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Can we expect a Lourdes miracle?
Can we expect a Lourdes miracle?
Assuming that Talansky makes a start today, the peloton is at 179 riders. Nibali is looking comfortable in yellow, with Rodriguez rocking the red-knicks-polka-dots combo and Sagan holding on to the green. Richie Porte starts today in second place and Valverde is in third. This 185.5km stage takes us through the Beaujolais mountains with four categorised climbs, but it’s feeling distinctly Glühwein in these parts. Is this a sign? Will Marcel Kittel bring it home for the cattle? Will we even see what’s happening at the front of the race or will we get the derrière of the peloton again tonight?
The cow forecast should be looking fairly rosy. We are approaching Charolais country and Beth noted these blond beasts at the top of the second climb.
We might even catch a glimpse of the Ferrandaise. This is not the first time we’ve tried and we haven’t been successful in the past, but perhaps we will be lucky this time.
Image: Jean Colas
In 2011 we discovered that the breed was endangered, having dwindled from an early 20th century population of over 70,000 to a mere 700 or so but last year we found signs that its popularity – or, at least, its marketability – might be increasing. According to the folk at EuReCa, it is trending upwards!
What should we be eating and drinking tonight? Anything to stay warm and awake. I heartily recommend a chipotle hot chocolate but it’s neither geographically appropriate nor a good food match. Same can be said for glühwein, I guess… It’s probably to late to hit the cheesemonger for a Bleu de Bresse, but clearly this is the cheese pick for tonight. If you have any “rich and buttery” blue cheese, you are in the ballpark.
Not one, but two climbs of Alpe d’Huez! Who would be crowned on the Queen stage?
The official site describes the stage profile as flat, however there are seven opportunities for the climbers to take points, with five Cat 4 climbs and two Cat 3. It will be interesting to see how Rolland approaches the day – will he chasing KOM points to stay in spots or will he be keeping his legs relatively fresh for a big Bastille Day/Mont Ventoux effort? The climbs shouldn’t be enough to leave the sprinters behind; we’d hope to see a close fought finish in Lyon between the main contenders for the green jersey. After yesterday’s stage, however, who is willing to make any predictions?
Well, apart from predictions about cows, of course. You’re probably all heartily sick of Charolais and Limousin by now, but they are the cows we’re likely to see today, particularly the former. Zooming down on the TGV yesterday we saw oodles of them, mostly seeking shade under trees in the paddocks. At 300km an hour it was a bit of a challenge to gather pictorial evidence, but here it is.
Image: M Vache
There is, however, another local breed. The Ferrandaise is from the Puy-de-Dôme and we looked for it – without success, I believe – in stage 9 of the 2011 Tour. Back then we discovered that it was on the endangered list, but that breeding programs were working to save the herd. If this restaurant is anything to go by, it’s popularity is increasing, so perhaps we’ll catch a glimpse of some. I’ll do my bit by looking out for it on local menus.
Image: La Ferrandaise Restaurant
Lyon is more famous for porky delights than vachetastic victuals. The restaurant we ate at tonight had a bowl deep fried pork rinds on each table just as a pre-dinner nibble. Cattle were represented on the menu – a steak and some veal kidneys – but the main attraction was the andouillette. Still, the butchers around here are serious about their meat and the type of meat and provided further evidence that charolais and limousin rule.
Anyway, if you want something to eat and you are determined to maintain your focus on the cow, I’ve found this recipe. Is it authentic? Who knows, but it has beef and cheese and the word “Lyonnaise”. Bon appetit!
Today’s 173km stage down into the centre of France might seem like a doddle compared to yesterday’s nearly 50km longer course, but I’m sure it won’t seem like that for the sprinters desperate to claim a win. There are some KOM points on offer at 77.5km at the Cat 4 Côte de Crotz, but otherwise it could be another stage where distractions take their toll (and I’m not just talking about flicking over to the Ashes…).
Image: M Vache
We are heading closer to Charolais country, so it’s likely that the majority of cattle we’ll see will be these creamy, slightly pig-faced cows. The charolais is best known for its meat, however the dish of the stage is a Piquechagne, a local cake featuring butter and cream. I apologise to the lactose intolerant. I haven’t tried this, but anything with the instruction
Just before serving, pour the whipped cream into the center.
is alright by me. Of course, feel free to whip up a Boeuf Bourgignon from the Charolais link and open a nice bottle of pinot noir if it suits your climate!
218km with no categorised climbs. That’s what we have to look forward to today. Mark Cavendish is bound to be a wee bit keen for stage honours here but there are other stage hunters in the mix, so the finish should be fast and furious. We’ll be hoping that the white jersey will give the Cow that Won’t Quit some extra oomph in the closing moments and we will be somewhere near the finish adding our voices to the fans screaming for… more free saucisson!
I am a little leery of predicting cows. Just look what happened when I actually went properly cow hunting along the route the other day. I can, however, confidently predict chateaux as the Ps will be fired up to rattle off facts and figures about the sprawling estates in these parts. Still, we’ve been riding in the area for the past couple of days (the Tour will go through Langeais, where we’re currently resting) and we have seen cattle. There are no breeds specific to this particular region, although the local buses bear the name Anjou, so you might want to keep your eyes peeled for the Maine-Anjou (we haven’t spotted any, yet!).
We did spot some lovely beasts along the Loire yesterday and today, though. These Charolais were a little shy, but perhaps they were protecting the calves.
Today was Limousin day. The local farmers do seem to like to hide their cattle behind scrubby hedges, but we braved the brambles to make the acquaintance of these cows today.
Now, we all know that the Ps commentary priorities can be a bit whack, so they are probably more likely to take an interest in the local nuclear power plant than they are some beef cattle, no matter how delicious they are (and they are – I had some amazing veau for dinner). If, perchance, this does happen, scrutinise the nearish landscape as this is where we spotted the second group.
This area is obviously well known for its wine, however it does a pretty good line in cheese, too. Unfortunately they favour the milk of the chèvre. Tasty, but not really in our area. Still, let’s try a little diversity, shall we? I know the Saint Maure is fairly widely available outside France, so feel free to grab some of that. We won’t judge you (we’ll probably join you!). Of course, if you’re not completely over butter after Brittany, a tarte tatin is a local specialty and should give you a sugar high to see you through to Tours.
The Dauphiné continues to spoil those of us with an interest in cows, with stage six also giving us Carlton Kirby who took the opportunity to share some of his bovine knowledge.
Reliable vache-watcher Visible Procrastinations called the first sighting:
Carlton Kirby was confident enough to identify these as charolais, also suggesting that they might be destined for a kebab in the finish town, Grenoble (where he advised exercising caution with harissa).
The final vaches sighting was fleeting, but substantial.
Perhaps not quite as substantial as Bugwan initially reported…
Obviously I have updated my Tour de France map to check out these beasts as we drive into Grenoble.
Stage three of the Dauphiné took the riders from Ambériue-en-Bugey through Charolais country to Tarare. The route came close to last year’s stage 10 start town in the Tour – Mâcon – so we were hopeful of some quality cow sightings.