Stage 12: Bourg-en-Bresse > Saint-Etienne

Assuming that Talansky makes a start today, the peloton is at 179 riders. Nibali is looking comfortable in yellow, with Rodriguez rocking the red-knicks-polka-dots combo and Sagan holding on to the green. Richie Porte starts today in second place and Valverde is in third. This 185.5km stage takes us through the Beaujolais mountains with four categorised climbs, but it’s feeling distinctly Glühwein in these parts. Is this a sign? Will Marcel Kittel bring it home for the cattle? Will we even see what’s happening at the front of the race or will we get the derrière of the peloton again tonight?

The cow forecast should be looking fairly rosy. We are approaching Charolais country and Beth noted these blond beasts at the top of the second climb.

stuckinoregon_2014-Jul-17Sure, it’s possible that they’re sheep… but let’s go with cows.

We might even catch a glimpse of the Ferrandaise. This is not the first time we’ve tried and we haven’t been successful in the past, but perhaps we will be lucky this time.

Ferrandaise16

Image: Jean Colas

In 2011 we discovered that the breed was endangered, having dwindled from an early 20th century population of over 70,000 to a mere 700 or so but last year we found signs that its popularity – or, at least, its marketability – might be increasing. According to the folk at EuReCa, it is trending upwards!

What should we be eating and drinking tonight? Anything to stay warm and awake. I heartily recommend a chipotle hot chocolate but it’s  neither geographically appropriate nor a good food match. Same can be said for glühwein, I guess…  It’s probably to late to hit the cheesemonger for a Bleu de Bresse, but clearly this is the cheese pick for tonight. If you have any “rich and buttery” blue cheese, you are in the ballpark.

 

Stage 11: Besançon > Oyonnax

We have a rest day under our belts and a 187.5km stage to shake off any cobwebs. Unfortunately my computer has decided that one day isn’t enough of a break and it’s giving me grief, so in short:

  • Cow-themed rider picks of the day are The Cow that Won’t Quit, Simon (Simmental) Gerrans and Tom (the butcher) Slagter
  • The cow to watch is the Montbéliarde
  • Cheese of the stage is the Comté

699px-Vache_montbéliarde_jurassienne_têteImage: PRA

 

Stage 10: Mulhouse > La Planche des Belles Filles

In case you missed it, today is Bastille Day and the Tour is celebrating lavishly with seven categorised climbs in this 161.5km stage. These include four Cat one climbs, last of which is the finish on La Planche des Belles Filles. This climb was first included in the Tour in 2012 when Chris Froome won the stage. I wonder if Richie Porte will attempt a tribute-paying victory? Of course, we can count on the French riders to fly the flag today, so the cow pick has to be Thomas Veau-ckler. As far as commentary goes, expect to hear the story of the local girls  escaping the rapacious Swedish mercenaries during the Thirty Years’ War. We can probably count ourselves lucky if we only hear it once.

We’re still in the Vosges, so hopefully we’ll get a quality sighting of the local cattle. That’s if we’re not too busy celebrating the “City of the car and its Bugatti collection of the Schlumpf brothers”…

Bastille cowImage: The Telegraph

I hope you’ve still got some munster left from our earlier Vosgienne stages. In case you’re out, dig into the recesses of the fridge for any porky products. If you have sauerkraut and potatoes as well you can rustle up something pretty delicious.

Stage 9: Gérardmer > Mulhouse

Today’s 170km stage offers up six categorised climbs and the peloton will start ascending right from the word go, with the summit of the cat 2 Col de la Schlucht at  the 11.5km mark. The fifth climb, Le Markstein, is the first cat 1 climb of this year’s Tour and starts shortly after the stage’s sprint point (Linthal, at 105km). After the final climb (the cat 3 Grand Ballon) it looks to be pretty much downhill towards the finish, with a flattish final 20km which might give any stragglers over the climbs a chance to make up some ground. As always, I’ll be hoping for a good showing from the Cow that Won’t Quit, but perhaps Vosges local Arthur Vache-ot will have a pre-Bastille Day tilt at victory.

There are more opportunities to spot those pretty Vosges cows today and eat more Munster. We’re jumping the gun a bit with a Raclette chez Vaches as the Milawa Cheese Shop had been stripped of stinky cheeses by this afternoon. We were told that last week was ridiculously busy – naturally, I blame people who are cheese matching le Tour and who are more organised than I am.

M Gaté is serving up an Alsatian ham knuckle dish with no butter tonight. Sherliggett will no doubt be wishing they’d saved their Rin Tin Tin anecdotes to match. Who am I kidding? They’ll repeat themselves, surely…

Keep on with the excellent cow spotting, Team Vaches. Bonus points for Vosges, naturally, but even random cows upstaging ponies are alright by me.

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Image: will_cyclist

Just a note on future posts – holidays are over, so I’m going to have to fit around work. Round-ups will probably appear early evening; stage previews will follow an hour or two later. And I’ll try not to nod off during the race…