Stage 11: Eymet > Pau

Yesterday we had 178km of spectacular scenery; we can hope that tonight’s 203.5km will be a little more noteworthy for the racing, but I’d advise against holding your breath for that. The stage profile looks even flatter than yesterday and most of the narrative in the Official Guide is given over to discussion of Tours past – including “unforgettable” rest days! – and mountains to come. Fire up the coffee machines. I can’t see us making the finish without caffeine.

From a vache perspective, however, this stage does hold some interest. First up, the department of Landes is celebrated for its Chalosse beef.  Chalosse bulls must be Bazadaise, Limousin or Blonde d’Aquitaine and the beef is produced from heifers and castrated males. The minimum age of slaughter for the heifers is 30 months; for the males it’s 32 months. If I’m reading this correctly, to buy this meat you must visit a butcher that exclusively sells Chalosse beef. This Aquitaine-based blogger visited a farm raising these cattle and describes her visit here.

Here's a bazadaise spotted yesterday on a Rick Stein episode by black cate

Here’s a bazadaise spotted yesterday on a Rick Stein episode by black cate

Keep your eyes open for the Blonde d’Aquitaine and Limousins, too!

On the region’s sporting calendar is the Course Landaise, which pits trained cows against toreros, who either dodge the charging animals, or leap over them, depending on their specific role – écartuer or sauteur. Points are given for the elegance of the athletes, as well as for the aggression and agility of the cows.

I wonder how many points this sauteur got for this both-feet-in-a-beret move?

I wonder how many points this sauteur got for this both-feet-in-a-beret move?

Image: MII

The enthusiastic public continuously gives financial premiums for courage and audacity; these are announced between the festive music which is constantly playing.

I can just *imagine* the constantly-playing festive music…

Aquitaine produces a wide range of cheeses, although most of the cheese commonly known here is made from goat or sheep milk. There are some interesting-sounding cows milk cheeses, however sourcing them might be challenging! Sometimes it’s good to mix things up with a bit of ossau-iraty or whatever takes your fancy.

 

Stage 10: Périgeaux > Bergerac

We’re easing back into the race after the rest day, with a shortish, flattish 178k stage. There are points on offer for the KoM competition, but only in two Cat 4 climbs. The sprinters will be wanting to take the glory today.

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Image: Black Cate

This is as close as we got to vaches when we last travelled between Bergerac and Périgueux, back in 2014. That was stage 20, and a time trial. This time we’re taking a somewhat longer route between the two towns, which means more opportunities for spotting vaches. Last time we were here, we were looking for Bazadais and Limousins, to no avail. Who knows, we might be luckier this time around.

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Image: Roland Darré

The Drinks List recommends steak frites to go with their chosen wine for the stage,  which is a nice way to come back from the rest day. If you can’t be bothered cooking, and you live in Melbourne, I’ve just found a website that you can search for local pub steak nights (they probably won’t let you BYO, though!). Of course, you might want to take a vache break – it happens! – in which case take advantage of truffle season and whip up an omelette.

Stage 20: Bergerac > Perigueux

It’s the Race of Truth and it could be quite the unpalatable truth given that Valverde could well out-race at least one of his rivals for the podium. Hopefully the home crowd will give Pinot just the lift he needs to ride the time trial of his life. At least Nibali seems secure in the yellow jersey, unless he has a catastrophic crash or decides to try his luck on a penny farthing. I shall be spending most of the stage wishing Fabs was still in the race. I’m also hoping that Astana have returned to the shiny skin suits of 2011.

As far as cows go, we’re in the Dorgogne and cowrespondent Geert (who calls these parts his second home) assures me that there are vaches to be seen.

 

We are fairly close to the birthplace of the Bazadais, a breed that was developed to work in the vineyards around Bordeaux. No wonder it goes so well with wine! It’s also a good choice for tonight, as I’m sure “strong calves” are key to TT success. Naturally, it is the choice for a steak with bordelaise sauce, which I remember fondly from our stay in the region last year. [If your browser is as tricksy as mine, you might need to refresh to get it to play nice with Instagram.]

 

Of course, we might also see some Limousin, which gives me the opportunity to post one of my favourite photos, from DiscoverVin.

Limousin near Limoges from DiscoverVin

 

What are we eating? Well, we’re a stage behind, having decided that a Saturday would be better to whip the recipe DiscoverVin suggested for Stage 19 – a slow-cooked dish of beef cheeks in red wine. It’ll be too late for you to do the same, but if you have a truffle on hand we’re certainly in the right place for that!