Stage 9: Round-up

The “Race of Truth” vs #tourdesnacks

Would we have enough snacks to see us through this time-trial stage?  Would we see any cows at all – or the same cows over and over again? Would Astana bring their shiny suits to the course this time? And of course – who’s golf-ball pitted helmet and super compression suit would reign supreme!

We begin our night’s viewing with a little peek at the goings on at Marcel Petite Comte – 35 kilo wheels of cheesy deliciousness. It’s fairly easy to get in Melbourne, look for the version with the Green Bell. At home we unpacked our snack packs, opened our bottles, foraged in the bottom of our musettes from last night and settled in for 3.5 hours or so of riding single, catching your “minute man” and finding interesting things to say as we passed the same spots time after time.

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Stage 9: Arc-et-Senans > Besançon

It’s time for the race of truth, this time over 41.5km with a strategically placed hill at the 16.5km mark that is designed to bring the strong riders to the fore. Prior to the start of the race, Tony Martin was heavily fancied to take out this stage, but his early Tour scaphoid troubles will no doubt favour Cancellara. The battle we are waiting for is the one between yellow-jersey wearing Wiggins and second-place Cadel Evans. They will be the last two riders to depart, so if you need to nap, set an alarm so you don’t miss the excitement. Evans is scheduled for 12.36am AEST and Wiggins will set off at 12:39am – the full list can be found here. The course is said to be beautiful – which is nice for those of us who will be seeing it in detail over the course of the telecast – and a tailwind is forecast for today.

There are cows common to the greater area and, as usual, we will see them again and again or not at all. The first few riders will sort out the likelihood of vaches, after which we will all be able to relax and focus on the skinsuits race.

The first of the two breeds we will keep a particular eye out for tonight is the Montbéliarde. Strangely enough, we were in Montbéliarde country for the Grenoble time trial last year. Perhaps this is mere coincidence…

Image: Creative Genetics

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Stage nine: round-up

There was very little vache action during last night’s stage, and – sadly – the crash action dominated once more.  As the riders descended the Col du Pas de Peyrol a number of them came off their bikes.  Vinokourov ended up some distance from the road in the trees and Zabriskie and Van den Broeck were amongst the riders on the road.  All three sustained injuries that took them out of the race.

The focus should have been on the battle for the yellow jersey with Thomas Veau-ckler in a GC-changing breakaway, but when a TV car swerved into the group, taking out Flecha and sending Hoogerland flying into a barbed wire fence, it became difficult to concentrate on the competition.  Hoogerland demonstrated true grit by changing into a non-shredded pair of shorts and carrying on, taking back the polka dot jersey and being awarded “most combative” rider of the day.  I’m sure none of the riders anticipate that their daily combat might include cars and motorbikes. You can watch the presentation here (warning: it will probably make you cry).  Veau-ckler has managed to wrest the yellow from the God of Thunder, who is now in 24th place overall.  Perhaps there is some sort of quantity theory of Godness in the peloton and he had to give up some of his to Hoogerland. Luis Leon Sanchez was first across the line, and is now in second place overall.  Philippe Gilbert keeps the green jersey and Cowbell is 2′ 26″ behind the new leader and third overall.

Now to our meagre cow news.

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Stage 9: Issoire > Saint-Flour

Tonight’s stage takes us through the Department of Puy-de-Dôme, in the Auvergne.  It has three Category 2 climbs, three Cat 3s and two Cat 4s, so there will be some slowing down to take in the scenery, which we hope will include cows.  This is Ferrandais and Charolais territory and we might spot some of those gorgeous Limousin as well.

The Ferrandais is from Puy-de-Dôme, which makes it particularly local, however it is also rare, being listed in my reference bible Cattle: A Handbook to the Breeds of the World as “endangered”.  By 1978 the herd numbered around 400 and a conservation programme was developed.  This may have saved the breed, a dual purpose milk and meat animal, from extinction although it could be too early to tell.  Numbers have increased to 500 cows, but the popularity of cross breeding them with the French Simmental, Montbéliarde and Salers might account for the slow growth in the purebred herd.

What'choo lookin' at? - Ferrandais

Image: Kranky Kids

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