Stage 21: Montegron > Paris Champs-Élysées

The final stage. 103km. Flat. Should be over in a jiffy, right?

Are you new? There’s the champagne, the end-of-holidays “keep in touch, yeah?” vibe… Add to this, the late start time – because everybody loves seeing the Arc de Triomphe lit up more than they love starting the week with a decent night’s sleep, right? – and it’s a tough stage for the down under Couch Peloton. No racing until well after bedtime, no vaches, no interesting cheese… Our maillot jaune, Dean Thompson, suggested that some storms might spice things up, so get rain-dancing, folks! Perhaps Skoda will debut a new ad. Maybe the roadside randoms will gather together in flamingo costumes in the shape of a sundial. Or the farmers might bring their herds into town for the finale…

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Image: Paris Zigzag via Geert

Thanks to the couch peloton for the good food, company and all the laughs over the past three weeks.

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Stage 20: Marseilles > Marseilles

It’s come to this. A 22.5km time trial through Marseilles with no chance of vaches. This must be why TrollDJ decided that it was now or never for Cows with Guns in stage 19.

In keeping with the vache-less theme, the local cheese is a goats cheese: Brousse du Rove. According to Cooks Info

There are no exact regulations as to how the cheese must be made… Brousse du Rove can be used in a savoury dish such as an omelette, or treated as a sweet and eaten drizzled with fruit syrup. It is often eaten just sprinkled with sugar.

Cheese anarchy! Seems oddly fitting…

And I couldn’t not post this amazing image from stage 18. A number of people tweeted about seeing somebody watching the race on cowback, and I honestly thought the late nights were getting to them. Nope.

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Image: Tim De Waale

 

Stage 19: Embrun > Salon-de-Provence

How do we feel about a 222.5km transitional stage right now? Yeah, I thought so… In the words of the Race Guide:

This is a long stage. Fatigue is also going to be a factor…

Any members of the couch peloton who make it through to the end – and by through, I mean no micro-naps! – deserve a place on the podium.

It’s not renowned vache-country, either. We’re more likely to spot moutons. We start in the department we finished in yesterday, so if you want to try the tourtons from stage 28, give them a go. Rusty adapted the recipe for her snacks last night, and they looked fabulous.

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Image: mativity

Alternatively, if you are after something beefy, Bouches-du-Rhône offers Alouettes Sans Têtes. Don’t be put off by the name, they are not actually headless larks. They are stuffed beef rolls and they sound quite tasty.

Stage 18: Briançon > Izoard

At the end of this 179.5km stage, the riders will be on the summit of the Col d’Izoard. “Legend” has it that the yellow jersey must win at Izoard, although how seriously Froome takes these Tour traditions is debatable. Particularly since this one doesn’t seem to have consequences for the yellow jersey who doesn’t win at Izoard. We were sad to see Marcel Kittel abandon during stage 17. The silver lining is that Michael Matthews will be in the green jersey today.

Cows have been thin on the ground over the past few stages. Last night brought a sighting of a cow sculpture on a roundabout, and this lone vache in a paddock:

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Image: Puggle

Clearly we are looking for better things, vache-wise, tonight! The Tour website includes “bovine and ovine breeding” as a key element of the Hautes-Alpes economy. Here’s hoping they are not experiencing a vache-led recession. For your musette tonight, I think these tourtons are worth a try. Pastry filled with crème fraiche and potato, then deep fried? Sounds like perfect tour-snacking to me…

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Stage 17: La Mure > Serre-Chevalier

We have four climbs, including two HC climbs, over this 183km stage. The profile looks to be up, or down, with little opportunity for riders to relax and take in the scenery. The finish is a 28km descent into Serre-Chevalier from the summit of the Cole du Galibier. I’d imagine a few of us on the couch peloton will be watching through our fingers.

The big cow/bike news of the past 24 hours has been the Frieslandcampina sponsorship of Lotto-Jumbo.


Why, yes! Yes it is!

Thanks Puck Buddys and Julie Davies for following up this important vache news.

Let’s celebrate by tucking into some cheese of the Savoie! Les Fromages de Savoie should definitely be in your bookmarks. There’s information about the cheeses, a handy map to help you navigate your way around the region, pretty cows you can download as wallpaper, some colouring pages… Sadly, the Kit pédagogique is in French.

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Image: Les Fromages de Savoie 

Stage 16: Le Puy-en-Velay > Romans-sur-Isère

We come back from the rest day with a relatively short 165km that looks as though it will start off lumpy, with a Cat 3 followed by a Cat 4, then a descent and a set up for a sprint finish. Beware adding “false flat” to your drink card, as it is only Tuesday… As much as we love sunflowers, it’s time for a change – hopefully we’ll see some lavender.

We’re still in the region of Fin Gras beef du Mézenc, so perhaps that will mean more of those happy cows grazing on the mountainsides.

According the the Tour website, our starting department – the Haute-Loire – produces “Cow cheese Artisou”. Finding out about this cheese has proved challenging as all the information is in French, which leads me to believe that you are not going to stroll into your local deli to pick some up for your cheese platter. Here’s what I’ve gleaned from French Wikipedia, FranceInfo and Google Translate. The “artisou” of the name refers to mites that develop on the crust of the cheese and assist in the ripening process. The cheese is made from raw cows milk, some of which is partially skimmed milk from the previous day’s milking combined with milk from the morning of the cheese-making. After the rennet is added, it is salted and placed in moulds, and allowed to dry for two to five days. The mites are then put on the crust and the cheese is left to mature for anywhere between three weeks and two months.

The cheese has been produced in the region around Puy-en-Velay since the 1700s and producers keen to preserve their traditions. In November last year, 40 producers met at the Puy-en-Velay town hall to request AOP status for their cheese. The process can take up to ten years, but the producers believe the effort will be worth it, as gaining the recognition will enable them to market their cheese more widely.

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The Tour website also tells me there are three AOC cheeses in the Drôme, which is the last of the departments visited in this stage. As far as I can see, two of these are goat cheeses; the third is a blue cheese we have met before in our travels, the Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage, another cheese that you’re unlikely to find here. This year’s Fête du Bleu, the 17th edition of the festival of this local specialty, will be held on the 29th and 30th of July, in Sainte-Eulalie-en-Royans, a mere 30 minutes from our finish town.

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