Michaël Storer (Groupama-FDJ) launched a decisive attack on the final climb, the Col de Menthières. He then sped off towards Lélex Monts-Jura to win a second Tour de l’Ain in three years. A performance that only Thibaut Pinot managed in 2017 and 2019.
The start of the third stage in front of the Stade Mathon in Oyonnax could not escape the attention of the staff of the local rugby club, led by head coach Joe El Abd. As tradition dictates, the Tour de l’Ain gets tougher on the final day. For this 35th edition, seven difficulties are on the programme: the Col de Berthiand (4.8km at an average gradient of 6%), the Côte de Corveissiat (3.8km at an average gradient of 3.3%), the Côte de Matafelon (3.1km at an average gradient of 4%), the Côte de Samognat (4, 9 km at an average gradient of 5%), the côte de Viry (4.1 km at an average gradient of 6.1%), the côte de Giron (3.7 km at an average gradient of 6%) and the final judge, the col de Menthières (9.1 km at an average gradient of 7%).
At the top of the first, Simon Pellaud (Tudor Pro Cycling) was ahead of a peloton that had already been stretching out for a few kilometres. After around sixty kilometres and the passage of three successive climbs, five riders were in the lead: Lilian Calmejane (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), Clément Venturini (AG2R Citroën Team), Dries Van Gestel (TotalEnergies) and Jurassien Théo Delacroix (Saint-Michel-Mavic-Auber93). For his last participation in the Tour de l’Ain, Pierre-Luc Périchon (Cofidis) is trying to make up for lost time. He even virtually wore the yellow jersey before being caught.
Groupama-FDJ took the lead from a peloton of 25 riders including Alexander Jefferson Cepeda Ortiz, Solimut Mutuelle de France yellow jersey in the general classification, and set the pace in pursuit of Lilian Calmejane. The work of the French team’s train around Michael Storer, who was 2nd at 4 seconds, paid off: a regrouping took place towards the judge of peace, the Col de Menthières. Rudy Molard’s acceleration eliminated more members of the front group. With 26 kilometres to go, Michael Storer launched his first attack, which proved decisive. Alexander Jefferson Cepeda Ortiz cracked and quickly lost time (22nd on the stage at 5min10s and 19th overall). Kenny Elissonde (Lidl-Trek) hung on. Three kilometres later, the 26-year-old Australian dropped him and flew to stage victory in Lélex Monts-Jura, his second Tour de l’Ain win in three years. After two seasons without a win, he is back on the winning trail.
Kenny Elissonde, who hadn’t ridden the Tour de l’Ain since 2014, held off a chasing group. He took 2nd place in the stage and overall, as well as the title of “super combative” in this year’s race.
Lilian Calmejane was the first to emerge from a group of chasers that was reconstituted in the final. Behind Simon Pellaud, Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R Citroën Team) took fifth place, synonymous with the final podium (3rd at 3min28s). Climbers Elie Gesbert (Team Arkea-Samsic, 7th overall), Jesus Herrada Lopez (Cofidis, 9th), Rudy Molard (4th), Julien Bernard (Lidl-Trek, 10th) and Merhawi Kudus, EF Education-Easypost’s best representative also overall (5th), rounded off the Top 10 in this lively third stage. The same riders, with Sebastien Reichenbach (Tudor Pro Cycling, 6th) and Jordan Jegat (CIC U Nantes Atlantique, 8th) in addition, find themselves in a different order at 3min30s off the pace (shown in brackets earlier).
The raid by Groupama-FDJ
In the ancillary classifications, Lilian Calmejane, legitimately the fighting Semcoda of the stage, snatched the Région Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes polka-dot jersey of best climber from Mads Ostegaard Kristen (Leopard TOGT).
The Streichenberger white jersey for best young rider goes to Joris Delbove, a member of the Saint-Michel-Mavic-Auber93 team that made a big impression over three days.
Groupama-FDJ left Lélex Monts-Jura with two stage wins, the team classification, the green Crédit Mutuel points jersey and the yellow Solimut Mutuelle de France overall jersey for Michael Storer and 4th place for Rudy Molard.
Tour de l’Ain victories for Michael Storer in 2021 and 2023. In 35 editions, only Thibaut Pinot, in 2017 and 2019, has achieved such a feat.
For the record, the Australian, who will join Tudor Pro Cycling in 2024, finished penultimate on stage 1 and then 2nd and 1st, virtually the same as in 2021…
83 classified, 98 starters.