Stage 12: Round-up

Oh I don’t know – am I tired, flat, sick of being awake in the middle of the night?

Last night seemed .. well .. tedious. Longest stage of the tour this year (226km), started high, and ended up low and flat. Flat… maybe Injera is on to something?  Tonight was the night for the breakaways and a group of five stayed away to earn some points and some team pride for Garmin Sharp. At 35 years of age, and with the retirement of the teams GC hope Ryder Hesjedal earlier in the tour, Scot David Millar was released from “team” duties to see what he had left in his legs on the 45th anniversary of the death of British cyclist Tommy Simpson during a tour stage. A classic “cat and mouse” sprint and the end saw Millar out-play Peraud to win the stage.  Millar has joined the group that I now think are pushing for a new race jersey competition, shall we call it the grey jersey, for the best riders over 35?

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Stage 12: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne > Annonay Davézieux

From a relatively short stage yesterday to the longest of the Tour today: a 226km route taking us over the last of the Alpine climbs.  The first climb, the Cat 1 Col du Grand Cucheron, is a 9.7km ascent commencing at around the 21km mark with the summit at 34km. It starts slowly, at around 4-5%, but keeps on building with the final 500m at 10%. The Col du Granier – another Cat 1 – follows at 71km. This 9.7km climb has an average gradient of 8.6%, but from kilometre five it is closer to 10%. The final climb is the Cat 3 Côte d’Ardoix, starting at 201.6km. Cycling Weekly’s guide notes that the descents this stage are longer than their preceding climbs, which should give the sprinters the opportunity to stay in touch with the climbers and the GC contenders. After last night’s sorting out, it will be interesting to see what Nibali does and who will have a crack at a break. SBS is live streaming from 7pm so you don’t have to miss any of the cycling action.

Onto the vache action. There is no breed indigenous to this region, but I’m not leaving anything to chance: there are cows in the vicinity! Google Maps has been remarkably helpful with this shot taken on the route the riders will follow today:

Image: Mr Jalili

Let’s just hope they are out and about for Le Tour.

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Stage twelve: round-up

Once again, we had a cow free stage. Well, almost. For those dedicated people who were watching online there was this:

Thanks, @Catherine_G_G for capturing this moment for us!

Our Eurosport-watching cowrespondents informed us that the spills on the descent of La Hourquette d’Ancizan were due to “cow shite” on the road. We’re not sure where cowmentator Sean got his information from – on reviewing the tape I was unable to pick up any merde apart from that in the tortured metaphors streaming out of the Ps as the peloton swept down the mountain, and I was certainly unable to pick out any cows.  It also seems unlikely that cows would jeopardise the chances of their champion, Geraint Thomas, in such a way.

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Stage 12: Cugnaux > Luz-Ardiden

It’s been a long, long ride from the western edge of France, to Normandy and right down the centre. Tonight, we finally hit some hills in the Pyrenees.  The sprinters have had their time in the sun (and the rail and hail), and now it’s time for the yellow jersey battle to take centre stage.

But before we get to the three substantial climbs of this stage we travel from Cugnaux across the flatlands of Haute-Garonde.  Here we are hoping to spot some absolutely gorgeous Mirandaise cattle.  These originated next door in Gers area and were bred to be strong, docile and resistant to heat. The oxen were used by farmers to work the fields, and would then be fattened up at the end of their working life, producing tender flavoursome beef. The introduction of tractors reduced their value to the farmers and they all but died out during the 20th century.  At the end of the 1970s there were no more than 150 cows and one purebred bull. But .. ta dah! In conjunction with the Slow Food Foundation for BioDiversity a program has been established to increase herd numbers and retain the pure bloodlines by educating consumers about the quality of the meat.

 

Image: Farming in France

(aren’t you glad they are saving them cow fans?)

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Pyrenees Cheese and Wine

Sometimes  I wonder why I write this blog… all for fun… no remuneration… oh… umm… oops – yes well – umm… now that you mention it… yes that *is* in fact the  aftermath of a recent wine and cheese tasting – all in the name of Les Vaches of course.   Ahem.

 

So – one of our fabulous supporters, DiscoverVin, knows an awful lot about the wines of South West France, around those wonderful Pyrenees mountains. The Tour is travelling anti-clockwise this year so around Stage 10 (July 12) the tour will head down towards the Pyrenees.

So you’ve got a bit of time to get organised – but DiscoverVin and our good selves have done some of the hard work for you.  Yes – what to drink and what cheese to eat!  The wines come in a handy six-pack, ready for you. The cheese was chosen with the assistance of Anthony Femia, cheesemonger (and proud cow-respondent!) who takes care of the cheese at the Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder.

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