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 5: Limoges > Le Lioran

After a couple of long stages and hard-fought battles for the finish by the sprinters, they will hand over riders more comfortable with climbing today. The race guide reminds us that it was Voeckler in yellow when the Tour spent a rest day in our finish town five years ago. At over 16 minutes down he’s not threatening any leader’s jerseys today, however we know he likes to get out in front where he can.

As we head into the Cantal, we should be on the lookout for Salers cattle.

They are quite a distinctive rich red colour (described as mahogany in my cattle bible) with fetching “pertly” curving horns. From the following description, and the look of the lush pasture we’ve been seeing recently, if we catch a glimpse of them they are likely to be eating:

As mountain cows they have been bred to perform well on a range of sparse grasses. This means they are not fussy eaters and are reported to have the fastest eating rate of French cows – more nibbles per minute. If you stand in the herd after you move them to new pasture it is quite an experience. They don’t mess about. Everyone stands and eats. They eat right up to you as though you aren’t there. There is only the noise of munching.

BC – Grasspunk

BC rhapsodises about the quality of the beef from these animals. As it’s midweek and you have all been working hard on your tour snacks, how about making life both easy and delicious by going with a classic steak frites tonight? Feel free to rustle up an afterthought salad if you feel you must…

If you can find some Cantal cheese, recommended wine matches are cabernet sauvignon or a “mellow” white. Bon appetit!



Stage 15: Mende > Valence

Sorry, I’m a little distracted by a photo in the Tour Guide. It’s 2011 and Voeckler is in the yellow jersey, clutching two Credit Lyonnais lions. “So?” you ask. “What’s the big deal?”

What in the name of god...

What in the name of god…

Anyway, enough of that. On with the stage! We have what could be a Sagan-friendly stage on our hands here. The riders have three categorised climbs in the first 70 kms, a descent to the sprint point at 108km, then a climb up to the Cat 2 Col de l’Escrinet at 126.5km. Sure, breakies will doubtless try to get away, but the final 60km looks tough to stay away. We shall see!

Will we see cows? Perhaps we might catch a glimpse of some Salers.

Bonus points for cowbell

Bonus points for cowbell

Image: B. Navez

This hardy breed originated in the Cantal mountains, north-west of where we are today. They are well-adapted to the harsh mountain climate and apparently thrive on poor soils. Their coat is thick and curly in winter, but smooths out over summer. I am quite taken by the description of their horns from my cattle bible:

…its horns are quite long (indeed, a feature of the breed) and grow outwards and rather pertly upwards, then curve backwards and outwards.

Valerie Edwards

You won’t need to stretch your imagine in linking this cow of the Cantal to the cheese of the same name. Cantal is one of the oldest cheeses in France, dating back to the time of the Gauls. It has a tangy flavour that is sometimes likened to cheddar. David Lebovitz rhapsodises about it here. You might struggle to find the prized Cantal vieux, which is aged for more than six months, as it is rarely exported, however Melbourne readers can pop along to Richmond Hill where they mature the cheese they import for at least three months before selling it. Bon appetit!

Stage 10: Aurillac > Carmaux

Hope everyone has had a good night’s sleep on the rest day – I know my fingers need a break from typing quickly “Les Vaches” and sending it to twitter.  If you do tweet, join us at @lesvachesdutour during the stages.  We’re there for general race discussion as well as cow spotting, and love a bit of a #trolldj guessing game.

As Le Tour heads off south again towards the Pyrenees (still!), we spend a couple of days travelling through the Cévennes mountains, with today’s ride featuring 2 category three climbs and 2 category four climbs and a downhill finish.

We’re all hoping for less crashes and more les vaches as we continue to the Midi-Pyrenees area.

We may see some Salers cows around today as this is their native region. This hardy breed dates back a long time and its winter milk (from when the cows are fed hay) is used to make Cantal cheese one of the oldest cheeses in France. Apparently Pliny the Elder mentions cantal cheese in his writings.  Cantal cheese is traditionally used in the cheesy mashed potato dish we told you about yesterday, Aligot.  The summer milk, from when the cows have been grazing on meadows and fresh grass, is used to make Salers cheese.

Image: jacme31

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