Stage 18: Round-up

*Yaaaawwnnnn*  … hello everyone.  Hope you made time for a nap during last night’s stage? No? You were all wide awake trying to spot cows?  Really? Hmmmm …


And, no, these guys – cute as they are – do not count.

Cute, but not Vache

I guess we really can’t complain. We’ve had some terrific Vache spottings this tour and I think (although I haven’t done the stats yet*) that we’ve seen many more than last year.

I’m very pleased that they have all been very well-behaved Vache too; unlike those ones in the Dauphine last year, or the big black furry dog from this stage. It’s a terrible shame that spectators haven’t learned yet not to bring animals to the tour that aren’t controlled. Unfortunately the only vision on the incident that the ever-resourceful Injerarufus could find also featured Gilbert berating the owners, who were cowering behind their young daughter. No winners from this moment.

But Cowvendish gave us a real thrill at the end of the stage.  He made it the whole way through the mountains, carting water bottles and rain jackets, he didn’t leave early to prepare for the Olympics, and he earned his star-studded Sky lead out train of Wiggo and EBH. The peloton caught a strong breakaway with mere metres to spare and then, the little man FLEW! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone ride that quickly on the road. Amazing. Good one Cav!

The uninteresting stage gave me some time for reflection  – was this the most boring tour I’ve watched? Maybe. Without many of the individual stars – like the God of Thunder, and the promise of a Schleck sandwich, or Fabian Cancellara’s sweet smile on the podium – I did find it lacklustre.

I vacillate between admiring Team Sky and disliking them. Watching them after the stage win last night and seeing the genuine joy shared by Wiggo and Cav makes my heart sing a little bit.  But Stage 17 where Wiggo or Team Sky just weren’t prepared to let Froome have a bit of a run at it broke my heart a little.

Overall I blame the lack of genuine GC contenders for the predictable nature of the Tour.  Sure, it’s been a fantastic result for Great Britain, Team Sky and Wiggo, but there really weren’t enough teams to challenge the tactics and the spreadsheets of Team Sky.  Any team competition knows that you need your talent spread amongst a number of teams to make it an interesting competition and that just didn’t happen this year. What effect even one more GC contender might have had on the result is interesting to contemplate. The placement of the two individual TTs (one just before the Alps) must be questioned.

I want to see a Team TT as well as an individual TT.

The GreenEDGE boys tried again and again, and were mixing it up at the right end of the peloton again. You’d have to rate this a success for them, and see it as laying a foundation for next year.

Over the line we saw Cav, Rogers and Sagan. Overall we’ve got Wiggo, Froome and Nibali. Vino earned Most Combative and the white jersey still sits with Tejay van Garderen.


  • “Now or Never” from Thirsty Merc
  • “Let the Good Times Roll” by Georgie Fame
  • “Here I go Again” – Whitesnake

So two more days of riding with little chance of Vache on either them. I’m looking forward to catching up on the #tourdesnack hashtags and reading some of the interesting cycling blogs.


* and may never do them.

Stage 18: Blagnac > Brive-la-Gaillarde

“Long, flat… hot”, according to Stephen Roche, which is just what the remaining riders will be wanting to hear after nearly three weeks in the saddle. This stage has four categorised climbs, which might lead you to view the adjective “flat” with suspicion, but these things are all relative. The first two climbs are 1km long each, with the Côte de Saint-George classified as a 3 and the Côte de Cahors at 4. They start at 66.5 and 116.5km respectively with the intermediate sprint 1.5km before the second climb. The second two climbs – the Côte de Souillac and the Côte de Lissac-sur-Couze – start at around 178km and 210.5km. Expect to see Cowvendish chase some personal glory after nearly two weeks of team sacrifice. Sagan’s internal dialogue over the past few stages might be well-represented by the parody account @TweeterSagan, but hopefully he has also spent time dreaming up a new celebratory dance. If a certain Sandy Casar gets anywhere near a break, stay tuned for another mention of his run-in with a dog, which happened on this stage (which he won) five years ago.

A browse around the web led me to this 2010 Tour de France diary entry from Jens Voigt, which gives me some hope that “long, hot… boring” stages equal quality cow viewing. Quality for us, that is. Jens seemed to have lost interest in the bovine scenery.

But really, it was a long and boring stage. At one point I started thinking of great books that I had read, anything to keep my mind off the racing. I mean we had nothing to do but look at the cows and grass all day, and since looking at cows and grass doesn’t make you any smarter, I thought I would try to help myself by thinking of books.

Jens Voigt Diary, Bicycling

(Please tell me I’m not the only one reading Jens’ diary in his voice…)

Tonight’s stage starts in Mirandaise country and ends in the home of the Limousin. We met the Mirandaise when the Tour travelled from Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden last year. Shortly after the Tour rolled through in 2011 the Madeleine festival took place in Montesqiueu, a couple of hours west of today’s starting point.

Created to celebrate the Mirandaise, a historically important local cattle breed that also attracted Italians and Spanish to the region, this thousand-year-old fair will bring producers and the local communities together over two days.

Terra Madre

The festival was organised in conjunction with Slow Food and the Mirandaise Ox Presidium which they established to promote this beautiful breed.


Image: Grasspunk

Last year we used a different photo from the Grasspunk blog to illustrate the post about these cattle. [Click the link for a good overview of the origins of the breed.] When I revisited the blog, I read about bc’s decision to say goodbye to the Mirandaise to focus on Salers. It’s really worth clicking through to the farewell post – it provides a lot of insight into the nature of this breed and it’s also good to know that the Mirandaise have gone to farmers who are extending their own herds.

Essjaymoo talked us through the advantages of the Limousin last year so I won’t repeat her words, but I can’t resist re-posting the gorgeous photo taken by DiscoverVin:

It seems altogether fitting that DiscoverVin’s Tour wine for tonight – the Chateau Haut Monplaisir Prestige-AOC Cahors-Rouge 2006 – is recommended as the perfect foil for a steak. Ideal for a simple Friday night dinner! The local cheese is the Pas de l’Escolette, about which little information is available. Most cheeses from the region tend to be made from goat and sheeps milk – this cows milk cheese is only made in small quantities in spring and summer and is hard to find unless you happen to be in the area. Perhaps this can be your CFD for le Tour?

Stage eighteen: round-up

Stage 18 was the first of the last, or the last of the first, or the stage that would determine everything, or the stage that would determine nothing, depending on who you listened to or even what particular time you tuned in to their comments. “Oscillating wildly” seems to sum up some of the pundits.  Whatever the result foretells, we are hoping it is not a precedent for the last of the cow spotting as we saw representations but no real ruminants.  We know there were cows about, as Jane managed to pick out a cow icon on one of the roadside signs as the riders climbed past, but they stayed away from the cameras.


Continue reading

Stage 18: Pinerolo > Galibier – Serre Chevalier

The race is crossing back into France for the end-game of this year’s Tour.  The official race guide describes this as “the showcase stage of the 2011 Tour de France”.  We’re pretty sure they are talking about the challenging cols over this 200.5km stage – Col Agnel, Col d’Izoard and Galibier are all hors categorie climbs – but perhaps they are also talking about the cattle.  Galibier-Serre Chevalier puts us in the Dauphiné alps, so whilst there is no indigenous breed for this particular area, we remember the participation of les vaches in the Dauphiné-Libéré.  This time, we hope they take a more spectatorial interest than a participatory one.


Photo: Will Levy

Continue reading