Stage 3: Cambridge > London

It’s a sprinter’s stage today – short, flat and (hopefully) fast. The start has been scheduled early so the teams can make the journey across the channel in good time and I’m sure there are already southern hemisphere fans who’ll be grateful for an early night. Naturally, all the pre-race buzz was about a possible Cavendish victory; now we must look elsewhere. Probably not too far. Sagan will be no doubt be doing all he can to cross the line first in green, but Kittel should have the advantage, particularly  after conserving his energy yesterday finishing with most of the big sprint contenders almost 20 minutes down. And what about Griepel? It’d be good to see him in the mix, however I do kind of like the idea of one of the French sprinters taking the stage. Coquard’s been looking good and given the built-up nature of the route, roosters are likely to be the only livestock we spot. Maybe the French will hit home turf with two jerseys?

We leave behind the chortle-inducing names of the north although there are still some sniggers to be had. Unfortunately Steeple Bumpstead is a little north-east of our route and Chignall Smealy a little west, but by the time we get to North Weald Bassett it will be almost time to see how the points contenders are dividing up the spoils at the Forêt d’Epping sprint point.

British White

British White

Image: Marilyn Peddle

As far as the prospects for vache sightings go, I am deeply pessimistic. There are no native breeds I could find in the counties we are travelling through and we are entering the London commuter belt so there won’t be the expanses of farmland we saw in the Dales. It’s quite possible that the only quadrupeds we’ll see will be on leashes or carrying Queens’ Guards. As for local produce, despite the fact that the village of Stilton is actually in Cambridgeshire, cheeses called Stilton are only allowed to be made in Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Stilton’s application to make Stilton was rejected, which sounds like a story idea for Yes, Minister. There are a number of cheeses produced in the nearby counties and it’s our last night in the UK – if you can get your hands on a British cheese you might as well make the most of it!

The British Cheese Board’s recipe of the week features Stilton, so if you are having a meat-free Monday why not try Vic Reeves’ Stilton Spaghetti with Mushrooms. Wash it down with a Fuller’s London Pride.

SBS TV coverage starts at 9.30pm 10.00pm tonight AEST (thanks, Todd and Phil for the correction), right after Pain, Pus and Poison. Now that’s bound to whet your appetite for #toursnacks. You can watch online from 9.00pm.

Tour of Britain: stage two

Stage one of the Tour of Britain gave us no cattle, but did provide some narrow roads flanked by hedgerows that seemed happy to accommodate riders who got into strife (prompting a discussion about what exactly Led Zeppelin meant by a bustle in the hedgerows – thanks to CJ who sorted that out). After the spectacular climbing in the Vuelta  (which was wrapping up as this got underway) and Simon Clarke’s King of the Mountains victory we found it difficult to get excited about the points on offer for this stage’s ascents. There was discussion as to the most appropriate acronym for this jersey, with KOTGR [King of the Gentle Rise], KOTLH [King of the Little Hill], KOTB [King of the Bump], KOTSB [King of the Speed Bump] and KOTSP [King of the Sleeping Policeman] all under consideration.

As it happens, Rapha Condor’s Kristian House will be wearing the climber’s jersey when stage two starts today. Rony Martias of Saur Sojasun leads the sprint classification. A late crash on the way into the finish took out a number of riders, including the fancied Mark Cavendish, gaving us a stage winner who was such a surprise that the commentators took some time to identify him as Sky’s Luke Rowe. I was devastated to learn that I missed the presentation of the Combativity Award to Niels Wytinck of An Post Sean Kelly. Along with the honour of the award, reader Scottie tells us that he also received

a 5kg truckle of Mrs Temple’s Well’s Alpine Cheese (a semi-hard cheese made from Brown Swiss cow’s milk at Copy’s Green Farm, Wighton near Wells-by-the -Sea apparently)

Now that’s worth getting into a break for!

On to stage two! This 180km stage contains three Cat One climbs, all in the first third of the stage. Scottie tells us to watch out for sheep, but it’s the finish at Knowsley Safari Park that has me excited. According to the official site:

with just over a kilometre of racing to go the race heads past the entrance to the Safari Drive for a very fast final kilometre, including a swooping final corner past the elephant enclosure. As riders hit the final few hundred metres of the stage, they’ll sprint alongside the giraffe enclosure, providing a unique and spectacular background to The Tour of Britain.

Elephants! Giraffes! Surely there will be some buffalo to fill the bovine quota for the day.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’m going to leave today’s Tour de Snack to Scottie, as he’s clued us in to the two cheeses for this stage and has also suggested some interesting beer matches.

I must admit, I don’t know much about cows, but I am a big fan of wine, cheese and beer. Tomorrow obviously it’s going to be difficult to look beyond Stilton but for a pairing that spans the entire Stage 2 region may I recommend the mild crumbly HS Bourne’s Cheshire Cheese (from Malpas) with the hoppy pale Thornbridge Brewery Jaipur IPA, (5.9abv) from Bakewell (home of the famous tart) or for the traditionalists, Cropwell Bishop Blue Stilton with White Shield’s Bass no 1 Barleywine (10.5%abv!!) from Burton. Old Skool!

I believe Bass Barleywine is named after (but not made by) the famous Bass brewery (est 1777) in Burton on Trent (Peak District water was considered to be the best in England and the top-selling Buxton and Malvern mineral waters are sourced nearby). IPA, as you probably know, is India Pale Ale which was specially brewed as a lower alcohol easy drinking light beer which was shipped out to the four corners of the Empire but especially India, for hot-weather quaffing by the British Army in the days of the Raj (although at nearly 6%, Jaipur is not really lower alcohol!). Greene King IPA from Suffolk would be a good pairing for the Shipford.

Interestingly, because of the PDO, Stilton cannot be made in the village of Stilton in Huntingdonshire where a version of the famous cheese was originally made!

I remain hopeful that we might spy some of the local cattle breed, the Blue Albion.

Image: Kranky Kids

There’s are some more images of this breed on Flickr, so you can familiarise yourself for tonight’s round of Spotto.