Stage 11: Round-up

I think we have to give that set to Team Sky (to continue an analogy that may not go any further).

A bad day for Cowdel which I’m not sure he will be able to recover from – but as they say – anything can happen and it’s still a long way to Paris. The yellow wiggle didn’t have it all his own way though, appearing to struggle again at the end of the climb.  Best laid plans of Cowdel to attack and attack again all came to nought. It was a long way out from the finish that the first attack came (around 60km) and it ended up being too far out. I hate to sound like a hyper-patriotic Australian but I do wish there were a couple more tough climbs in the next few days, but there’s not. Then again – maybe I don’t. Maybe Cadel just isn’t as fit as he needed to be after that long rest from competition. And maybe the Pyrenees will sort Wiggo out. Who knows!  All I know is I have stocked up on snacks and wine and am looking forward to a weekend on the couch.

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Stage 11: Albertville > La Toussuire – Les Sybelles

We’re in the Rhône-Alpes today and here we’ll stay for the next couple of stages. This punchy 140km route takes in four climbs. The ascent of the 2000m Col de la Madeleine (HC) begins just 15km into the stage with the summit at 40km. Hopefully we won’t miss too much of the action whilst M. Gaté explores the regional cuisine! The 40 hairpin bend descent leads to the intermediate sprint point at the 61.5km mark, after which the Col du Glandon/Col de la Croix de Fer combination – another HC climb – commences. It’s 22.4km up at an average of 7% – towards the top riders will encounter 8% gradients, with the last two kilometres at 10%. Ouch. The Cat 2 Col du Mollard follows, and riders finish on the Cat 1 La Toussuire.

Vaches to watch out for

Image: Tom Douglas

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Stage eleven: round-up

Stage eleven was touted as a “last chance” for the sprinters before the climbers take the spotlight.  Hopefully it was also a last chance for the riders to get their rain jackets out, although by the end of the race the rain was so heavy that nothing short of a comfortable team bus would have offered protection from the wet.  Here at HQ Les Vaches we are also hoping that it was the last of the cow-free stages.

The coverage started promisingly.  Included in the introductory montage was a shot we hadn’t seen yesterday – the group of Blondes from Thomas’ photo running alongside the peloton.  Our lovely Le Mans correspondent, parisbug, tweeted her one of her favourite photos and, naturally, I took this as a portent, rather than just a sign.

Owly Images

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Stage 11: Blaye-les-Mines > Lavaur

Tonight’s stage takes us through Tarn, in the Midi-Pyrenees. The profile is undulating (or is “lumpy” the term du jour?) but with the big mountain stages to come, there are only two categorised climbs over the 167.5km.  Those of us watching on SBS will miss the first (category 3) climb 28.5km in but we’ll see the Côte de Puylaurens (category 4) at 135.5.

Tarn is a departement known for its cattle production, but not one that has an indigenous cattle breed.  It’s quite possible we’ll see some Blonde d’Aquitaine, which hail from the neighbouring Aquitaine region.  The Blonde is a relatively new breed and quickly gaining in popularity.  At nearly half a million animals they are gaining on the Limousin and Charolais in herd size, so we should be able to spot a few as we roll by.

Blondes clearly having more fun

Image: Farming in France

We could spot some of the aforementioned Charolais and Limousin, too, as well as some Salers and Aubrac.

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