Stage 8: Dole > Station des Rousses

In the official race guide, this stage prompts a trip down memory lane to a time way back in 2010 when the yellow jersey changed hands five times by stage nine. Ahhhh, good times. Will this 187.5 km stage spark the beginning of some interesting wardrobe changes? We shall see. We’re in the Jura and the climbs start just after the halfway point of the stage: Cat 3, Cat 2, Cat 1 with 10 km between the summit of the final climb and the Station des Rousses to potentially shake the finishing places up. Let’s hope the roadside randoms keep a respectful distance.

To the cows! We will be looking for Montbéliarde and French Simmental, as these produce the milk used for the local cheeses.

This is how they are likely to behave when buzzed by helicopters.

This is how Montbéliardes are likely to behave when buzzed by helicopters.

Image: Classiccardinal

Let’s start with the Comté, a semi-hard cheese that can only be called comté if it meets a number of criteria. One of these is that the milk must come from Montbéliarde or French Simmental, or cross breeds of these. The population density of the cattle is also mandated: no more than 1.3 cows per hectare (I’m not sure what that is in MCGs) . Cows must only be fed natural feed, and the milk has to go straight to the cheese maker after milking. There are a range of other qualifications as well as distinct gradings of the final product. It’s all worth it, producing a thoroughly delicious cheese!

Another local cheese is Morbier, which was traditionally produced with curd leftover from Comté production. The layer of ash in the centre of the cheese was to protect the curds from the morning cheesemaking, and then topped up from the evening leftovers. These days, the cheese is made in a mould, and then halved to add the ash or food colouring. Why not have one of each of the stage cheeses on a platter?

The Jean Bourdy Côtes du Jura Rouge 2013, which is The Drinks List’s selection for this stage, is recommended with a soft stinky cheese and charcuterie. Sounds like a pretty good Saturday evening in to me.

Stage 19: Albertville > Saint Gervais (Mont Blanc)

We’ll be hearing Col de la Voecklers again tonight, but this is a different climb, on the other side of Mont Blanc. The Col de la Forclaz is both the first and second categorised climb of the day, with riders taking two passes in the first half of the race. The third climb is the HC Montée de Bisanne and the stage finishes in Saint Gervais Le Bettex after the climb up the Côte des Amerands. It’s 146km in total. Spectacular scenery is guaranteed; I guess we will just have to wait and see how hard the riders in the top ten are willing to fight for a place beside Froome on the podium.

Let’s look out for the Abondance cattle tonight, and hope that my autocorrect is right in telling me that they will be in abundance. (I feel sure I’ve made this exact joke before, but with a two ascents of a second mountain called Forclaz, I think deja vu is the order of the day.)

raceAbondance

Image: Fromage Abondance

The milk of this cow (not specifically the one pictured above, but… you know what I mean) is used to produce a number of alpine cheeses, including the Abondance.

Abondance cheese is made by hand in the traditional way, by the combined efforts of some 60 farm producers and local craft cooperatives known as “fruitières” (literally, “fruit trees”), using milk supplied by local dairy farmers.
All production and maturation sites must be located within the geographical area specified by the AOC/PDO labels.
From the very start of the process through to the moment the final product has fully matured, the skills of each dairy farmer, cheese maker and maturer are what make Abondance cheese so special and unique.

Fromage Abondance

If you can’t find Abondance cheese, there is Beaufort, Comté, Tomme de Savoie… all those cheeses mentioned yesterday and more! After clicking through links on the above site, I am adding a cheese tour of the Savoie to my wish list: Les Fromages de Savoie.

Enjoy the stage, particularly the extended coverage tonight and tomorrow!

For Stage 19 – thanks, @thedrinkslist

A photo posted by Les Vaches Du Tour (@lesvachesdutour) on

Stage 16: Moirans-en-Montagne > Bern

What exactly is this stage? 209km, lumpy, a border crossing, only one categorised climb (a cat 4 at the 183.5km mark)… and a finish in Bern. Clearly, this is a Fabs stage, designed to give him a stage win on home turf in his farewell year. Spoil my farewell Fabs party AT YOUR PERIL, peloton!

Even if Cancellara doesn’t win, I am confident there will be vaches. There must be! So. Much. Cheese. One of the cheeses we should be eating tonight is Comté, which is only made from the milk of Montbéliarde (remember them?) and French Simmental cattle.

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Simmental

Image: Richard Bartz

Comté is one of my favourite cheeses and if you have a good cheesemonger, you should be able to find some beautiful aged cheese. If, however, all you have available is a crappy supermarket, fear not! You can still be regionally appropriate with your cheese choice because La Vache Qui Rit is from these parts.

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Image: Groupe Bel

According to Wikipedia, Comté is used in the manufacture of the Laughing Cow. They also add some information about shelf-stability, and how to access the cheese:

Consumers have to pull a little red thread around the box to open it, and the foil packaging also features a red tab for opening.

Seriously. Get yourselves some Comté.

Stage 11: Besançon > Oyonnax

We have a rest day under our belts and a 187.5km stage to shake off any cobwebs. Unfortunately my computer has decided that one day isn’t enough of a break and it’s giving me grief, so in short:

  • Cow-themed rider picks of the day are The Cow that Won’t Quit, Simon (Simmental) Gerrans and Tom (the butcher) Slagter
  • The cow to watch is the Montbéliarde
  • Cheese of the stage is the Comté

699px-Vache_montbéliarde_jurassienne_têteImage: PRA

 

Stage 9: Arc-et-Senans > Besançon

It’s time for the race of truth, this time over 41.5km with a strategically placed hill at the 16.5km mark that is designed to bring the strong riders to the fore. Prior to the start of the race, Tony Martin was heavily fancied to take out this stage, but his early Tour scaphoid troubles will no doubt favour Cancellara. The battle we are waiting for is the one between yellow-jersey wearing Wiggins and second-place Cadel Evans. They will be the last two riders to depart, so if you need to nap, set an alarm so you don’t miss the excitement. Evans is scheduled for 12.36am AEST and Wiggins will set off at 12:39am – the full list can be found here. The course is said to be beautiful – which is nice for those of us who will be seeing it in detail over the course of the telecast – and a tailwind is forecast for today.

There are cows common to the greater area and, as usual, we will see them again and again or not at all. The first few riders will sort out the likelihood of vaches, after which we will all be able to relax and focus on the skinsuits race.

The first of the two breeds we will keep a particular eye out for tonight is the Montbéliarde. Strangely enough, we were in Montbéliarde country for the Grenoble time trial last year. Perhaps this is mere coincidence…

Image: Creative Genetics

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