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Tour de l'Ain Preview


A quick reminder that the 5 Day Tour de l'Ain starts Friday.

Excitingly, the fearsome hors-categorie Grand Colombier is back (after a one year hiatus -- while it appeared in both the 2012 Tour de France & Dauphiné) in what should be a fabulous final stage.

The Tour de l'Ain began as an amateur race in 1989. First opened to pros in 1993, it is now a UCI class 2.1 race. American Andrew Talansky won in 2012. Other former winners include Davide Moncoutié, Bobby Julich, Axel Merckx, Cyril Dessel, Jerome Pineau, John Gadret, Linus Gerdemann, Rein Taaramae, and Haimar Zubeldia:

A fairly strong field includes likely favourites: Pinot, Rolland, Coppel, Bardet, Pelizotti, Gadret, etc.

L'Ain (named after the river that runs through it) is the French department just north/west of Geneva. Part of the Rhone-Alpes region, it also borders the Rhone river, across from the department of Haute Savoie. The French part of the Jura mountains are primarily in l'Ain - plenty of beautiful, virtually traffic-free, cycling climbs.

What do you need to know?

Dates: Aug 9th to Aug 13th


Prologue (Friday): Only 4.5 kilometres, but a little bit bumpy. To quote the official site: "This will be for a puncher."

Stage 1 (Saturday): 156 kilometres, quite flat through the Bresse and Dombes regions of l'Ain.

Stage 2 (Sunday): 149 kilometres, mainly flat but the route enters the Juras for some bumps including a first category climb 20 kilometres from the finish.

Stage 3 (Monday): 136 kilometres, a fun Jura mountains stage with a couple of proper climbs. The last 20 kilometres are unrated but almost always gently uphill. Much of this route featured in the final 2012 l'AIn stage won by Thibault Pinot. The GC favourites may make their first big statements here.

Stage 4 (Tuesday): The Queen stage featuring the "mythical" Grand Colombier. The route climbs one of the northern sides (there are four ways up this monster) and will descend the -- at times -- very steep and technical Culoz side (climbed during the 2012 TdF; and by Jens) on the way to the stage finish below.

Jens wearing polka dots on the lower slopes of Grand Colombier:


Why I Love the Tour de l'Ain:

This is obviously not the most important race in the world. But it is a wonderfully run, local event.

  • On the same day of each stage, there is an amateur cyclosportive that uses the entire exact course as the pros. That is fabulous. Open to anyone interested, cyclists can ride as many stages as they choose. But for those riding every stage, there is a general classification and jerseys for the various leaders. Very cool.
  • There is also a race every day for competitive teams aged 15-16 years old. Usually they ride the last part of the stage a little before the pros. Again, very cool.
  • Just like the Tour de France there is a publicity caravan -- just before the pros pass -- throwing out gifts, playing music, etc. While obviously far smaller that the TdF caravan, it's an impressive and fun addition for a small race.
  • Various villages including all start/finish towns have organised festivities.

Vive le Tour de l'Ain!

(Oh, and Jérôme Coppel for the win !!!)