Stage 6: Abbeville > Le Havre

Will it be another windy day? Surely that’s what the organisers have in mind with this stage. The 191.5km course meanders along the coast, taking in three Cat 4 climbs along the way. Given my tipping record to date, I wouldn’t suggest you put any money on this pick, but I’m sure it’s time for Kwiatkowski to get a win. Isn’t that the way it works? Turn-taking? Hmmmm. I’m sure the Griller will have something to say about that – he certainly seems to enjoy winning! Our fantastic/fabulous/ferocious/fickle four GC contenders all finished with the group last night, so no changes there.

This route doesn’t have any specific breeds associated with it, but I am hoping that we might spot some cows today before we hit the coast. The first part of the race is similar to the beginning of stage 4 in 2012 and we had saw a diverse range of vaches back then. Unfortunately that route continued inland which may have been where all the cows were – we are headed west. Fingers crossed!

1024px-Cow_00Photo: Aldipower

Last time we were in these parts, we noted that we passed close-ish to Neufchâtel-en-Bray, the home of Neufchâtel cheese, and geography has not changed in the past three years. Growing up a cheese by that name was available in the local supermarket and seemed pretty much interchangeable with Philadelphia Cream Cheese. It seems it wasn’t always so. I certainly don’t remember ever seeing it in a heart shape.

Again, last time we were around here, we noted that the local cuisine was – not surprisingly – seafood dominated and offered a recipe via Parisbug for mussels with cheese and cider. Look at what Gabriel is offering today: Blue Eye and oysters in a creamy cider sauce. Sounds good to me!

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As you will have noticed, this preview is going up before the daily round-up. We’re up in the mountains for a few days, hoping for some snow (but also hoping that the predicted blizzards are an exaggeration). My wifi hotspot is working, so I will be watching and recapping the stages, but while we’re up here the previews will go live before the round-ups, which I’ll work on après ski.

And in vache news: limousins spotted en route!

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Stage 4: Abbeville > Rouen

Today’s 214.5km stage takes us from Picardie to Haute-Normandie. The four Cat 4 climbs are distributed across the route, with the intermediate sprint between climbs three and four at 94kms.  The relatively flat terrain “isn’t exactly torturous” according to the TdF Guide, however the coastal route has other challenges, not the least of which are the notorious coastal crosswinds. In Rupert Guinness’ preview of the Tour, Cadel Evans revealed that stage four was one of the pressure points in week one, due to a combination of week one nerves, unpredictable weather and narrow, winding, “lumpy” roads. We saw those factors in play last night, with a couple of riders abandoning after serious crashes and a number who will probably be feeling all sorts of pain for at least the next few days. Let’s hope things go smoothly tonight.

Picardie boasts a strong rural economy, with “considerable cattle grazing”, although there is no particular local breed. Once we cross into Normandie, look out for the pied Normande.


Image: Will Studd

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