I just want to appreciate the local group ride for a minute here. There are days on the shop ride when I feel pretty much like ass. Today I had some up and down moments, we were hitting it on hills pretty good, regular commenter JK and I were torching it on the flats a bit, Young Tom pretty much destroyed the group at will on the hills (on his fixed gear) and then Tom and I soloed off the front for about 20-25 minutes - he gapped me by a minute, we gapped the first chase by ~5:00, and a hard time was had by all. I was pondering this over an ice coffee at Dunkin Donuts post-ride. Everybody in the group has some strength, something they are probably just about the best at doing among the group, whether it's climbing, steady hard grinding, or dragging a paceline along down the flats at high speed. Today we were joined by a guy who is 75 years old and an age group cycling champion at the Senior Olympics, whose specialty is making the jaws of younger riders hit the floor with his tenacity and speed; I hope I can ride nearly as well at his age. I'm grateful for the chance to ride with this group of good riders (most of whom have really solid athletic backgrounds) who are also nice folks, people I'd want to hang with even if I wasn't riding.
Trevor axed me a question today: what cheese? For Trevor and I, the answer is simple. Cottage. He was needling me about 'cross season and my mouth wrote a check that my ass is going to have trouble cashing - I said I'd be kicking his ass come 'cross season. I'm sure he's saying "we'll see about that," and when he reads this, he's going to know it's in writing, so it's on. Challenges are good. As for you chirrets, I have no special cheese to recommend today. It's a somewhat hilly, rolling stage, akin to a good one day classic like La Primavera. A spicy stage, kind of like a good Roquefort, which has more ties to the central Pyrenees than today's stage, but oh well. If you must have cheese, I recommend a nice Roquefort with a peppery red wine, or a Belgian farmhouse or golden ale. Maybe Ryan has some beverage suggestions.
As for tomorrow, we're heading into the mountains, and traveling from Embrun to Prato Nevoso, Italy, which will give the rider's a chance to try some famous Raschera cheese. It's a semi-soft cow's milk cheese that can vary quite a bit in flavor, depending on the altitude at which the cows graze, or, I suppose, whether the cows sleep in an oxygen deprivation tent like some of our favorite riders. The cheese from the higher-grazing cows should be denoted by an alpine (d'alpeggio) designation. Raschera is a regional name, and under EU laws, like Parma ham and Roquefort cheese, if it's called Raschera and produced in Europe, it is from that region, which is in the Piedmont. It's generally a nutty, mild cheese with a touch of salt; it can be a little tangy if allowed to develop some blue spots - there's some variation depending on those wind-sucking cows and how long it's allowed to age. Heaven forfend, it would be wonderful at breakfast served atop some Vollkorn Brot - that dark, thin-sliced nutty German style bread, perhaps with a thin layer of Danish butter on the bread to really load up your palate with flavor, and your arteries with cholesterol. This is a good option if you're watching the TdF in the morning. If you're having the cheese on its own, in the evening, what to drink with it? I haven't a clue, but I'd consider some kind of fruity white Italian, maybe a Pinot Grigio, a Soave, or an Orvieto. Some white grapes and strawberries would go pretty well alongside it too.
Note: added to the blogroll - John P's The Long Ride.