D minus 3, “Ain… certainty” at all levels
10 July 2024

The Ain and cycling are a true love story. This July, the département is spoilt for choice with top-level cycling. After the arrival of the fifth stage of the Tour de France in Saint-Vulbas, which became historic with Mark Cavendish’s thirty-sixth victory, the Tour de l’Ain takes over from July 13 to 15. Integrated earlier than usual (due to the Olympic Games in Paris) into the International Cycling Union (UCI) calendar, the 36th edition of this three-stage event welcomes fourteen teams of six riders – the majority aged around 25 – from the best World Tour, Proseries and UCI Continental teams, as well as a national U23 selection.

The course: flat and challenging

Tradition is a good thing at the Tour de l’Ain. With no major difficulties, apart from the similar climbs of Chaveyriat and Châtillon-sur-Chalaronne (1 km at 4%), the 137.3 km first stage between Laiz and Bourg-en-Bresse on Saturday July 13 is dedicated to sprinters.
The following two stages are reserved more for puncheurs and, above all, climbers. This year, the final winner will not be announced at the top of the finish line in Lélex Monts-Jura. On Sunday, July 14, clues to the hierarchy will certainly be revealed after 155.3 km, including the climbs of Corlier (11 km at 4.1%) and Giron (8 km at 5.9%), not forgetting the Col de Menthières (9.1 km at 7%) from the start in Saint-Vulbas.
For the first time in the history of the Tour de l’Ain, the natural site of Ile Chambod will provide the backdrop for the final climax. Setting off from Lagnieu, the cyclists will tackle a 153.1 km hilly and selective course, taking in the Col de Montratier (5.4 km at 3.3%) and the Côte de Mérignat (2 km at 5.8%), as well as the Côte de Corveissiat (3.8 km at 3.3%) and the Côte de Matafelon (3.1 km at 4%), and the Col de Berthiand (4.8 km at 6%). Enough to keep the “Ain… certitude” going right to the end!

The main contenders*: a race that promises to be open

French professional teams make up the majority of the field. In 2023, Groupama FDJ made a strong impression with the second overall victory, after 2021 (then with DSM), of Michael Storer, clear winner of the final stage (2nd the day before), and the success of Jake Stewart, on the first day. The team, which had added the points and team classifications, has the means to make it three in a row on the opening stage, with the puncheur Laurence Pithie, and to play the general classification with Rudy Molard, 4th in 2023 and 3rd in 2022. The climber can count on the support of Rémy Rochas, 8th in 2021, Reuben Thompson, 2nd young rider in 2023, and Olivier Le Gac, 11th in 2021.
At Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale, Geoffrey Bouchard and Victor Lafay, after the injuries that plagued the first half of the season, are here to regain their form, as is Bastien Tronchon, who hasn’t ridden since the Giro. The team, which is particularly keen to race in 2024, is hoping to move up another place in the overall standings: 4th in 2022 with Jaako Hänninen, also present this year with the Finnish champion’s jersey on his shoulders, and 3rd in 2023 with Nicolas Prodhomme. Cofidis remembers winning the 2022 edition with Guillaume Martin. The squad is made up of climbers and puncheurs (Thomas Champion). Does Kenny Elissonde, 2nd and super combative (then with Lidl-Trek) in 2023, have an idea in mind on the roads of the Ain? Certainly benefiting from the advice of local Maxime Bouet, now sports director of the development team, Arkéa B&B Hotels can play placed with Clément Venturini, Simon Guglielmi and Anthony Delaplace. TotalEnergies, with Fabien Doubey, one of the locals entered, and Alexis Vuillermoz, who will want to do well in his last Tour de l’Ain, is surely aiming for a stage with its sprinter, Jason Tesson.
Facing the French teams, EF Education-Easypost arrives with legitimate ambitions, since in 2023 it won the second stage with Jefferson Cepeda. The wearer of the Solimut Mutuelle de France yellow jersey suffered a setback the following day. He returns surrounded by climbers such as Hugh John Carthy and Simon Carr. Objective: revenge for last year. Movistar also features a stage winner, Antonio Pedrero (Lélex in 2022), and established names such as Ivan Sosa and Remi Cavagna.
With the race between World Tour and Proseries teams now wide open, French Continental teams CIC U Nantes Atlantique, Nice Métropole Côte d’Azur, Saint-Michel-Mavic-Auber93 and Van Rysel Roubaix (with local rider Maxime Jarnet) have an opportunity to show off their jerseys, and not just in the breakaways. In 2023, Joris Delbove (Saint-Michel-Mavic-Auber93) won the youth classification. The German U23 team has also become a regular at the Tour de l’Ain, winning awards for its offensives. It’s in this spirit that Trinity Racing’s U23 team, including Joseph Pidcock, Tom’s brother (Ineos Grenadier), and Bike Aid, are coming to discover the roads of the Ain.

* According to the provisional entry list. The final list will be announced on Friday afternoon.