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Tour de l'Ain

“An important start of the final part of the season”

At the end of this week, the Tour de l’Ain (2.1, 29-31/07) heralds  a very busy period for Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, together with the Clasica San Sebastian (1.WT, 31/07) and the Heistse Pijl (1.1, 31/07). The Belgian team is one of the eight World Teams at the start of the French stage race, which compromises three stages since 2018. Thanks to the geographical diversity of the region, the Tour de l’Ain offers varied courses. The tour starts on Thursday with the longest stage of 139 kilometer between Villars les Dombes and Bourg-en-Bresse. A short hill with 20 kilometer to go will probably not influence the sprinter’s chances on the win. The following stage with start in Lagnieu compromises four categorized climbs. The top of the Col de Portes surpasses an altitude of 1000 meter, 32 kilometer before the finish in Saint-Vulbas. Also the final stage will be ridden between traditional start and finish villages. With its five categorized climbs, this 124 kilometer race between Izernore and Lélex Mont-Jura is an uninterrupted succession of climbing and descending. The Tour de l’Ain will be in search of a successor for Primoz Roglic from Thursday to Saturday.

Many riders prepared the final part of the season during this first summer month. Except for German rider Georg Zimmermann, who finished the Tour de France, the five other riders from the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux line up return into competition for the first time since their national championships. Théo Delacroix comes back into competition in his home region, accompanied by his compatriote Jérémy BellicaudPieter Vanspeybrouck, who recently became father for the second time, is the Belgian rider in the selection. Riccardo Minali finalized his preparation for this three day race by racing on the track in Italy. Finally, Jan Hirt is the only rider of the sextet who’s raced the Tour de l’Ain before. Last year, the Czech climber finished 15th in the final classification of an edition with a strong field. These six riders will travel to the East of France under the sportive direction of Jean-Marc Rossignon.

This Wednesday I only have to travel 80 kilometer to the team hotel, so we can say that I'm a local rider. I especially know the last stage well, since I participatie to the youth Tour de l'Ain in the U17 category. Our team victory in this collective stage race is a nice memory. I took advantage of this long month without competition to build my base at our team altitude training camp. My good feeling in La Toussuire continued at home, so I'm eager to get back to racing, show myself and hopefully continue until my first Grand Tour. The short race distances will probably affect the racing. Especially the final stage with a long succession of climbs will be very interesting. I'm expecting attractive races, we'll have to be attentive for early breakaway attempts!

Contrary to last season, the biggest names from the international peloton won't be present, so the race might be more open. Although we stay in the middle mountains, this three day stage race promises to be difficult. After this long period without races for most riders, we're uncertain about their form. Also, I'm curious to discover how well Georg Zimmermann recovered from the Tour de France. Together with Jan Hirt, he aims for a good final classification. For our Czech climber, this Tour de l’Ain is an important start of the final part of the season which will bring him to his national tour and maybe also the Tour of Spain. We've seen at the Giro d'Italia that Hirt reached his best form during the third week, so I expect him to go full this weekend. Riccardo Minali will receive our full support in the flat opening stage. Bellicaud, Delacroix and Vanspeybrouck will support their leaders in their chase of top 3 and top 5 places. I expect the riders to confirm their good preparation of the final part of the season.


General Classification


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