Fantasy League – we have a winner

Is it really just a week since we were sweating by the Arc de Triomphe, waiting for the Tour caravan to pass by? Seems like half a world away… I am back in Melbourne, listening to the sound of rain on the roof and wishing that  I’d arranged for the heater repair guy to come in before we went away. I’ve also finally had time to sit down and look at the final podium of the LVDT Fantasy League.

Winning the Giro didn’t slow team Deuxbieres down, much, with another strong performance here, finishing third in the competition. Team #Hashtag – new to our league – finished second. The winner? Enrico 666. Congratulations, and drop me an email at lesvachesdutour at gmail dot com to organise your prize!

The Frog family has participated in previous leagues with mixed results. Mme Frog won last year’s Vuelta and M Frog took out the Lanterne Rouge in the Giro. Who does Bébé Frog take after? Well, the Lanterne Rouge went to… Où Est Mon Bidon!

Thanks to all who took part this year. There’ll be another game happening for the Vuelta, so keep an eye on the official site for the team announcements and this site for information on how to play.

Chris Froome

 

Image: Sydney Morning Herald

Stage 21: Round-up

It’s over.

The 100th edition of the Tour de France was won in emphatic style by Christopher Froome, with 4’20″ over second placed Nairo Quintano, who also won the King of the Mountains jersey and the Young Rider jersey. Kittel’s stage win on the Champs  Élysées completed his hugely successful tour, and Sagan limited his podium celebrations for the Points jersey by dyeing his beard green (or so I’m led to believe… I couldn’t tell as he zoomed past).

I’m still processing the whole experience. The “night time” finish – the sun sets so late here that the darkness I saw talked about on twitter wasn’t really apparent on the course – meant for a really long day for spectators. We’d entered to ride the Randonnée on Velibs, the local share bike. I’m not sure why; we are cursed when it comes to those schemes. That curse wasn’t lifted yesterday and we missed out on  getting onto the course. Still, seeing all the fans in yellow riding past was amazing, and I know that they had a ball doing it.

IMG_4431

Highlights?

Wandering around the Champs Élysées, checking out all the fans decked out in their team gear or, more commonly, some sort of national – or regional, hello Manx fans! – gear. The Colombians appeared to be having the most fun.

IMG_4442Finding a spot by the spectacular Arc de Triomphe, where we’d get a great view of the race (although clinging onto a tree for height made it impossible to get good race photos).

IMG_3055Image: M Vache

I did toy with asking if I could climb up...

I did toy with asking if I could climb up…

Listening to the course announcer and trying to figure out what his repeated “Juan Antonio FLECHA!” could possibly mean… then “David MILLAR!”… then “Antonio VALVERDE!”. Surely not? But then we’d see them come around and, sure enough, there’d be a Vaconsoleil leading a Garmin leading the pack… or a Movistar riding stealthily up.

Watching the final lap on the iPhone of a charming local man who’d lived just around the corner all his life but had never been to a stage because he’s “never in Paris in July, of course”.

Weren't Purito's kids just gorgeous? Oh, and chapeau, podium guys and all that...

Weren’t Purito’s kids just gorgeous? Oh, and chapeau, podium guys and all that…

Image: Vosges Matin

= = = = = = = = =

It was strange not “being” with all of you for the final stage – the telecoms were completely overwhelmed and I was getting very intermittent Twitter downloads, which was maddening.

Thanks for calling out cows – real ones and field-arted ones – when you saw them; recording all the troll DJ songs and contexts; and making me feel as though I almost had Paul and Phil alongside with the detailed Sherliggettisms. There’ll be an update on the fantasy league and a couple of final TdF related posts, including a proposed vachetastic course for next year, over the next few days.

And then… THE VUELTA!

 

 

Stage 21: Versailles > Paris Champs-Élysées

It’s the final stage. Froome has this one all wrapped up by a looooooong margin, so he’ll be sitting pretty with his champagne as the peloton rolls towards Paris from Versailles. He’ll have to wait a while for it, though, as the 100th edition’s last hurrah won’t leave the Palace until 5.45 and isn’t expected to cross the finish line until 9.30pm. Grand news for those of us lucky enough to be in the timezone, but for viewers in Australia the prospect of a brutally rather than just very late night when the stakes are minimal will be hard to get motivated for.

Even harder, when the chances of vaches are also minimal. It’s been a while since Marie-Antoinette had her hobby farm, The Queen’s Hamlet, at the Palace. Perhaps that’s why we were given Jersey Vaches at the end of the last stage? The decapitated Queen’s farm is long gone, but there is still a herd in the vicinity – 16km south – at the Ferme de Coubertin, where you can also pick up some of their cheese. Have a look at their website for some pictures of their animals (not just cows, but goats, wee piglets and a stately dog) and a recipe for a cheese and cherry tomato tart. It’s goat’s cheese, but after the vaches en maillots last night I’m prepared to overlook it.

9329208342_4033eb11d4_bImage: AlfyG

 

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.

IMG_4371

We also saw cows.

