Image: Pedals like…
We’re in for another long one. 216km with a few lumps and bumps along the route, headed towards a flat finish. Tonight’s game? I dunno, pick a sprinter and you get bragging rights if they make absolutely no deviation from their line after launching? I’m giving this stage 🥕☕️ 🥕☕️ 🥕☕️ 🥕☕️ out of five.
I know there are a few of us in the couch peloton who are desperately hoping that Robbie McEwan is some sort of oracle and that his comment “the person in yellow after stage five will not win the tour” is prescient. Otherwise we could be in for a guided Sky tour of France. If that happens, just sit back, enjoy the scenery, continue the cow spotting (and excellent screen-grabbing!), snark the field art and try not to get too distracted when McKeeno throws random tasks in your direction.
After a slow start to the Tour’s cheese plate, we have two pretty good options for this stage. Back in 2012 we talked about these – Chaorce and Langres – and they are available here if you have a good cheesemonger. (And both pair nicely with the region’s wine – champagne. Go ahead, it’s Thursday!) There’s also a local cheese called Caprice des Dieux, which is a big seller in France, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland “and even Quebec”, according to their publicity. I think I’ll stick with the Langres.
Image: Tourisme Langres
With all this cheese, you’d expect to see some cattle. None of the local cheeses are tied to a specific breed, so we can expect to see some Holsteins and perhaps Jerseys. Oh, and we are still in glass-making country, so stay tuned for some more glamazing facts.
Time for the GC contenders to come out to play! This 160km stage has two categorised climbs. The Cat 3 Côte d’Esmoulièrs starts not long after the intermediate sprint point, but it’s the Planche des Belles Filles that is the big drawcard, not least because it offers our new commentators the chance to tell the story behind the place name. Naturally, this morning’s news has been dominated by fallout from the finish of stage four and it will be interesting to see what impact this has on the peloton. Thomas is still in yellow, which has not offered him protection from multiple crashes this Tour. Yesterday’s winner, FDJ’s Demare, is in Green, while Brown and LaTour retain the Dots and the White jersey respectively.
We had some splendid vaches-spotting last night! Will our luck continue tonight? Looking back through the archives, today’s local bovine breed, the Vosges, was mentioned by Paul Sherwen during stage 8 of the 2011 tour. I’m not quite sure why, as that stage was in the heart of Limousin country, although trying to map the tangential threads of our beloved former commentators’ meanderings is almost impossible after the fact. Suffice to say, he advised us that the cattle were brought to France by Swedish infantrymen and it is Swedish mercenaries who are implicated in the tragedy of the PdBF story. Hmmmm. I don’t think we have ever spotted these beauties, but there is a first time for everything.
Image: Cyrille Bernizet
With the Vosges comes one of my favourite stinky cheeses: Munster. Unsurprisingly, I also recommended this cheese when the Tour debuted the PdBF and I’m definitely going to be having some tonight.
The Drinks List’s Tour Survival Kit selection for this stage is the Hugel ‘Gentil’ 2015 , which
bring(s) together the noble, but slightly uncool, five-some of Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat & Sylvaner. The nose is as exotic as the blend suggests, while the palate is medium bodied & beautifully balanced. Drink it with Singapore noodles.
Okay, so Singapore noodles aren’t exactly traditional, but maybe keep those flavours in mind if you’re buying crunchy snacks…
It’s good to see that some members of the couch peloton are experimenting with the not-the-Taste-le-Tour food recommendations. Rusty’s tarte flambée last night looked sensational!
— rusty (@mativity) July 4, 2017
Image: France 24
— Rhonda M (@Help_MeRhonda) July 3, 2017
A question we want answered:
— Dean Thompson (@KineticPearl) July 3, 2017
— Sette (@cinquecento62) July 3, 2017
It’s another 200+km stage, but hopefully the peloton will lift the pace to distract us (and by us I mean me) from thoughts of how far away the first rest day is. It looks as though it should be a warm, sunny day so with nerves settling and no treacherously slippery conditions, perhaps we might have a crash-free stage. Could there be a win for Matthews, or will Sagan have a taste for the podium? Will he have asked Adam Hansen to fit him with some shoes that don’t slip out when the pressure is on?
