Stage 18: Sallanches > Megève

The final TT is an uphill 17 km, promising spectacular scenery and small gaps between the favourites. To be honest, I’m more excited about this information from the On The Road section of the official website:

Specialities: … Reblochon, tomme de Savoie, tome des Bauges, Abondance, Chevrotin, Emmental de Savoie (cheese), tartiflette, raclette, fondue savoyarde.

Honestly, I don’t know how you are going to choose a cheese or cheese-adjacent dish for tonight with so much choice. One thing I do know, though, is that you can’t go wrong.

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A tartiflette I enjoyed in the Haute Savoie in 2013

Local Simmental with a marrow sauce – I am still dreaming of this from Annecy in 2013

IMG_4363Oh, and did you notice the mention of the Rock’n’Poche festival on the Le Tour site? I couldn’t resist looking it up… Check out the logo!

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Stage 17: Bern > Finhaut-Emosson

We are in Switzerland all day – 184.5km, four climbs and a summit finish. You’d hope the riders spent part of yesterday eating for tomorrow, which is – of course – today.

According to the Australian home of Raclette cheese:

Apart from the magnificent Swiss Alps themselves, Switzerland’s greatest natural resource is the cow.

and Switzerland certainly brought us a bovine bonanza before the rest day. I am hoping we will have more delights today. The buffalo were a bit of an unexpected surprise on Monday; today we are travelling through the home of the Simmental so we should be assured of a sighting.

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Perhaps we will also spy some Braunvieh, complete with cowbells (if the roadside randoms have left any for the cows).

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Image: Ikiwaner

 

Clearly this is a stage for chocolate and/or cheese. There are a lot of alpine cheeses to choose from, but if you can get your hands on one of these, tonight would be the perfect night for bunging it in the oven:

800px-Vacherin_Mont_d'OrImage: Wikimedia Commons

when baked, it’s like a brain wreck of everything going on – fat, funk, fresh cream, wood, garlic, rank, and a peculiar buttery sharpness scrambling all of your senses together in each single mouthful. And if that description didn’t scare you away, then you’ll be rewarded with a life-altering eating experience.

David Lebovitz

Now, if that doesn’t make you want to rush out in search of this cheese, I don’t know what will.

Stage 16: Moirans-en-Montagne > Bern

What exactly is this stage? 209km, lumpy, a border crossing, only one categorised climb (a cat 4 at the 183.5km mark)… and a finish in Bern. Clearly, this is a Fabs stage, designed to give him a stage win on home turf in his farewell year. Spoil my farewell Fabs party AT YOUR PERIL, peloton!

Even if Cancellara doesn’t win, I am confident there will be vaches. There must be! So. Much. Cheese. One of the cheeses we should be eating tonight is Comté, which is only made from the milk of Montbéliarde (remember them?) and French Simmental cattle.

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Simmental

Image: Richard Bartz

Comté is one of my favourite cheeses and if you have a good cheesemonger, you should be able to find some beautiful aged cheese. If, however, all you have available is a crappy supermarket, fear not! You can still be regionally appropriate with your cheese choice because La Vache Qui Rit is from these parts.

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Image: Groupe Bel

According to Wikipedia, Comté is used in the manufacture of the Laughing Cow. They also add some information about shelf-stability, and how to access the cheese:

Consumers have to pull a little red thread around the box to open it, and the foil packaging also features a red tab for opening.

Seriously. Get yourselves some Comté.

Stage 20: Annecy > Annecy – Semnoz

It’s the last of the mountains and, for some riders, this has not come soon enough. Marcel Kittel seemed to find the going tough today, tweeting

He won’t find Stage 20 any more forgiving, I’ll bet. The opening Cat 2 climb is followed by three Cat 3s, with the sprint point coming between the first and the second of those. The descent from the last of these, the Col de Prés, goes straight into the climb to the Cat 1 Mont Revard. After a steep descent there’s a flattish section (it’s all relative) before the final HC climb for the Tour, up to the finish at Annecy-Semnoz. There are plenty of riders who will be looking for something to take from the 100th Tour and I’m sure there’s one who’d love the chance to stamp his final seal of authority on this race. We shall see!

We were sorry to hear about the crash that took out Jack Bauer today – sorrier still to see photos of his injuries, which looked horrific. Let’s hope he recovers quickly. He wasn’t the only rider to leave the race today. Kris Boeckmans, Tom Veelers, Christophe le Mevel and Marcel Sieberg also withdrew.