IMG_4324

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

IMG_4363

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 19: Bourg-d’Oisans > Le Grand-Bornand

It’s the second-last mountain stage of the 100th Tour and there are some hefty climbs packed in. In fact, there was some discussion on Twitter as to whether the Alpe d’Huez stage really deserved to be the Queen stage of this race, as Stage 19 certainly packs a punch. Riders will start climbing almost right away up to the summit of the HC Col de Glandon at 33.5km. A sharp descent follows, and then the Col de Madeleine rises up to 2000m (how much lower is that than the altitude at which Froome was born? Anybody?). The sprint points are available in Albertville, and then there are three more climbs: a Cat 2 and two Cat 1s. Will Quintano be able to take the polka dot jersey? Will Chris Froome resist the temptation to eat late in the stage? Will Contador be adding an extra layer of paint to his bike overnight to ensure there is no suspicion over bike weight?

Will there be vaches? Well, there should be. We spotted some on the way from Grenoble to Oz, which took us through Allemont, so hopefully they are still in situ. The latter part of the stage is close to Beaufort, so there are Tarantaise and Abondance in the area as these are the milk sources for this amazing cheese. There is also the Tomme de Savoie, which was the nicest of the tommes we tasted recently.

Let’s meet a new cow, shall we? This stage is close to Switzerland, so why not look out for the Fribourg. It is something of a long shot, as it was thought to be extinct after the last bull in Switzerland was (carelessly, you’d have to say) slaughtered in 1975. Some of these black and white cows were taken to Chile in the 1930s and a family history project recently found evidence that descendents of these cattle were in Patagonia. Yes, Savoie is not Patagonia, but if they made it that far, they might have snuck off to France, too.

sriimg20080703_9221977_6

 

298

 

Image: Antique Print Club

If you feel you’d like to cook something tonight, rather than rely on a delicious cheeseboard, try a Gratin Dauphinoise. This recipe from SBS suggests it goes perfectly with any grilled meats or roasts, by which they obviously mean beef. It is not without controversy, though, as a commenter from the Dauphiné region points out on a similar BBC recipe points out.

OUCH!! This should not be called “Gratin Dauphinois” if it contains Cheese. I happen to be someone actually coming from the Dauphinee region of France (the famous Gratin Dauphinois originates from there) where we consider adding cheese a sacrilege as it actually allienates all the good flavour from the potatoes, herbs, garlic and cream. I strongly suggest to remove the cheese from your preparation and enjoy this amazing dish full of flavour or…. Just to simply call it a “potato gratin” instead of Grating Dauphinois

 

Stage 18: Gap > Alpe-d’Huez

Well, if Douglas Adams was right and the meaning of life really is 42, the guys doing two ascents of Alpe d’Huez might discover it today. How many hairpins must a man go ’round and all that… Apparently Christian Prudhomme was quite happy to have a snappy 100km stage 18 but was talked out of it by his team. If the rain that is currently bathing drenching Grenoble is indicative of the weather on the mountains tomorrow, the fans might join the riders in cursing Thierry Gouvenou, who suggested extending the stage by adding a second climb of the landmark Alp.

Some questions might be answered today. Was Cadel’s time trial – described by some as “shocking” – indicative of a man who is done and dusted or a man who is saving his legs for a big Alpine attack? Was Andy Schleck’s shocking – in a different way – time trial indicative of a man who is finding form or a man who has spent his energy too early and unexpectedly. Will Froome continue to do everything right and conquer this stage, too, in his relentless quest for the Paris podium? If Quintana wins more money, what will he buy his mum?

And will there be vaches?

We know there are cows on Alpe d’Huez. Numerous cowrespondents have contributed photos of them in the past, just not from when the race is on. I guess it’s not surprising if farmers decide to protect their precious livestock from the marauding hordes in July, but we do hope that a couple of wily cattle will have escaped the sweep into paddocks remote for our viewing pleasure.

M Vache and I drove up from Provence today through the gorgeous Vercors Regional Natural Park and we kept our eyes peeled for vaches. We were lucky to spot several herds and were able to pull over to take photos of some of them.

P1040141

P1040140

The ubiquitous charolais

IMG_4208

No bells, unfortunately

We spotted some Villard-de-Lans today, which I’d hoped to see as the regional cow-of-the-stage. Unfortunately the photos were grainier than a very grainy thing on an extremely grainy day. They are an all-purpose breed from the Vercors region and were in danger of dying out until a conservation program was started in the 1970s. Let’s keep talking up these cows, so that we have a better chance of spotting them in future Tours!

640px-Villard_de_lans_SDA2011

Image: Wikimedia 

There are a number of geographically appropriate snacks for tonight’s viewing. There’s the St Marcellin cheese, but there’s also tartiflette, a local dish of potatoes, cheese (reblechon), onions and lardons. I had one today for lunch and was in cheesy heaven.

IMG_4203Reading this ode to tartiflette, it seems I can look forward to hunting some more down when we get to Annecy in a couple of days. In the meantime, let me know if you try making some – this recipe might be a good start!

Oh, and look out for us on Alpe d’Huez. We’ll be following all of David Millar’s tips for good spectators, even if it’s raining. (Actually, if it’s raining, we will probably be taking refuge in any overpriced bistro we can find on top of the mountain…)