Stage 12: Lannemezan > Plateau de Beille

It’s the last day in the Pyrénées! Today’s finish at Plateau de Beille is described by technical director Thierry Gouvenou as “underestimated”.

For fans, the Tour’s big summit is Alpe d’Huez. But for the riders, Beille is much more difficult!

Judging from the problems they had on Bastille Day, and the number of riders who didn’t finish or dropped off the back yesterday, I’m not sure most of this lot will be all that keen on facing the most difficult climb today! Anyway, before they will even get the chance to test themselves against Beille there’s the Col de Portet d’Aspet, Col de la Core and Port de Lers. Who will take this opportunity?

We are back in the region of the Aure et Saint-Girons today, another endangered Pyrénées breed.

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Image: Parc des Pyrénées ariégeoises

Numbers appear to be fluctuating. In the first year the Casta was featured here, there were apparently 255 of them. The 2010 figures are now available and they seem to have dwindled to 208. It certainly doesn’t appear that they are flourishing, so we are probably more likely to see more Charolais, or perhaps a Blonde d’Aquitaine or two.

After a couple of nights of sheep milk cheeses, there is a local cows milk cheese for this stage: Barousse. It’s a hard, uncooked cheese made from unpasteurised milk – sometimes mixed with sheep milk and sometimes solely cows milk – matured for five to eight weeks. It is described as similar to Bethmale, and has a “soft, melty texture and hay-like flavour.” If you like the sound of that, and have been seduced by the scenery over the past couple of stages, head over to Loures-Barousse for their cheese festival, 31st July to 2nd August. What could be better than

A weekend devoted to the arts of cheese-making and tasting in beautiful Pyrenean Valley setting.