For a trip long in the planning, it seems as though we’ve accidentally bumbled our way into the Tour sometimes. We’d decided that Stage 19 would be a Twitter-tour day, choosing to sightsee rather than try to race-chase or get to our next stop in time to watch on TV. (As evidenced by the rather perfunctory Twitter round-up, these plans were partially thwarted by Alps getting in the way of wifi reception.) Of course, the tour organisers have as much of an appetite for breathtaking scenery as tourists do and we found a number of yellow arrows for Stage 20 along our driving route. We also spotted campers in place for a glimpse of the passing race, as well as cyclists out testing themselves against the climbs that challenged even our sturdy Ooropcar.

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We also saw cows.

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The cow at the back had a bell. A BELL! The one in front looks like a classic Montbéliarde to me.

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They were everywhere… these seemed unrestrained by fences. Perhaps some Simmental there?

Even when I was just trying to capture dramatic mountains... accidental vaches

Even when I was just trying to capture dramatic mountains… accidental vaches

For lunch

For lunch

For dinner - this was local Simmental with a marrow sauce

For dinner – this was local Simmental with a marrow sauce

Even for drinks

Even for drinks

I hope this means a vachetastic stage! There are tommes galore in these parts – if the tomme des Bauges is anywhere near as tasty as La Motte en Bauges was pretty, you’ll be well satisfied. Fondue, more varieties of tartiflette… basically anything with cheese and potato and you’ll be on the money. If, however, you’re in a soup frame of mind, try a soupe a l’oignon. As it thundered down tonight, this seemed the perfect choice as a starter, although it really could have been the whole meal. With beef stock and cheese, it’s the perfect dish!

Stage 8: Belfort > Porrentruy

We are really in the mountains now. Given the length of the stages we’ve seen so far, you might look at this 157.5km stage and think “well, at least I’ll get some more sleep before the week starts”. Not so fast. There are seven climbs packed into today’s route. The first is a Cat 4 at 20km, and they get progressively steeper (a 3, three 2s and then a 1) as the day progresses. We’ll see some pretty unlikely “sprinters” collecting points today, with the intermediate sprint coming after the day’s fifth climb.

The finish today is in Switzerland, so we should expect a lot of auditory false alarms as fans ring their cowbells. Hopefully it will give our own Cowbell Evans a boost. If we do see any cows, they might be the local Braunvieh (Brown Swiss) or Simmental.

Please don’t draw any SherLiggetism conclusions from the posture of these cows.

Image: Wikimedia (Creative Commons)

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Stage eight: round-up

The excitement in Team Vaches was undeniable: Mike Tomalaris was prepared to make an early call – this stage would be rich in terms of cow spotting.  We were not disappointed, with a variety of cows spotted all the way along the route.

These cows have a perfect spot for Tour viewing

A group of Charolais

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Les Vaches du chaos!

You know that our mission here at Las Vaches du Tour is to bring cows and bikes together. Metaphorically we thought …  but overnight at the Dauphiné Libéré,  some cows took us on –  literally.  A herd of cows joined the peloton from the side of the road.  They caused quite a bit of chaos,  unfortunately bringing Euskaltel rider Mikel Landa down and breaking some of his bones.

Here’s some vision with French commentary showing the incident. There are many repetitions of the words for “the cows”  and a lovely giggle. Make sure you watch on until 0:52 for some lovely cow video.

To hear Paul Sherwen’s commentary on the cows … here is a link.   He hasn’t seen an incident involving cows and riders before … oops!   (no really,  I’m sure they haven’t heard about this site,  I’m not taking responsibility.)

Oh …  and some results?  After saturday’s stage 6 Bradley Wiggins is leading,  with a 1:26 lead over Cadel Evans and 1:52 on Alexender Vinokourov.

Oh …  and the cows?   I think they may be Simmentals…

Tour de Suisse

When you think of Switzerland what springs to mind?  Chocolate,  fondue,  cow bells,  yodelling,  alpen horns,  Heidi…

Okay,  so forget Heidi –  she was,  after all,  a goat girl –  but Switzerland is all about the cows. Oh,  and the watches.  And heavily armed neutrality.   In fact,  the cows probably only wear bells to warn people they’re packing heat.

The Tour of Switzerland starts tonight and whilst some people use it to check the alpine form of riders slated for Le Tour there will be ample opportunities to spot ruminants. Watch out for the original “how now brown cow”:  the literally-named Brown Swiss. You might also spot some Simmental. Perhaps they might be herded by the Swiss cattle dog,  the Sennenhund.

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