Stage 19: Round-up

I don’t think I paced myself well – I should have saved some of yesterday’s analytical thoughts for today. Today – the day after the ITT that meant little, unless someone fell off or it rained (which I didn’t wish for, don’t get me wrong).

Wiggo showed us that he really can TT (which we kinda knew already) – beating the times of Christopher Froome and Moois Leon Sanchez, not only winning the stage but increasing his lead in the yellow jersey comp.

And to be honest, a drinking competition to the mentions of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres (#drink!), when the stage finished in Chartres for every rider in the field, probably wasn’t the best idea I’ve had.

Although we saw no Vache of any kind at all on this stage, I couldn’t resist snapping some moments to share with you.

The obligatory Field Art showed us fields and fields of wheat – and not a cow in sight.

 

The “Shiny Shiny” (but not as “Shiny Shiny” as last year’s) Astana TT skin suit.

and BMC multi-tasking team manager John Lelangue was shown doing what he does best, everything!

 

 

I’ve been enjoying reading some of the commentary floating about on the Team Sky/Wiggins/Froome situation.

From Velocast

And Jens Voigt

The Australian Financial Review’s take on it

But at the end of the day I guess this photo says it all … (including ewwww)

Tweeted by Robbie Hunter “And ppl say They don’t like each other. Maybe they do more than we think..ha ha”

#trolldj

  • “Ready to Go” – Panic! At the Disco –  the starting house, the countdown, the beginning of the TT
  • “This is Gonna Be Good” – Randy Newman
  • “Happiness” – Sam Sparro
  • The Real Things” – Russell Morris a tribute to Wiggo.

Wonder what we’ll find to chat about tomorrow?

 

Stage 19: Bonneval > Chartres

It’s the final chance to shake up the CG placings today in this 53.5km time trail, but is there any shakeability left in this race? Particularly over this course? It’s pretty flat, heading out of Bonneval towards Chartres via country roads, and was always predicted to favour the strong time triallists: Fab, Martin, Evans, Wiggins, Menchov. Well, Fab and Martin are long gone from the Tour (I’ll take a quiet moment to mourn the lost opportunity to admire Fab’s exceptional… power output) and Evans and Menchov are 9’57” and 22’42” behind Wiggins, respectively. We can hope that Evans is strong enough to make a good showing tonight, and it will be interesting to see how van Garderen performs after his strong outing in the Besançon time trial. Clearly Wiggins and Froome have been stand-out competitors in this format so far and they will have the added benefit of knowing exactly what times they are up against. Barring absolute disasters on the course, surely not much will change in the top 10. (Click here for the start schedule and don’t forget to add 8 hours for AEST!)

This could, therefore, be something of a trial for viewers. We have most likely exhausted our supplies of witty skinsuit-related repartee (that is unless the Astana outfitters have read of our disappointment over the low-sheen of this year’s lycra and have ordered replicas of last year’s kit). With riders going out at predetermined times, the likelihood of decent name-mangling by the Ps is low. And there might not be vaches.

That’s right. We could be vache-less.

The Departement of Eure-et-Loir is where we find ourselves for this penultimate stage and its economy is based on agriculture. Unfortunately for Team Vaches, this leadership in agricultural production comes in the form of rapeseed oil and wheat. Other notable contributions to the economy include rubber and plastics, pharmaceuticals and… well just guess what comes out of the Cosmetic Valley cluster. If this excites you, and your enthusiasm is further ignited by wind farms and photovoltaic parks, this might just be the stage for you. For those dedicated to all things cow? Not so much.

The Centre region has a number of gastronomic specialties, none of which involve cows in any way1. There are some lovely goats cheeses, rillettes, tarte tatin and the Andouillette au Vouvray sausage. I like these things as much as the next person (okay, so slightly less if the next person likes andouillette), but the input from cattle is fairly minimal. Things are looking bleak from a vache point of view…

I know I’m drawing a very long bow here, but this little find has given me a glimmer of hope that areas best known for their crops still offer options for cow tragics. Here’s a group of people from a state where the unofficial song is the “Iowa Corn Song” showing their commitment to cows and bikes over a period of several years and many more miles in the saddle. I’m talking about Team Cow Iowa, otherwise known as The Udder Team. They wear their dedication to the cow with pride, and appear to have a healthy – but friendly – rivalry with the Wisconsin DairyAirs.

So, yes… perhaps it is optimistic of me to see this as an omen, but we have to get something vachey out of tonight, don’t we? Maybe a combined effort of positive thinking and the precedent of last night’s donkeys will bring us something like this:

Image: A Twisted Spoke

 We can only hope!

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

1. Obviously apart from the butter needed for the taste tatin. Clearly they are shipping that in. And, anyway, it would fail a Masterchef test that required the contestant to “make the cow the hero of the dish”.

Stage 19: Modane Valfréjus > Alpe-d’Huez

Okeydoke folks!  Here we have it … the one we’re all been waiting for … the stage that is all about … CHEESE!

Yep – we saved it up for this amazing stage – the alpine cows, the rustic production techniques and the rare cheeses.

(Okay, okay, so there are some mountains in this stage as well but you know- we’ve seen Alpe d’Huez before .. yes?)

So what’s so special about alpine cheeses? When summer finally arrives in the French Alps, the local cows are led up the hills to graze on the new alpine meadows.  As the snow retreats they move further and further upwards, grazing on lush new growth grass. The herds are looked after by local alpagistes who stay in chalets, milk the cows and make cheese.  There are chalets dotted all over the slopes and the alpagistes move between them as the herd moves. By the middle of August the herd will have reached almost the snowline, and will start to descend over the same slopes which will be rich and grassy again. On Saint-Michael’s Day, 29 September, the herds return to their barns to eat hay, calve and winter cheesemaking begins. The alpine cheeses come from a lifestyle, not a conveyor belt. They come from small niche dairy farmers and cheesemakers who have been managing cow herds in the same way for hundreds of years. And the cheeses they make are sublime.

Luckily for us in Melbourne we can get hold of some of these lovely cheeses from a few select Cheesemongers: Richmond Hill Larder, Simon Johnson, David Jones should all be able to hook you up.

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