache Qui Rit is from these parts.

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Image: Groupe Bel

According to Wikipedia, Comté is used in the manufacture of the Laughing Cow. They also add some information about shelf-stability, and how to access the cheese:

Consumers have to pull a little red thread around the box to open it, and the foil packaging also features a red tab for opening.

Seriously. Get yourselves some Comté.

Stage 15: Bourg-en-Bresse > Culoz

Up, up, up! We’re back into the climbs with très nombreux points on offer for the pois competition today. This 160km stage has six categorised climbs, starting with the Cat 1 Col du Berthiand, starting at the 16.5km mark. Riders will then tackle the Col du Sappel, the Col de Pisseloup (a good spot for a natural break, you’d have thought) and the Col de la Rochette before the big one: the Grand Colombia which, according to Google Translate, means Large Dovecote. At 1,501m, that’s either a lot of doves, or one very lucky bird. There’s one final chance for the laces to come undone on the Lacets du Grand Colombier before the final descent into Culoz.

Will our Quintana disappointment continue? Will Froome add to his lead? More importantly, will we see vaches?

There should be cows… somewhere. There is a local blue cheese – Bleu de Bresse – made from cow’s milk, although it is not made from the milk of any specific breeds. Let’s be on the lookout for a variety of dairy cattle, then.

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Montbéliarde

Image: PRA

You might not be able to find Bleu de Bresse here. It’s a creamy blue cheese, described by the Canada Cheese Man as “blue cheese for beginners”. His daughter might have a future in cycling commentary, as her description of this cheese is straight from the backhanded compliment playbook: “It was better than I thought it would be.” My advice, then, is to find a blue cheese you enjoy, and… enjoy it!

Anyway, since we are spotting general dairy cattle, I found this post about French farming by Tammi Jonas and thought it might be of interest. See you on twitter tonight!

 

Stage 14: Montélimar > Villars-les-Dombes (Parc des Oiseaux)

Paul Sherwen is going to be in heaven on this stage with its finish in a bird park. There are over 3000 birds, so expect lots of twitching in the commentary box. Given that the 208km course has been described as being more difficult than it looks, avoid choosing “false flat” as your drinking word, unless you plan on having a very quiet Sunday.

On the vache front, we could spot a number of different breeds. When we were in these parts in 2011 for the Grenoble time trial, we profiled the Villard-de-Lans and a cheese the milk is used for, Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage. Salon_de_l'agriculture_2014_-_Banbie,_vache_Villard_de_Lans

Image: HaguardDuNord

We are more likely to see Montbéliarde. We certainly spotted these a little east of this course a couple of times in the past.

As you’re unlikely to find the Bleu de Vercors-Sassenage, Saint Marcellin is another local cheese, and relatively easy to find.

Stage 13: Bourg-Saint-Andéol > La Caverne du Pont-d’Arc

It’s Time Trial time, and we could probably all do with some predictable repetition after stage 12’s shenanigans. I don’t know about all of you, but I’m still trying to get my head around what happened. Who knows how Chris Froome will pull up after yesterday? As one wag on twitter said, perhaps he’ll be swimming the TT.

Will we see cows? Who knows, but – as always – if we see any, we will have the opportunity to see them over, and over, and over, and over…

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Evidence of ancient vaches (also… rhinos? hmmm)

Image: HTO

The beef of the area does not appear to be specific breed; rather, it is all about how the cattle are raised.

Before being taken to market these  animal must have passed two summers freely grazing on the Mézenc Massif above 1,100 meters, and when they are brought down for the winter they may only be fed hay that was grown in the same pastures where they grazed in the summer

Brian G. Newman

The result is known as Fin Gras du Mézenc and, like all good things – and, let’s face it, some fairly random things – there is a festival celebrating it. Keep your eyes open for some happy, well-fed cattle!

We have a Côtes-du-Rhône to keep us company tonight. The Drinks List describes it as “loaded with smells of sweet raspberry and cherry-like fruit coupled with background notes of lavender, thyme and spice”. Raise a glass to the lavender fields!

Stage 12: Montpellier > Mont Ventoux

It’s Bastille Day, and a finish on Mont Ventoux! Due to strong winds, the finish won’t be atop the Giant of Provence; instead, organisers have relocated to Chalet-Reynard, which is 6km before the summit, as a safety measure.

Attacks by French riders are a given on July 14th, as are huge crowds. The roadside randoms will be out in force, possibly concentrated as a result of having less mountain to cover. I predict more mankinis per kilometre than we’ve seen before – maybe the megaphoning monk will reappear?

Unless we spot some Camargue as we leave Montpellier, it’s likely to be another vache-free stage. Best to get this Gardiane de Taureau into the pot to fuel you up for the climb.

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The Drinks List has a Provençal rosé for this stage and if you live far enough north to turn off the heaters, you should enjoy sipping this as you watch the lavender go by. DiscoverVin‘s stage wine is a Côtes du Rhone, which will go nicely with the Gardiane de Taureau. Enjoy!