Stage 11: Eymet > Pau

Yesterday we had 178km of spectacular scenery; we can hope that tonight’s 203.5km will be a little more noteworthy for the racing, but I’d advise against holding your breath for that. The stage profile looks even flatter than yesterday and most of the narrative in the Official Guide is given over to discussion of Tours past – including “unforgettable” rest days! – and mountains to come. Fire up the coffee machines. I can’t see us making the finish without caffeine.

From a vache perspective, however, this stage does hold some interest. First up, the department of Landes is celebrated for its Chalosse beef.  Chalosse bulls must be Bazadaise, Limousin or Blonde d’Aquitaine and the beef is produced from heifers and castrated males. The minimum age of slaughter for the heifers is 30 months; for the males it’s 32 months. If I’m reading this correctly, to buy this meat you must visit a butcher that exclusively sells Chalosse beef. This Aquitaine-based blogger visited a farm raising these cattle and describes her visit here.

Here's a bazadaise spotted yesterday on a Rick Stein episode by black cate

Here’s a bazadaise spotted yesterday on a Rick Stein episode by black cate

Keep your eyes open for the Blonde d’Aquitaine and Limousins, too!

On the region’s sporting calendar is the Course Landaise, which pits trained cows against toreros, who either dodge the charging animals, or leap over them, depending on their specific role – écartuer or sauteur. Points are given for the elegance of the athletes, as well as for the aggression and agility of the cows.

I wonder how many points this sauteur got for this both-feet-in-a-beret move?

I wonder how many points this sauteur got for this both-feet-in-a-beret move?

Image: MII

The enthusiastic public continuously gives financial premiums for courage and audacity; these are announced between the festive music which is constantly playing.

I can just *imagine* the constantly-playing festive music…

Aquitaine produces a wide range of cheeses, although most of the cheese commonly known here is made from goat or sheep milk. There are some interesting-sounding cows milk cheeses, however sourcing them might be challenging! Sometimes it’s good to mix things up with a bit of ossau-iraty or whatever takes your fancy.

 

Stage 10: Périgeaux > Bergerac

We’re easing back into the race after the rest day, with a shortish, flattish 178k stage. There are points on offer for the KoM competition, but only in two Cat 4 climbs. The sprinters will be wanting to take the glory today.

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Image: Black Cate

This is as close as we got to vaches when we last travelled between Bergerac and Périgueux, back in 2014. That was stage 20, and a time trial. This time we’re taking a somewhat longer route between the two towns, which means more opportunities for spotting vaches. Last time we were here, we were looking for Bazadais and Limousins, to no avail. Who knows, we might be luckier this time around.

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Image: Roland Darré

The Drinks List recommends steak frites to go with their chosen wine for the stage,  which is a nice way to come back from the rest day. If you can’t be bothered cooking, and you live in Melbourne, I’ve just found a website that you can search for local pub steak nights (they probably won’t let you BYO, though!). Of course, you might want to take a vache break – it happens! – in which case take advantage of truffle season and whip up an omelette.

Animals Cattle Cow Tarentaise

Stage 9: Nantua > Chambéry

Seven climbs! Seven! And if you’ve been wondering when we’ll see an HC climb, well, there are three of those tonight. It’s the Tour début for the first of the three, the Col de la Biche, and a new approach on Grand Colombier, the second HC climb. Make sure your Tourcats are awake for the final climb, the Mont du Chat. (Perhaps tonight’s game can be predicting which version of the legend behind the name Mont du Chat our commentary team shares.) You’ll probably want to grip them tightly for the tricky descent into the finish at Chambéry. Given that the Biche in Cole de la Biche means “doe”, do you think TrollDJ is putting a Sound of Music montage together for tonight?

It’s always exciting when we get to these parts, because… Beaufort.

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Image: Zivax

This cheese is made from the milk of the beautiful Tarantaise, topped up with some Abondance.

Animals Cattle Cow Tarentaise

Image: Max Pixels

Every time Beaufort is on the cards, I learn a little bit more about the cheese. Here is this year’s startling fact:

when the rind is deemed satisfactory, the routine changes to twice weekly turning, and an application of mixed salt and a substance called “morge.” “Morge” is a mixture of brine, old cheese scrapings and whey, and is known to contain at least 480 species of bacteria.

Culture

According to Harper and Blohm, Beaufort goes nicely with a range of wines, so choose your favourite style from their suggestions and see whether you agree.

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 7: Troyes > Nuits-Saint-Georges

This sprinter-friendly 213km stage is taking us through the departments of Aube and Côte d’Or, to get us to the Jura for the next mountain stage tomorrow. In other words, get your carrots ready. Team Tapware lost their attempt to return Peter Sagan to the Tour, so he won’t be in the mix (sorry!) at the finish. After a long week on the couch, it’s advisable that you set your app reminders to make sure that you are…

We’re in beef’n’burgundy country tonight. Specifically, charolais country. We’ve already seen some of these beasts in the fields along the way but I’m hoping to see a lot more tonight.

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Image: concoursevaches.fr

Why not settle in with a beef bourguignon? As usual in The Guardian’s How to cook the perfect… series, Felicity Cloake has researched a range of recipes and put together her version of the classic stew.

Tonight’s wine is a no-brainer. It has to be a burgundy, right? If you’re going with something beefy, DiscoverVin’s Domaine Lupé-Cholet Comte de Lupé Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2014 is going to do it for you. The Drinks List suggests that their Roche de Hellene Bourgogne Rouge 2015 would go well with roast chicken. If you missed the chance to have some champagne last night and you want to celebrate the end of the week in style, Délice de Bourgogne will be a great regional cheese choice. I spied some Epoisses at the market yesterday, so that’s where I’ll be headed…