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Le Tour de l'Ain: It was the best of times, it the worst of times...

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The Tour de l'Ain cyclo is a unique event on the cyclosportive calendar. For 4 days, the amateur will eat, drink, live, and breathe the life of cycling in parallel to the professional race running just a few hours later each day, both races utilizing the same course and road closures.  The 3rd stage headed into the medium mountains of the Jura after 2 mostly flat, fast, and furious stages through the agricultural lands closer to Bourg-en-Bresse.  To give an idea of the pace of the race so far, the leader of the Cyclo would currently be sitting in the middle of the pro GC, it’s been a bit spicy to say the least!

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his cyclosportive is also unique in that it draws quite a few of the U23 clubs from around France, Beglium, and Holland. It’s been good fun giving the kids a run for their money, but also instilling a respect for the environment. With the high pace and the need for sheltering from the wind being so important over the first few days, it’s sometimes tough to eat and still handle the bicycle only centimeters away from the wheel in front at speeds in excess of 40 kph.

The peloton does not wait for anyone!

I often see small corners of packaging drifting back through the bunch in the wind, and even the occasional empty wrapper. By and large the camaraderie during the tour is excellent and after witnessing a few missteps by my fellow competitors, I pull up alongside them to offer some helpful tips to help them keep all of their trash so that it does not end up in the beautiful countryside, or even worse, in the stomach of an animal. It’s always helpful to use the mouth to open the packaging so that you always have one hand on the bars. After that, you can hold the corner in your mouth until you have a second to place it under the elastic at the bottom of your shorts or under the jersey.

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Back to the competition, I’m dangling off the back of a group of 15 being dragged up the Cote de Giron. As I stand up to stretch the legs, I none other than my teammate Sebastien Gissinger is the one setting this infernal pace. The ones of us in the back of the group exchange pained grimaces, secretly wishing that Sebastien would ease up for a few minutes to give the weaker of us some respite, but no he grinds on in his metronomic, Cadel Evans style. A descent and a few rollers later, our group has reached the last climb of the day, the Category 1 Col de Menthieres. The group quickly explodes under Sebastien’s impetuous as he rides off into the distance leaving the rest  of us to grovel our way onwards to the finish. For his exploits on the day, Sebastien takes 2nd place on the stage for his category, no small feat considering the high level of the competition here at the l’Ain!

As I sit down to devour my excellent post-race meal of chicken and rice, I check my phone to see if any of my other teammates are around or having finished. Unfortunately there is a text from Ignacio, he has gone in an ambulance to the hospital with a suspected fractured collarbone. On a narrow stretch of road, his front tire had hit some gravel and slipped out from underneath him. The happiness for Sebastien is quickly tempered with the disappointment for Ignacio. Luckily, Ignacio suffered no further damage and looks to make a full recovery in time for ski season.

And there we have it: the highs, lows, and inbetweens of another day at the Tour de l’Ain Cyclo. An exceptionally well run and unique event through a beautiful department of France that I look forward to every year, can’t wait to see what the 2014 edition will have in store!

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With David Moncoutié: I rode most of the 2nd part of the last stage with him, super nice guy.  He climbs like a helium balloon floats, unbelievable!

Rob