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 20: Modane Valfrejus > Alpe d’Huez

It’s the final stage in the Alps, and the last stage where anybody is likely to do something unexpected. The organisers have managed to squeeze the Télégraphe, Galibier and Alpe d’Huez into a 110km stage. This time yesterday, I figured it was going to be a stage to watch the climbers fight over the King of the Mountains points and bemoan the lack of interest in the GC after week one. Quintana’s attack on La Toussuire yesterday showed that Froome was vulnerable… but is it too little, too late, or has Nairo saved his box of matches just for this stage? It’s a very outside chance.

We’re still in the Savoie so let’s hope there are some cows attached to the cowbells we hear. Today’s route is not too far from the birthplace of the Villard de Lans so I’m willing to call the Alpe d’Huez cows VdLs.

Some of Alpe d'Huez's many cows... could they be Villard-de-Lans?

Image: M Vache

Tip: if the video doesn’t load, refresh the page.

Video: Alrom Niverno

The Villard de Lans is a dual-purpose breed, described as “spirited, with a lively disposition”. Their milk is used for the Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage cheese which is celebrated in an annual festival in August – “20,000 visiteurs… 2 tonnes de fromage”. It’s worth checking out their website for the collection of posters promoting the event over the past few years. TrollDJ would be particularly interested in the 2012 poster. The breed is on the conservation list of France Génétique Elevage with the current population recorded as 403 cows.

Speaking of blue cheeses, there is another Savoie cheese that is probably more endangered than the Villard de Lans. The Bleu de Termignon is made from the milk of the Tarentaise and Abondance cows by three producers high in the Alps. One producer has started to modernise production, but the other two producers are using the same techniques as their forefathers. The story is told beautifully here.  If you can’t find any of these blue cheeses, feel free to substitute any of the other delicious alpine cheeses or start doing the end-of-Tour fridge clean-out. Oh, and if you think you can manage one more cheese-and-potatoes dish this Tour, here’s the local version.

 

Stage 18: Gap > Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne

…I thought that it was nothing more than a path to move sheep or cattle to and from their pastures!

Thierry Gouvenou, The Official Tour de France Guide 2015

The road he’s talking about is 10km from the finish of today’s stage and contains 17 (or 18, depending which part of page 201 you’re looking at) hairpins. And, presumably, opportunities to spot both vaches and moutons. It’s the last of the seven climbs in today’s stage, coming just after the descent of the HC Col du Glandon.

What cattle are we likely to see? The milk of the Montbéliarde from the last couple of stages, the Tarentaise (also known as Tarine) and the Abondance are used to create one of the region’s star cheeses, Reblochon, so keep an eye out for these alpine breeds.

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Vache Tarentaise

Image: BlackSlash73

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Abondance

Image: Walpole

If the Ps start muttering about caves again tonight, it might be because they hold some maturing Reblochon rather than a selection of bats. This washed rind cheese has a nutty flavour but a strong odour that is “not for the timid“, apparently. If you are preparing for Run Melbourne on the weekend, you might want to carbo-load with the reblochon-and-potato wonder that is tartiflette.

If Reblochon’s not your speed, there are many other alpine cheeses to choose from. The Savoie-Mont Blanc website proudly showcases the rest of the region’s cheesy wealth. Stock up and spend the rest of the week in a cheese coma. Sweet dreams!

Critérium du Dauphiné – whetting the appetite for the Tour

Stage five of the Dauphiné followed part of the route we will see in stage 19 of the Tour, albeit in the other direction, and it gave us plenty of reasons to look forward to July. We saw a courageous day in yellow from Rohan Dennis, who will wear the white jersey in stage six. We got a glimpse of the forthcoming Froome-Contador rivalry won convincingly by Froome in this encounter, who almost gave us Kermit Arms in celebration. And we were treated to a wealth of cows.

Stage 5a

First glimpse

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An abondance taking an interest

Team Vaches was as reliable as ever in pointing out cow sightings.

Stage 5 tweets 1

Stage 5b

Not that interested in the Sky train…

Stage 5 tweets 2

Stage 5c

Tarantaise, perhaps?

Once again, thanks to all the people tweeting and screen-grabbing cows. Team Vaches’ form for the upcoming Tour is looking extremely good – I’ll need you to be sharp in July as I’ll be either roadside or trying to make sense of French broadcasts!

Critérium du Dauphiné – an Abondance of vaches

We love the Dauphiné. Unlike the Tour de France, where the race leaders collect fluffy lions, or the Giro, which bestows an anthropomorphised tub of yoghurt, winners get a cow. Not only that, but there’s generally a decent amount of live cow spotting to be had.

The opening stage of this year’s race has already given Team Vaches a lot to celebrate.

BL0I2yUCcAA1yCd.jpg-largeImage: Seb Piquet

 

Stage 11: Albertville > La Toussuire – Les Sybelles

We’re in the Rhône-Alpes today and here we’ll stay for the next couple of stages. This punchy 140km route takes in four climbs. The ascent of the 2000m Col de la Madeleine (HC) begins just 15km into the stage with the summit at 40km. Hopefully we won’t miss too much of the action whilst M. Gaté explores the regional cuisine! The 40 hairpin bend descent leads to the intermediate sprint point at the 61.5km mark, after which the Col du Glandon/Col de la Croix de Fer combination – another HC climb – commences. It’s 22.4km up at an average of 7% – towards the top riders will encounter 8% gradients, with the last two kilometres at 10%. Ouch. The Cat 2 Col du Mollard follows, and riders finish on the Cat 1 La Toussuire.

Vaches to watch out for

Image: Tom Douglas

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Stage 20: Grenoble > Grenoble

It’s the individual time trial and we know what that means.  Either we’ll see no cows at all, or the same cows over and over and over again (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

The riders won’t have time to check the signage tonight.

Image: Tim

Of course, with Cowbell so close to taking yellow, we’ll forgive you if you are too nervous to spot bovines tonight.  Cowbell is not up until just after midnight, though, so perhaps cow-spotting will have a calming effect.  If you do see cows, see if you can identify the Montbéliarde, Villard-de-Lans or even Abondance.

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