Stage 14: Blagnac > Rodez

The 181.5km route from Blagnac to Rodez looks to start gently enough however once the sprint point is passed, the profile goes from lumpy to more zig-zaggy which should keep things interesting. The French will be fired up after two victories in a row. Tony Gallopin’s name has been mentioned for this stage, as has Lilian Calmejane’s, but perhaps we should skip national pride and stick with the initial prediction for the stage: Greg van Avermaet, who won in Rodez in 2015. If this happens, we might finally get Mah Nà Mah Nà from TrollDJ.

According to French Entree, the Aveyron is the biggest meat producer in the south of France, with veau de l’Aveyron being a particular specialty. The breeds used in the production of this veal are Limousin and Blonde d’Aquitaine, and the calves graze on outdoor pasture. Hopefully this means we will see some this stage.

Limousin near Limoges from DiscoverVin

Image: DiscoverVin

The Tour website tells me that the folk in these parts are partial to a bit of cheese soup. Cheese soup! Why not, when there are some good regional cheeses to be had.

Tradition has it in the Aveyron that this soup is taken to newly wed couples in their bedroom. On this occasion it is cooked in a chamber pot reserved for them that has an eye painted in the bottom!

This recipe uses either Lagioule or Cantal cheese, but I think substituting a tomme is just fine. Perhaps don’t cook it in a chamber pot? You might need to use your powers of interpretation a bit with the recipe… or find somewhere that sells it in a jar.

Stage 12: Pau > Peyragudes

We have 214.5km of Pyrénéan climbing ahead of us! Will we see the French riders battle it out, or will they save their legs for tomorrow’s Bastille Day stage? ¿Por que no lo dos?

We are really in cassoulet country – think duck and goose confit, with beans and pork sausages, however there is a tradition of raising veal in these parts. The race guide tells me that the Lauragais veal is a specialty of the Haute-Garonne. The breeds used for producing this meat are the Limousin, Blonde d’Aquitaine, Montbéliarde and French Brown.

WP_20161130_09_08_59_ProImage: Le Veau Fermier du Lauragais

The veal farmers have helpfully collected some recipes for their produce. If you feel the Tour Snacks to date have been wreaking havoc on your cholesterol levels, we are in a region famed for its beans, so something beany might offset some of the excesses. I’m not exactly sure that this garbure is the answer, but it sounds mighty appealing.

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.

 

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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.

MadameVache_2016-Jul-06

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.

800px-Blonde_d'Aquitaine_Vallée_Campan_2009

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.

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Blonde d’Aquitaine

Image: Myrabella

Limousin

Limousin

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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