Tour of Britain: stage six

Cattle appeared so early into Eurosport’s coverage of stage six that the helicopter camera was still focussing.

The black cow is definitely taking an interest in the passing peloton.

The early coverage of the racing was notable for Bradley Wiggins’ slow-motion riding as he waited for dropped team-mate Mark Cavendish to catch up. The commentary referred to his “track-standing” and at one stage he turned around and rode back towards the team cars. As he was helping Cav over the moors, a breakaway  – which included Ivan Basso, Sammy Sanchez and Leigh Howard – continued to extend its lead over the peloton. A number of riders failed to take a corner at around the 7km mark, and shortly after that Marc de Maar (United Healthcare) rode off the front, developed a lead and held on to win the stage 15″ ahead of the other breakies. This gives Leigh Howard of Orica-GreenEDGE the gold leader’s jersey with 7″ over Boy Van Poppel and 17″ over Sep Vanmarcke. The Cavendish group lost over 11 minutes to the leaders and Ivan Basso – who spent some time on his own ahead of the rest of the break – was rewarded with the combativity prize for the day.

The 189.6km of stage six take us from Welshpool to Caerphilly, with four Cat 1 climbs. The first of these is at 91.5km and the last summit is just 5km before the stage end, so those riders who struggled with stage five won’t be looking forward with much enthusiasm to getting back in the saddle today. Hopefully the sight of some Welsh Black cattle (Gwartheg Duon Cymreig) will cheer them up.

Image: Darren Wyn Rees

Whilst the Welsh Blacks were historically a dual-purpose breed, these days they are mainly used for beef production. This means we might spot some more Holstein-Freisians as there is cheese in these parts. Over to Scottie:

We roll into Wales, a nation with a long-standing tradition for producing delicious cheeses. The earliest varieties resembled the now famous Caerphilly, but were made from goat and sheep’s milks and immersed in brine. Welsh cheeses were once so prized that they were used as part of divorce settlements. Under the laws of Welsh ruler Hywel Dda cheeses that were washed in brine went to the wife, and cheeses that were hung up went to the husband. Later, in the 17th and 18th centuries, cow’s milk became the cheese-making ingredient of choice. Originally produced in today’s finish, Caerphilly has a recipe similar to those for other crumbly cheeses – Cheshire, young Lancashire and Wensleydale. Being close to the great mining towns of South Wales the young cheese was a firm favourite amongst mining communities as its shallow height and tough coat made it easy to eat with dirty hands down the mines whilst its salty, moist curd helped to replace the minerals lost during the hours spent labouring under ground. Its more mature variant – often kept for up to a year – formed its own tough coat and gradually became harder in texture and stronger in taste with age. By the early 20th century, the production of Caerphilly moved to England because the demand for the cheese outgrew its Welsh production. Unfortunately, by the time of WWII, cheese making in Wales had come to a near standstill – many of the small Welsh cheese producers were run out of business by the larger English factories and today Gorwydd is the only local producer of Caerphilly. Highly recommended, especially with a pint of the nation’s best-selling beer, Brains Bitter (3.7%abv), a rich amber coloured ale brewed with locally grown Goldings and Fuggles hops producing a crisp aroma and a subtle flavour of fine pale malt.

Alternatively, Celtic Promise is modern vegetarian cheese. Creamy, rich and yellow, with a pungent aroma and slightly piquant taste, this surface-ripened cow’s milk cheese has a semi-soft texture and a moist orange-red rind with a dusting of mould. Washed in cider brine during ripening, what better way to wash down this award-winning cheese than with Black Dragon, an oak conditioned, medium dry cider,(6.5 %abv.), made in Pontypridd, just a few km from tomorrow’s finsh by Gwynt Y Ddraig (Welsh for Dragon’s Breath!). “Lechyd da” (Cheers!)

Unfortunately we have missed the annual Big Cheese festival in Caerphilly, but it celebrated its 15th year this year so I’m sure it will be back in 2013.