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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.

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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.

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Stage 3: Granville > Angers

Well, last night’s stage had us all on the edges of our barbecues, willing all-day breakaway Stuyven to the finish… until the catch was suddenly on and we realised that his seemingly winning gap was over the yellow jersey, not over the chasing sprinters who were only metres behind. In the end, Sagan took the stage victory and the yellow and green jerseys, Cavendish finished 1’43” down but will start the stage in green, and Stuyven will don the dots (probably not much consolation after such game racing yesterday). Contador’s shocking start to the Tour continued with another crash, but his disappointment will be eclipsed by that of Richie Porte who found himself alone and in need of a new wheel within the final 5km. He starts today 1’59” down.

So what’s in store for stage three? A 223.5km stage set for the sprinters, although all TrollDJ fans will be hoping for a finish with a lone breakaway being pursued by a pack, so we can get Don’t Look Back in Anger over a slow motion montage of the finish*.

As for potential vaches-related points of interest, the cattle we should look out for today (apart from excellent field-art representations) are the Maine-Anjou, particularly as we head into Mayenne. They are a beef breed, generally dark red with some white patches.

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Image: Jean-Baptiste Bodinier

A local cheese is Port-Salut, which is a semi-soft cows milk cheese, with a brined rind. It was originally produced by Trappist monks at the abbey of Notre Dame du Port du Salut in Entrammes, however you can have a crack at making some yourself, if you are so inclined. That would certainly take your tour snacks to the next level. If you are in a position to trouve some quenelles très bonnes at your local supermarché, you could try this local dish, which is laden with dairy products.

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* I wish I could remember who suggested this in Stage 1 – put your hand up for credit if it was you!

 

I hope les agriculteurs are taking note of this field art... although it might not be helicopter-friendly.

Stage 2: Saint-Lô > Cherbourg-en-Cotentin

Stage 2 vache alert! Correspondent Marj is cycling in Normandy at the moment and has a hot tip – she spotted this at about 50km to go:

According to Marj, it is possible that this is mobile, so eyes peeled, #TeamVaches!

According to Marj, it is possible that this is mobile, so eyes peeled, #TeamVaches!

Anyway, yes, I have an earworm courtesy of the stage finish (and who knew Nana Mouskouri recorded a version of Je ne pourrai jamais vivre sans toi?). That aside, we have a 183km undulating stage with an uphill finish that should drop the sprinters and churn that yellow jersey like some Normandy butter.

Speaking of… yes, we’re still in Normandy so once again it’s butter, cheese, apples and all those lovely apple-y things (think tarts, cider, Calvados). But there’s more! Are you aware of the Carrot Festival*? I thought not. It began in 1990 and apparently attracts 25,000 visitors a year, so it’s probably wise that it doesn’t coincide with today’s stage (it’s on the second Saturday in August, so you’ve still got time to make travel plans**). There are some fabulous photos on this post, when the Carrot Museum visited the festival in 2009 (you know about the Carrot Museum, of course). Of course, Carrot Festivals do have their pitfalls…

From "French Kisses" by George East

From “French Kisses” by George East

I hope les agriculteurs are taking note of this field art... although it might not be helicopter-friendly.

I hope les agriculteurs are taking note of this field art… although it might not be helicopter-friendly.

Image: World Carrot Museum

Now, before you close this tab in a huff, thinking “what’s all this got to do with cows?”, here’s tonight’s recipe: boeuf carrottes à la normande . Yes, the recette is en français, but it is apparently très facile so hopefully that makes it worth the google translate cut-and-paste. Cheesy comestibles? More of those Normandy delights: Pont l’Évêque if you want something robust for your cider, or perhaps a nice, ripe camembert. If it’s not ripe, you can always go all 70s – pop it in the fryer and serve with redcurrant sauce. Ahem.

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* I’m astonished to learn that the carrot festival in Créances is not even the only carrot festival in France

** If you are planning a food-festival-related tour of Normandy, there are some beauties listed here.

Tour de France 2015

It’s about to begin – 21 nights of sleep deprivation, creative snackery, DJ trolling, Sherliggettisms and Sherliggettism-inspired irresponsible drinking, irresponsibly delicious use of butter (we hope! don’t let us down, Gabriel) and (we also hope) quality vache-spotting.

Cow in bikePhoto: John Weiler

I plan to tweet out the cheeses for the day in the morning of each stage, to give you a chance to get to your local cheesemonger. The stage preview will be published later in the day and will give a bit more information about the cheese, local cattle and maybe a recipe or two.

Now, make the most of the last couple of days of normal sleep!

 

Web round-up: where cows meet bikes

What to do when there’s no cycling on TV? Well, you can engage in endless speculation about the real reasons behind Sir Bradley’s non-start in this year’s tour, or you can take a deep breath and Google “cows and bicycles” and see what you get…

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Cows, cheese and bikes, oh my! It’s probably just as well I hadn’t seen this before planning the France trip, because it might have derailed Tour plans. I guess I can always lie in French paddocks, with French cheese and French cows.

Random cow and bike

Image: Experience Plus

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This post from A View from the Cycle Path alerted me to the annual Boerenfietstocht, or Farm Bike Tours, where you can ride around the countryside visiting a number of farms. Google translate tells me that

Along the way you will see include the cows on the land and there are growing many different crops.

Everything is helpfully signposted and has this cute logo:

Dutch cow on bike

The dates for the rides in 2013 are the 18th of July and the 1st and 15th of August. I reckon the Boerenfietstocht will be factored into planning for our next trip, for sure.

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Finally, I found something to look for in France. And, despite the lack of cows, I almost think this counts as saving-the-best-’til-last. It combines beer, bikes and a nod to Jens Voigt’s love of geo-caching. It’s called Find the Beer! and it is what is says on the tin. There are only three rules:

1) you just take one, 2) you leave a beer of your own before you go, and 3) you let us know through Food and Think’s comments box that you’ve made the discovery–and, please, tell us how it tasted.

Seems reasonable. I’m thinking of taking a Holgate Temptress to leave for a lucky cyclist.