Tour of Britain: stage eight

The Devon countryside and coastline was the perfect backdrop to this stage of racing. The narrow hedge-lined roads opened up onto gloriously green pastures and there was some cattle spotting to be had. My choice for today’s stage photo is not, however, any of the cows gracing last night’s route. They were mere blobs on the landscape – identifiable as cattle, sure, but lacking the impact of this fan’s tribute to bacon:

By the time the (unfortunately not live) coverage of the stage started on Eurosport a ten-man break had been established. Ivan Basso was in amongst it once more, as were Sammy Sanchez, stage five winner Marc De Maar and former KOM leader Pablo Urtasun. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke made it clear that he wasn’t planning on relinquishing the gold jersey, particularly when so many local fans were out supporting their man. Late in the stage it appeared as though Sky were going to try to catch the breakies to give Cavendish some late-tour glory, but they’d left their move too late. Urtasun took the stage victory ahead of de Maar, with Basso in third and Sanchez crossing fourth. His celebrations in support of his team-mate were a highlight of the stage. JTL has 18″ over second placed Nathan Haas; Leigh Howard has dropped to fourth place overall. Velo UK has a full stage report here.

The final 147.8km stage from Reigate to Guildford takes us through some scenery which should be familiar to those who watched the Olympic road races. We thought we might see some cows back then, but were disappointed. Who knows? They may have returned. The southern part of the map Dan and I put together (with help from Alain) for that event is relevant for part of today’s race and has me hankering after the giant Yorkshire pudding at the Compasses Inn once more.

Once again, Scottie has some tips for locally-sourced sustenance to help us make it through to the finish line.

Stage 7 had an almost surreal feel as huge crowds cheered on Ivan Basso and Sammy Sanchez as they raced along the narrow lanes of Devon, the English Riviera resplendent in the late summer sunshine. Hopefully the fine weather will continue as we reach the final stage and Surrey. Not known for its dairy produce, the county’s only cheese is Norbury Blue made near today’s start in Dorking using unpasteurised milk from a herd of Friesian cows which graze at the foot of Box Hill whose roads still bear the cycling-related graffiti from the Olympic road races. This part of southern England shares the chalk seam conditions with the Champagne region in France and Dorking is also home to Denbies Vineyard – their Chalk Ridge Rose 2010 won a coveted gold medal at that years IWC. With a bouquet of strawberries, freshly cut pears and cracked pepper and thyme, I would probably enjoy them separately, but enjoy them I would!

As the race briefly enters West Sussex, it’s here that we’ll go for our final Tour De Snack of this year’s race. As I cycle the 30 miles from my home in Hove, along the Down’s Link cycle route to the race’s most southern trajectory at Cranleigh, I’ll pass very close to High Weald Dairy Farm. Their Saint Giles, an English equivalent to the continental style Saint Paulin or Port Salut , is a semi soft creamy cheese with a rich, buttery texture, a creamy mild flavour and a stunning edible orange rind. Not far away is Nyetimber vineyard, the first in England to grow only the traditional Champagne varieties : Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and their Classic Cuvee really is something special. Intense, flinty, biscuity with a classic champagne structure it’s an ideal match for the Saint Giles and a neat analogy for the state of road cycling in Britain. We’ll never be able to beat the French at their own game; but with beautiful countryside, passionate crowds, a varied and diverse terroir and a long and proud food and drink tradition of our own, we Brits can put on a world class show!

Thanks so much, Scottie, for the comprehensive cheese and beer (and wine) matching service for this year’s Tour of Britain!