Stage 11: Albertville > La Toussuire – Les Sybelles

We’re in the Rhône-Alpes today and here we’ll stay for the next couple of stages. This punchy 140km route takes in four climbs. The ascent of the 2000m Col de la Madeleine (HC) begins just 15km into the stage with the summit at 40km. Hopefully we won’t miss too much of the action whilst M. Gaté explores the regional cuisine! The 40 hairpin bend descent leads to the intermediate sprint point at the 61.5km mark, after which the Col du Glandon/Col de la Croix de Fer combination – another HC climb – commences. It’s 22.4km up at an average of 7% – towards the top riders will encounter 8% gradients, with the last two kilometres at 10%. Ouch. The Cat 2 Col du Mollard follows, and riders finish on the Cat 1 La Toussuire.

Vaches to watch out for

Image: Tom Douglas

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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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