Stage 20: Annecy > Annecy – Semnoz

It’s the last of the mountains and, for some riders, this has not come soon enough. Marcel Kittel seemed to find the going tough today, tweeting

He won’t find Stage 20 any more forgiving, I’ll bet. The opening Cat 2 climb is followed by three Cat 3s, with the sprint point coming between the first and the second of those. The descent from the last of these, the Col de Prés, goes straight into the climb to the Cat 1 Mont Revard. After a steep descent there’s a flattish section (it’s all relative) before the final HC climb for the Tour, up to the finish at Annecy-Semnoz. There are plenty of riders who will be looking for something to take from the 100th Tour and I’m sure there’s one who’d love the chance to stamp his final seal of authority on this race. We shall see!

We were sorry to hear about the crash that took out Jack Bauer today – sorrier still to see photos of his injuries, which looked horrific. Let’s hope he recovers quickly. He wasn’t the only rider to leave the race today. Kris Boeckmans, Tom Veelers, Christophe le Mevel and Marcel Sieberg also withdrew.

For a trip long in the planning, it seems as though we’ve accidentally bumbled our way into the Tour sometimes. We’d decided that Stage 19 would be a Twitter-tour day, choosing to sightsee rather than try to race-chase or get to our next stop in time to watch on TV. (As evidenced by the rather perfunctory Twitter round-up, these plans were partially thwarted by Alps getting in the way of wifi reception.) Of course, the tour organisers have as much of an appetite for breathtaking scenery as tourists do and we found a number of yellow arrows for Stage 20 along our driving route. We also spotted campers in place for a glimpse of the passing race, as well as cyclists out testing themselves against the climbs that challenged even our sturdy Ooropcar.

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We also saw cows.

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The cow at the back had a bell. A BELL! The one in front looks like a classic Montbéliarde to me.

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They were everywhere… these seemed unrestrained by fences. Perhaps some Simmental there?

Even when I was just trying to capture dramatic mountains... accidental vaches

Even when I was just trying to capture dramatic mountains… accidental vaches

For lunch

For lunch

For dinner - this was local Simmental with a marrow sauce

For dinner – this was local Simmental with a marrow sauce

Even for drinks

Even for drinks

I hope this means a vachetastic stage! There are tommes galore in these parts – if the tomme des Bauges is anywhere near as tasty as La Motte en Bauges was pretty, you’ll be well satisfied. Fondue, more varieties of tartiflette… basically anything with cheese and potato and you’ll be on the money. If, however, you’re in a soup frame of mind, try a soupe a l’oignon. As it thundered down tonight, this seemed the perfect choice as a starter, although it really could have been the whole meal. With beef stock and cheese, it’s the perfect dish!

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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