We had a few good cattle sightings in yesterday’s stage, so here’s hoping there’s more of that to come. There is no breed specific to the region that I can find so keep your eyes peeled for anything vaguely bovine for your spot card.
We are travelling through two departments with Moselle in the name, which should tip you off as to appropriate wine choices. My experience with any wine with Moselle in the name is a long time past and came in a box, so this has prejudiced me against the style. Unfair, I know. I’m unlikely to have the opportunity to reconsider my opinion. According to Wikipedia,
Most Côtes de Toul and other Lorraine wines are consumed in Lorraine itself, with only a small proportion reaching the rest of France and nearby export markets.
The Tour website tells me that cheese tart is a speciality of the region, which on the surface seems to tick the boxes for vache-related tour snacks. But what exactly is a cheese tart? After some digging, I think it might be the tarte flambée or flammekueche mentioned here. Cheese, onions and bacon? Sounds alright to me.
This undulating stage takes us from Belgium, through Luxembourg, and to a Cat 3 finish in France. Hopefully the conditions will be drier than for yesterday’s stage – the forecast is for a mild but overcast day. Perhaps it will be a day for Peter Sagan to take the stage. Thomas is still in yellow and not-Fabs – sorry, Stefan Küng – currently wears the best young rider jersey. There are five opportunities for KOM points; let’s see what Taylor Phinney does to defend his spotty jersey.
But enough about the racing… where are the cows? I’m yet to watch the replay from stage 2, but I didn’t catch the fleeting glimpses of cattle reported by a couple of members of the couch peloton. Is there any hope of vaches today? According to The Dairyman, milk is Luxembourg’s main agricultural product, and 65% of agricultural land is given over to cattle farming. In the 2010 agricultural census, there were 143,000 cattle in the country, but knowing our luck they are all quartered along the eastern border. If we do see cattle, they might be MRY (sometimes known as MRI) – the Meuse Rhine Yssel, a dairy breed originating in the Netherlands and registered in the late 19th century. Variations on the breed were developed in Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark and France during the 20th century, so let’s call this one our local hero for the stage.
Image: Rarebreeds NZ
The route appears to go close to Highland Cattle Eschweiler, breeders of – you guessed it – Highland Cattle. Now that would be a good sighting!
I’m pleased to see that Luxembourg takes it’s dairying seriously, having opened an educational centre (The Vitarium) designed to give visitors
an idea of the food chain and in particular the world of the ‘white gold’
Cute logo, too:
Kachkéis is a local dairy product, described as a soft, even runny, cheese, used in cooking or as a spread.
Kachkéis is one of those Luxembourgish food oddities that is hard to describe. Basically, it’s a cooked cheese that’s quite runny – think of the texture of glue: stringy, gloopy and rubbery. Its taste is impossible to descibe, you just have to try it… Pungent and strong but not revolting and nothing like a strong French cheese. It’s very unique, so if you ever come to Luxembourg you will have to try it!
I doubt there are any stockists here in Australia – let me know if I’m wrong! – so I’m calling today a wildcard round for cheese. Belgian beer is also on the cards, and if you’re looking for something beefily warming (with frites!), try Boulet liégeois!
This 203.5km stage is earmarked for the sprinters. Will Cowvendish keep the stage wins with the UK, or will Kittel and Greipel be buoyed by the 144 German km to battle it out for the win?
Here’s some good cow news, from Landwirtschaftskammer Nordrhein-Westfalen:
With 1.45 million cows, the density of cattle in North Rhine-Westphalia is extremely high.
Sadly, they fail to tell us exactly what kind of kühe we can expect to see, although The Bullvine tells me that 67% of all cattle in Germany are Holsteins (hopefully this bodes well for my Velogames team – hello Hollenstein!). For extra points, I’ll be on the lookout for the rare Glan, originally a multipurpose breed that is now used mainly for beef production.
The Drinks List has a Belgian beer for tonight – the Saison Dupont. They suggest moules frites, but where’s the vache in that? A beefier Belgian choice if you are living somewhere wintery right now is the Carbonnade à la Flamande, which – if you’ve been following Les Vaches over the years – you probably knew I was going to recommend. If you’d prefer your rindfleisch to be Deutsche, try rouladen.