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.



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.



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…


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.


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!