Stage 10: Mulhouse > La Planche des Belles Filles

In case you missed it, today is Bastille Day and the Tour is celebrating lavishly with seven categorised climbs in this 161.5km stage. These include four Cat one climbs, last of which is the finish on La Planche des Belles Filles. This climb was first included in the Tour in 2012 when Chris Froome won the stage. I wonder if Richie Porte will attempt a tribute-paying victory? Of course, we can count on the French riders to fly the flag today, so the cow pick has to be Thomas Veau-ckler. As far as commentary goes, expect to hear the story of the local girls  escaping the rapacious Swedish mercenaries during the Thirty Years’ War. We can probably count ourselves lucky if we only hear it once.

We’re still in the Vosges, so hopefully we’ll get a quality sighting of the local cattle. That’s if we’re not too busy celebrating the “City of the car and its Bugatti collection of the Schlumpf brothers”…

Bastille cowImage: The Telegraph

I hope you’ve still got some munster left from our earlier Vosgienne stages. In case you’re out, dig into the recesses of the fridge for any porky products. If you have sauerkraut and potatoes as well you can rustle up something pretty delicious.

Stage 9: Gérardmer > Mulhouse

Today’s 170km stage offers up six categorised climbs and the peloton will start ascending right from the word go, with the summit of the cat 2 Col de la Schlucht at  the 11.5km mark. The fifth climb, Le Markstein, is the first cat 1 climb of this year’s Tour and starts shortly after the stage’s sprint point (Linthal, at 105km). After the final climb (the cat 3 Grand Ballon) it looks to be pretty much downhill towards the finish, with a flattish final 20km which might give any stragglers over the climbs a chance to make up some ground. As always, I’ll be hoping for a good showing from the Cow that Won’t Quit, but perhaps Vosges local Arthur Vache-ot will have a pre-Bastille Day tilt at victory.

There are more opportunities to spot those pretty Vosges cows today and eat more Munster. We’re jumping the gun a bit with a Raclette chez Vaches as the Milawa Cheese Shop had been stripped of stinky cheeses by this afternoon. We were told that last week was ridiculously busy – naturally, I blame people who are cheese matching le Tour and who are more organised than I am.

M Gaté is serving up an Alsatian ham knuckle dish with no butter tonight. Sherliggett will no doubt be wishing they’d saved their Rin Tin Tin anecdotes to match. Who am I kidding? They’ll repeat themselves, surely…

Keep on with the excellent cow spotting, Team Vaches. Bonus points for Vosges, naturally, but even random cows upstaging ponies are alright by me.

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Image: will_cyclist

Just a note on future posts – holidays are over, so I’m going to have to fit around work. Round-ups will probably appear early evening; stage previews will follow an hour or two later. And I’ll try not to nod off during the race…

Stage 7: Tomblaine > La Planche des Belles Filles

This 199km stage contains the first category 1 climb of the Tour: a 5.9km climb at an average 8.5% (although some sections are up to 13%) right at the end of the stage. That’s not to say it will necessarily be easy going up until that point; there are two other categorised climbs along the route, both classified as Cat 3.  The first is the Col de Grosse Pierre at 112km, 8km after the intermediate sprint point, and the second is the Col de Mont de Fourche at 150.5km. The final climb up to the ski station at La Planche des Belles Filles is making its Tour debut, which means we will be spared comparisons to the achievements of certain storied competitors of recent years.  It will be interesting to see how the main GC contenders stack up at the end of today’s stage, and if and when a gruppetto forms.  We will miss Didi on the sidelines in the mountain stages this year, but I’m sure there will be many other tifosi – any bets on how long before a mankini makes an appearance?

After yesterday’s horrific crashes, four more riders have withdrawn from the Tour: Poels, Vigano, Danielson and Astarloza. [Edited to add: make that five – Gutiérrez has just been reported as a non-starter. As of 6.33, Jonathan Vaughters has just added Hesjedal to the withdrawals. 7.47 – Mike Tomalaris has just tweeted that Robbie Hunter is also out.] With 27 receiving hospital treatment for injuries sustained during stage 6 we can only hope that the riders who are continuing aren’t in too much pain. The sprint stages are behind us for the time being, so a slower, spread out peloton might (fingers crossed) mean fewer accidents.

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