Animals Cattle Cow Tarentaise

Stage 9: Nantua > Chambéry

Seven climbs! Seven! And if you’ve been wondering when we’ll see an HC climb, well, there are three of those tonight. It’s the Tour début for the first of the three, the Col de la Biche, and a new approach on Grand Colombier, the second HC climb. Make sure your Tourcats are awake for the final climb, the Mont du Chat. (Perhaps tonight’s game can be predicting which version of the legend behind the name Mont du Chat our commentary team shares.) You’ll probably want to grip them tightly for the tricky descent into the finish at Chambéry. Given that the Biche in Cole de la Biche means “doe”, do you think TrollDJ is putting a Sound of Music montage together for tonight?

It’s always exciting when we get to these parts, because… Beaufort.

800px-Beaufort-sur-Doron11

Image: Zivax

This cheese is made from the milk of the beautiful Tarantaise, topped up with some Abondance.

Animals Cattle Cow Tarentaise

Image: Max Pixels

Every time Beaufort is on the cards, I learn a little bit more about the cheese. Here is this year’s startling fact:

when the rind is deemed satisfactory, the routine changes to twice weekly turning, and an application of mixed salt and a substance called “morge.” “Morge” is a mixture of brine, old cheese scrapings and whey, and is known to contain at least 480 species of bacteria.

Culture

According to Harper and Blohm, Beaufort goes nicely with a range of wines, so choose your favourite style from their suggestions and see whether you agree.

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.)

raceAbondance

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 19: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne > La Toussuire

This is the sharp end of the Tour even if judging only by all those alpine climbs that look incredibly symmetrical in the route profile. Froome continues to hold on to the yellow jersey and it would take a miracle – or a catastrophe – to dislodge it from his grip. I’m sure no cycling fan wants to see either of those. There is still a lot of life left in the climbers’  competition, though, and we can expect the motos to stick closely to Bardet, Voeckler, Rolland and Pinot.

There will no doubt be a point during this 138km stage – say, at kilometre zero – when the sprinters will look over their shoulders and wonder if it’s worth going the long way ’round. It’s 3.8 km to Saint-Pancrace – they could stop for a spot of lunch and meet up with the race for the last 20km. Alas, that option is not open to them so it will be a matter of doing those infernal calculations while they drag themselves up and down the Col du Chaussy, the Col de la Croix de Fer and the Col du Mollard, quite probably humming Helter Skelter to themselves as they go.

Hopefully whilst they are doing that, we will see some cattle. We know we will see Tarantaise cows as long as we tune in to the Taste le Tour segment.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 9.54.06 am

Image: SBS, Taste le Tour

These gorgeous beasts produce the milk that makes the equally gorgeous Beaufort cheese, known as Prince of the Gruyères. This cheese is made in large wheels which are then matured in caves or cellars for up to two years. For more on its manufacture, watch tonight or check out this lovely post. It is definitely worth seeking out some of this delicious cheese (and yes, I am saying that in Gabriel Gaté’s accent as I type). We bought some at a street market when we were visiting the stage 16 start two years ago and, even under less than ideal cheese transporting and storage conditions, it was a revelation. Gabriel is cooking with it tonight – an omelette, which seems like the perfect end-of-week dinner. I think I might do the same.

 

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

Continue reading

Stage 19: Modane Valfréjus > Alpe-d’Huez

Okeydoke folks!  Here we have it … the one we’re all been waiting for … the stage that is all about … CHEESE!

Yep – we saved it up for this amazing stage – the alpine cows, the rustic production techniques and the rare cheeses.

(Okay, okay, so there are some mountains in this stage as well but you know- we’ve seen Alpe d’Huez before .. yes?)

So what’s so special about alpine cheeses? When summer finally arrives in the French Alps, the local cows are led up the hills to graze on the new alpine meadows.  As the snow retreats they move further and further upwards, grazing on lush new growth grass. The herds are looked after by local alpagistes who stay in chalets, milk the cows and make cheese.  There are chalets dotted all over the slopes and the alpagistes move between them as the herd moves. By the middle of August the herd will have reached almost the snowline, and will start to descend over the same slopes which will be rich and grassy again. On Saint-Michael’s Day, 29 September, the herds return to their barns to eat hay, calve and winter cheesemaking begins. The alpine cheeses come from a lifestyle, not a conveyor belt. They come from small niche dairy farmers and cheesemakers who have been managing cow herds in the same way for hundreds of years. And the cheeses they make are sublime.

Luckily for us in Melbourne we can get hold of some of these lovely cheeses from a few select Cheesemongers: Richmond Hill Larder, Simon Johnson, David Jones should all be able to hook you up.

Continue reading