Stage 12: Bourg-en-Bresse > Saint-Etienne

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.

stuckinoregon_2014-Jul-17Sure, it’s possible that they’re sheep… but let’s go with cows.

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.

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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.

 

Stage 14: Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule > Lyon

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.

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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.

FerrandaiseImage: 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.

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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!

 

Stage 9: Issoire > Saint-Flour

Tonight’s stage takes us through the Department of Puy-de-Dôme, in the Auvergne.  It has three Category 2 climbs, three Cat 3s and two Cat 4s, so there will be some slowing down to take in the scenery, which we hope will include cows.  This is Ferrandais and Charolais territory and we might spot some of those gorgeous Limousin as well.

The Ferrandais is from Puy-de-Dôme, which makes it particularly local, however it is also rare, being listed in my reference bible Cattle: A Handbook to the Breeds of the World as “endangered”.  By 1978 the herd numbered around 400 and a conservation programme was developed.  This may have saved the breed, a dual purpose milk and meat animal, from extinction although it could be too early to tell.  Numbers have increased to 500 cows, but the popularity of cross breeding them with the French Simmental, Montbéliarde and Salers might account for the slow growth in the purebred herd.

What'choo lookin' at? - Ferrandais

Image: Kranky Kids

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