Stage 4: Round-up

Much like poor Rupert Guinness, I missed all the action in the finish, not because of security problems, but because I … umm .. had a snooze. Wups. The post race interviews all seemed to centre on the high level of desperation amongst the riders, and the lack of respect for other teams leading to the many crashes we’re seen so far. I hope they settle themselves down soon for this is not a good thing for a 3 week bike race.  I guess after tonight when we start to hit mountain stages the sprinters should be a bit less “on edge”.

Arashiro from Team Europcar did his bit for his team owners, getting the lion’s share of the TV coverage whilst in the breakaway for a few hours.

Lotto did a fantastic job in bringing Gorilla Greipel home, but you have to wonder how much less room they might have had if Cav hadn’t crashed out. Very pleased to see Veelers cross in third – moooo!  Spartacus is still in yellow with Wiggo 7 secs behind him and Cowdel running 17 secs behind.

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Stage 4: Abbeville > Rouen

Today’s 214.5km stage takes us from Picardie to Haute-Normandie. The four Cat 4 climbs are distributed across the route, with the intermediate sprint between climbs three and four at 94kms.  The relatively flat terrain “isn’t exactly torturous” according to the TdF Guide, however the coastal route has other challenges, not the least of which are the notorious coastal crosswinds. In Rupert Guinness’ preview of the Tour, Cadel Evans revealed that stage four was one of the pressure points in week one, due to a combination of week one nerves, unpredictable weather and narrow, winding, “lumpy” roads. We saw those factors in play last night, with a couple of riders abandoning after serious crashes and a number who will probably be feeling all sorts of pain for at least the next few days. Let’s hope things go smoothly tonight.

Picardie boasts a strong rural economy, with “considerable cattle grazing”, although there is no particular local breed. Once we cross into Normandie, look out for the pied Normande.

 

Image: Will Studd

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Stage four: round-up

Even before the race started, we had cows!  Cowrespondent Chris, of the YarraBUG Radio team, tweeted a link to the weather cam on the Brittany coast, near Morbihan.  Essjaymoo checked it out and noticed cows.

This buoyed our hopes of a cow-friendly stage and we were not disappointed.  As early as 92.6km we were able to spot some beasts not dissimilar to the above cows. They were far too indistinct to even attempt a positive ID, so naturally I’m going to tell you that my prediction was correct and we spotted Maine-Anjou.  At 65.6km we got our first sighting of black pied cattle. Could it be a group of the rare Pie Noir?

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Stage 4: Lorient > Mûr-de-Bretagne

Another day in Brittany and we are hoping to see a range of cows.  Those lovely Red Pied cows from yesterday’s post are not the only pied cattle of Brittany – the prized sighting tonight will be spotting one of the Pie Noir.

Image: ouest-france.fr

This breed was on the brink of extinction not long ago and at around 1600 head the herd is still small, but these bovines have attracted the support of some dedicated foodies who are credited with its re-emergence.  They are celebrated for their hardiness, their fertility, and the creaminess of their milk (the cows, that is, although perhaps the same could be said of their champions, the foodies).  The milk is used to produce cheese and the local yoghurt, gwell. “Huh, yoghurt, whatevs” I hear you scoff, but food blogger Carly describes gwell as one of the “five best dishes” she ate at a Slow Food conference.  You can read more about the Pie Noir and how its comeback has been carefully managed at the Slowfood Foundation page.

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