Stage 3: Verviers > Longwy

This undulating stage takes us from Belgium, through Luxembourg, and to a Cat 3 finish in France. Hopefully the conditions will be drier than for yesterday’s stage – the forecast is for a mild but overcast day. Perhaps it will be a day for Peter Sagan to take the stage. Thomas is still in yellow and not-Fabs – sorry, Stefan Küng – currently wears the best young rider jersey. There are five opportunities for KOM points; let’s see what Taylor Phinney does to defend his spotty jersey.

But enough about the racing… where are the cows? I’m yet to watch the replay from stage 2, but I didn’t catch the fleeting glimpses of cattle reported by a couple of members of the couch peloton. Is there any hope of vaches today? According to The Dairyman, milk is Luxembourg’s main agricultural product, and 65% of agricultural land is given over to cattle farming. In the 2010 agricultural census, there were 143,000 cattle in the country, but knowing our luck they are all quartered along the eastern border. If we do see cattle, they might be MRY (sometimes known as MRI) – the Meuse Rhine Yssel, a dairy breed originating in the Netherlands and registered in the late 19th century. Variations on the breed were developed in Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark and France during the 20th century, so let’s call this one our local hero for the stage.

meuseImage: Rarebreeds NZ

The route appears to go close to Highland Cattle Eschweiler, breeders of – you guessed it – Highland Cattle. Now that would be a good sighting!

I’m pleased to see that Luxembourg takes it’s dairying seriously, having opened an educational centre (The Vitarium) designed to give visitors

an idea of the food chain and in particular the world of the ‘white gold’

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg

White gold!

Cute logo, too:

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Kachkéis is a local dairy product, described as a soft, even runny, cheese, used in cooking or as a spread.

Kachkéis is one of those Luxembourgish food oddities that is hard to describe. Basically, it’s a cooked cheese that’s quite runny – think of the texture of glue: stringy, gloopy and rubbery. Its taste is impossible to descibe, you just have to try it… Pungent and strong but not revolting and nothing like a strong French cheese. It’s very unique, so if you ever come to Luxembourg you will have to try it!

Anne’s Kitchen

I doubt there are any stockists here in Australia – let me know if I’m wrong! – so I’m calling today a wildcard round for cheese. Belgian beer is also on the cards, and if you’re looking for something beefily warming (with frites!), try Boulet liégeois!

Stage 2: York > Sheffield

Today’s 201km stage takes in thirteen climbs. Thirteen! And for those of us who thought that Buttertubs was a name that would not be bettered, I present the first of tonight’s categorised hills: the Côte de Blubberhouses. Probably not as much of a contender as a term of endearment, though. It’s not the toughest of the climbs, but with 12 more to follow riders will no doubt be digging into those suitcases of courage before the day is over.  I’ll be paying particular attention to Oxenhope Moor, of course, but it’s the final climb at Jenkin Road that is tipped to be the key to the stage. Jens should make the most of his day in the dots, as the KOM points over the nine categorised bumps will be hotly contested today.

We know that Yorkshire has dairy cattle – we saw them yesterday and those of us who were well organised sampled some of their output – but I haven’t been able to find an indigenous breed. As we pass through the (H)uddersfield area we might spot a herd of Meuse Rhine Issel and you’d be right if you were thinking “that doesn’t sound very Yorkshire-y”. Still, it’s a breed we haven’t met before and perhaps the sight of them will inspire the Dutch contingent.

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Image: Kranky Kids

 

Hopefully none of these cows were implicated in the shocking doping scandal that rocked last year’s Great Yorkshire Show. You can read the full story at the link, but I’ll leave you with two words: Udder. Tampering.

So, what should you be eating tonight? Ribblesdale has West Yorkshire roots, however it is made of goats milk. I finally got my act together with some Wensleydale, but if you want a change, Lancashire is not too far away. I drank all my Samuel Smith beer last night; tonight, it’s Theakston’s Old Peculier.