Stage 6: Arpajon-Sur-Cère > Montauban

Today’s stage takes us through four departments as we head south-west. There are three climbs (Cat 3, 4 and 3 respectively) over the 190.5km route, which is described as “tortuous” by technical director Thierry Gouvenou. Greg van Avermaet starts the stage in yellow after his cracking win yesterday, with compatriot Thomas de Gendt in polka dots. Peter Sagan is likely to contest the sprint points at 77.5km to consolidate his lead in the green jersey competition.

I do have high hopes for vache-spotting this stage. Hopefully we will see some more of those lovely Salers if we join the coverage before the stage has progressed too much.


Image: Twitter – Petite Vache


But the real reason I am optimistic is that the Tour website lists bovine breeding as a key element of the economy in Tarn-et-Garonne. It’s possible that we might spot some Aubracs.

(I love the way the music appears to stop rather dramatically at the point where the narrator makes a comparison with Angus…) We are also heading into Blonde d’Aquitaine country, so keep your eyes open for these beauties.


Image JLPC

Obviously if you managed to get some Cantal cheese for yesterday’s stage and have any left, it would also be appropriate for this stage. I’m not sure how easy it is to source Laguiole cheese, a cheese made from the milk of the Aubrac and Simmental cattle. Each cheese weighs 40-50kg (or 25,720 – 32,150 pennyweights) and has a bull stamped into the rind. It’s often used in one of the well-known dishes of the region, aligot. If you haven’t tried aligot, you really want to. Trust me.

Both Discover Vin and The Drinks List have chosen malbec for this stage. Discover Vin suggest duck as a good match, or anything with truffles. It is, after all, truffle season! If you are not in a truffle frame of mind and fancy a steak, they have kindly provided a link to Neil Perry’s Cafe de Paris butter. Yes. Butter. Buuuuuuuuuutter.

Stage 19: Maubourguet Pays du Val d’Adour > Bergerac

The end is in sight. We’ve turned north and are heading towards Paris. There’s just this fairly flat 208.5km and the time trial tomorrow before the final stage into Paris. There are points on offer for the climb of the Côte de Monbazillac but it’s only a Cat 4, so Majka’s coronation as King of the Mountains will happen as long as he makes it to Paris. Sagan has control over the green jersey, but is yet to cross the finish line first in it so that might motivate him tonight.

The really big question, though, is “Have we seen enough cows to warrant Cows with Guns?”.  I’m hoping that we have, but we are running out of time to add some more to the showreel if the compilation is looking a bit thin. Perhaps tonight will help.

We start in the region of the Blonde d’Aquitaine and finish close to Limousin territory. These are the third- and second-most popular breeds in France respectively, after the Charolais. Let’s hope France TV gives Sherliggett a break from enthusing about aerials and mines and gives them some lovely cattle to wax lyrical over.


Blonde d’Aquitaine

Image: Myrabella



Image: jacme31

Despite the fact that our two local breeds are beef cattle, it’s duck and pig that feature more heavily in the cuisine of the region (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I was tossing up with suggesting steak tartare to round off the week, but that’s not going to warm anybody’s cockles. This dish – Boeuf Cyrano – comes from Tarn, which is 150km east of our route today, but it stipulates prunes from Agen, a mere 24 km from Feugarolles. I’m confident that most of you keep a “tin of mousse de foie gras” in the pantry and you’ll have prunes left over from Gaté’s tart last night, so you should be able to whip this up in time for dinner. Ooh la la!

Stage 15: Samatan > Pau

Today’s 160km stage takes us from the Midi-Pyrénées to the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. Given the length of the stage, you might be expecting lots of big climbs. If you are, you’ll be as disappointed as I was to see that there are only three, packed into the last third of the stage, and they are a Cat 4, a Cat 3 and another Cat 4. These are followed by a downhill run into the finish at Pau. Transitional stages – how dull. There had better be cows!

There is a local hero in these parts. As we move into the Aquitaine region it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that we are in the home of the relatively new Blonde D’Aquitaine breed.

 Image: Heuvelland Blondes

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Stage 11: Blaye-les-Mines > Lavaur

Tonight’s stage takes us through Tarn, in the Midi-Pyrenees. The profile is undulating (or is “lumpy” the term du jour?) but with the big mountain stages to come, there are only two categorised climbs over the 167.5km.  Those of us watching on SBS will miss the first (category 3) climb 28.5km in but we’ll see the Côte de Puylaurens (category 4) at 135.5.

Tarn is a departement known for its cattle production, but not one that has an indigenous cattle breed.  It’s quite possible we’ll see some Blonde d’Aquitaine, which hail from the neighbouring Aquitaine region.  The Blonde is a relatively new breed and quickly gaining in popularity.  At nearly half a million animals they are gaining on the Limousin and Charolais in herd size, so we should be able to spot a few as we roll by.

Blondes clearly having more fun

Image: Farming in France

We could spot some of the aforementioned Charolais and Limousin, too, as well as some Salers and Aubrac.

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Stage ten: round-up

I am pleased to report that the no les vaches = more crash nexus has been broken.  Phew!  This meant that last night’s stage was one we could all watch without peering between our fingers, but it also meant that the cow sightings were slim.  I’m happy to go with that, though.

If seeing actual Salers, Aubracs or even Limousins was off the Team Les Vaches menu last night, it has become clear that there is a pervasive fondness for all things cow amongst fans and even pro-cyclists.  Team Radioshack’s Fumiyaki Beppu is not competing in this years Tour, but he was on Twitter yesterday sharing some pictures he’d taken in Bordeaux.  “Big deal”, I hear you sigh. “Who cares about his Akita?” .  Well, for a start, it’s a very cute dog (check his tweetstream) but we were keen on his photos because of this:

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