Stage 7: Epernay > Nancy

Today’s stage is a 234.5km course from Epernay to Nancy. From the profile, it looks as though we will have to find ways to entertain ourselves for the most part as the two categorised climbs are not until the last 20km when it should really start to get interesting. Of course, just because it’s flat doesn’t mean it will be straightforward. Yesterday’s fairly level stage saw some slippery roads and all manner of chutes. It brought the end of the Tour for Jesus Hernandez (TCS) , Egor Silin (KAT) and Xabier Zandio (SKY). With Lampre’s Ariel Richeze not starting yesterday, the peloton is down to 189 riders, with everybody’s favourite breakaway killer, Ji Cheng, carrying the Lanterne Rouge.

Last time we were in Epernay it was also a Friday. Isn’t it nice of the route designers to give us champagne to start the weekend? It should numb us for what is likely to be the disappointment of another vache-free stage. I’ve been told we might see some Charolais in these parts, but I’m not optimistic; I’m bracing myself for vines, vines and maybe grains. Still, I did make this (kind of) nearby vaches discovery: Highland cattle in Luxembourg!

DOTTI-IMG_8638

This beautiful cow is named Dotti, so she’s clearly the Queen of the Mountains.

Image: HCE

The Scheers started breeding Highland Cattle in 2005, having selected the breed for its resilience and ability to thrive on poor grazing land. They were also attracted by their looks (who wouldn’t be?) and their “companionable” nature. No, we’re unlikely to be able to spot them from today’s route, but it’s nice to know they’re there. 

I know some of you had Champagne last night – and why not? – but I thought I’d save it until tonight so I could enjoy the washed rind yesterday.  Creamy cheeses (cows milk, of course!) are the best match for sparkling wine and as there is no particularly local variety you have free rein to choose your favourite. Delice de Bourgogne is one of mine. I was halfway through listing why I like it, and then I found this, which pretty much sums it up:

You’ll have a hard time finding a more buttery dairy experience, outside of butter itself. As such, this cheese lends itself well to being spread across a nutty slice of cracked wheat bread or scooped up with a simple water cracker. I’ve served Délice de Bourgogne on a plate with other cheeses, though this is one you may just want to serve on its own, allowing your guests to melt deeper and deeper into the cheese puddle.

Stephanie Stiavetti

If you’re planning to dine on something other than cheese, the local speciality is Potée champenoise, which seems to be along the lines of choucroute garnie. Like choucroute garnie, it seems to be traditionally made with pork but the sixth of seven options listed in this recipe was beef, which is good enough for me.

When we were in these parts in 2012, sipping our Friday champagne, I suggested a Quiche Lorraine as an easy Friday night supper and linked to Gaté’s off-piste version with cheese. The Guardian has since featured this French classic in it’s How to cook the perfect… series. Worth a read!