Cobbles, scheduled bike-changes, impromptu bike-changes and – yes! – cows.
Stage four will provide Paul Sherwen with a number of opportunities to use the word “undulations”, so my advice is to cross that word off your drinking card given that it’s still early in the week. The 223.5km route has its only climbing points at 53km, the category 4 Côte de la Citadelle de Namur, however it’s the seven cobbled sections we’re tuning in for. With Fabs sadly out of the Tour after stage 3 (how he managed to finish with his injuries, I will never know), this might be a battle of the hair: Sagan with his flowing mane versus Degenkolb with his Alpecin-enhanced locks. Don’t rule out BMC’s Greg van Avermaet, either. Naturally, I’m still hoping for the World Champion to put on a show, too.
To the cows, and we had some great sightings last night. I’m not sure that they’ll be topped tonight. Again, we could see some of the Blues, as well as some more Holsteins.
There is a local cow’s milk cheese for tonight – the tome de Cambrai. It’s a relatively new cheese, created by a farmer in the region in 1989. It’s a hard, raw milk cheese, ripened in beer. An alternative, suggested by Geert, is the Chimay cheese (Melburnians can find it at Milk the Cow and Richmond Hill). Or perhaps you’ve still got some Maroilles or a similar washed rind cheese to keep you both happy and connected to the countryside we’re seeing.
Gabriel Gaté is making a crème brûlée tonight as his nod to the region’s sugar beets. Of course, I’m on board given the dairy component! If you’d like to try a local savoury dish, use some of your beer-washed cheese (and google translate) for these veal medallions.
We’re in Belgium and after the flatlands of the first two stages there is some climbing in store for tonight. It’s another relatively short stage at 157km, with four categorised climbs in the last 50 or so kilometres. The final climb – the Mur de Huy – isn’t a long one, but it is steep so will test the legs of the riders. I’d love to see the Cow that won’t Quit regain some form here to take the stage, although Valverde has a thing or two to prove after getting caught out yesterday and the climbs will suit him *shudder*. Here’s hoping that Cancellara stays in touch so he can at least attack the cobbles in stage 4 in yellow.
Now to the cows. The local beast is one we’ve met and admired before: the magnificent Belgian Blue.
Image: Robert Scarth
We start Le Tour in Belgium this year with a 6.4km time trial around the streets of Liège, following the same route used in 2004. Cancellara won the day back then and is described as the “defending champion” of the prologue, having won the last one in 2010. The first rider on the course will be Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano) at 2.00pm local time (10.00pm AEST). Cadel Evans will start in yellow and will be the last off the ramp, at 5.17pm (1.17am AEST). Wake up your neighbours as you yell for Cadel!
Now on to the cows.