Stage 14: Montélimar > Villars-les-Dombes (Parc des Oiseaux)

Paul Sherwen is going to be in heaven on this stage with its finish in a bird park. There are over 3000 birds, so expect lots of twitching in the commentary box. Given that the 208km course has been described as being more difficult than it looks, avoid choosing “false flat” as your drinking word, unless you plan on having a very quiet Sunday.

On the vache front, we could spot a number of different breeds. When we were in these parts in 2011 for the Grenoble time trial, we profiled the Villard-de-Lans and a cheese the milk is used for, Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage. Salon_de_l'agriculture_2014_-_Banbie,_vache_Villard_de_Lans

Image: HaguardDuNord

We are more likely to see Montbéliarde. We certainly spotted these a little east of this course a couple of times in the past.

As you’re unlikely to find the Bleu de Vercors-Sassenage, Saint Marcellin is another local cheese, and relatively easy to find.

Stage 13: Saint-Etienne > Chamrousse

Stage 13 contains the first HC climb of this year’s Tour de France, with the ascent to the finish at Chamrousse. Although the stage profile looks relatively passive for the first 134km with “only” a Cat 3 climb at the 24th kilometre, we could hear the phrase “false flat” fairly frequently. The second climb, the Col de Palaquit, starts at around the 138km mark and has some challenging 10+% sections. This climb hasn’t featured in the Tour before, which always makes me happy as it means no tedious comparisons to certain performances by certain past riders. There’s a descent into Grenoble, and then the climb to Chamrousse. Let’s see what Richie Porte can do tonight!

As far as vache-spotting goes, we could see some more Montbéliarde – in fact, I know we will. Last night’s Gaté preview primed us for the Taste le Tour segment featuring this breed. 

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Image: Injera

There is also a mystery beast that seems to come from this region. I can find nothing about it beyond a mention on the Isère Specialities page under “Livestock”, so I’d go ahead and identify any breed you don’t recognise as Chambarans.

Maybe the lucky bovines of Ferme des 13 fontaines are Chambarans cattle?

Have you ever heard of cows listening to the radio? Well, they do just that at the ‘ferme des 13 fontaines’ in Brézins! It is an ultra-modern educational farm where the cows decide when they are ready to be milked while having a snack. Stress? They do not know the meaning of the word and there is nothing they enjoy more than parading in front of the many visitors who go to this unusual milk farm. Would you like to find other milk producers ?

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Tourisme Bievrevalloire

What to eat? Well, Saint Marcellin is the local cheese we’re looking at today and by “looking at” I mean there was a tour group six deep outside my favourite cheese shop at the market, so I wasn’t even able to see if there was any available. A pity, because I do enjoy this cheese.

St. Marcellin is a delicate little cheese that requires protection from the world—so much so that it arrives at your home in a tiny terra cotta crock, sheltered from the bumps and bruises of commercial life. And for good reason, too. The rind of this cheese is almost non-existent at room temperature, and once warmed, even the gentlest prod of a cracker causes it to burst forth a fountain of sensuously unctuous cream.

Stephanie Stiavetti

Unctuous!

Gabriel Gaté uses this cheese, along with some crème fraiche and a terch of berter for tonight’s recipe, a zucchini flan.

If you are in need of a stage-appropriate winter warmer, reach for some Chartreuse. You won’t be sorry, unless you don’t like Chartreuse…

Stage 18: Gap > Alpe-d’Huez

Well, if Douglas Adams was right and the meaning of life really is 42, the guys doing two ascents of Alpe d’Huez might discover it today. How many hairpins must a man go ’round and all that… Apparently Christian Prudhomme was quite happy to have a snappy 100km stage 18 but was talked out of it by his team. If the rain that is currently bathing drenching Grenoble is indicative of the weather on the mountains tomorrow, the fans might join the riders in cursing Thierry Gouvenou, who suggested extending the stage by adding a second climb of the landmark Alp.

Some questions might be answered today. Was Cadel’s time trial – described by some as “shocking” – indicative of a man who is done and dusted or a man who is saving his legs for a big Alpine attack? Was Andy Schleck’s shocking – in a different way – time trial indicative of a man who is finding form or a man who has spent his energy too early and unexpectedly. Will Froome continue to do everything right and conquer this stage, too, in his relentless quest for the Paris podium? If Quintana wins more money, what will he buy his mum?

And will there be vaches?

We know there are cows on Alpe d’Huez. Numerous cowrespondents have contributed photos of them in the past, just not from when the race is on. I guess it’s not surprising if farmers decide to protect their precious livestock from the marauding hordes in July, but we do hope that a couple of wily cattle will have escaped the sweep into paddocks remote for our viewing pleasure.

M Vache and I drove up from Provence today through the gorgeous Vercors Regional Natural Park and we kept our eyes peeled for vaches. We were lucky to spot several herds and were able to pull over to take photos of some of them.

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The ubiquitous charolais

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No bells, unfortunately

We spotted some Villard-de-Lans today, which I’d hoped to see as the regional cow-of-the-stage. Unfortunately the photos were grainier than a very grainy thing on an extremely grainy day. They are an all-purpose breed from the Vercors region and were in danger of dying out until a conservation program was started in the 1970s. Let’s keep talking up these cows, so that we have a better chance of spotting them in future Tours!

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Image: Wikimedia 

There are a number of geographically appropriate snacks for tonight’s viewing. There’s the St Marcellin cheese, but there’s also tartiflette, a local dish of potatoes, cheese (reblechon), onions and lardons. I had one today for lunch and was in cheesy heaven.

IMG_4203Reading this ode to tartiflette, it seems I can look forward to hunting some more down when we get to Annecy in a couple of days. In the meantime, let me know if you try making some – this recipe might be a good start!

Oh, and look out for us on Alpe d’Huez. We’ll be following all of David Millar’s tips for good spectators, even if it’s raining. (Actually, if it’s raining, we will probably be taking refuge in any overpriced bistro we can find on top of the mountain…)

 

Stage 20: Grenoble > Grenoble

It’s the individual time trial and we know what that means.  Either we’ll see no cows at all, or the same cows over and over and over again (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

The riders won’t have time to check the signage tonight.

Image: Tim

Of course, with Cowbell so close to taking yellow, we’ll forgive you if you are too nervous to spot bovines tonight.  Cowbell is not up until just after midnight, though, so perhaps cow-spotting will have a calming effect.  If you do see cows, see if you can identify the Montbéliarde, Villard-de-Lans or even Abondance.

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