The under-23 team returns to the prestigious Ronde de l’Isard

Ronde de l'Isard
From 1st to 5th of May

Ronde de l’Isard will be the second international race for the under-23 team after a first trip to Italy for two well-known ‘classics’. The prestigious French race will be the first stage race abroad for a team that arrives with its batteries charged and a team set up for the high mountains.

The race is now in its 46th edition and was first held in 1977. The race was not organised in 2023 because the gendarmerie could not guarantee the security of the race, which would have taken place at the same time as the Rugby World Cup. The team has previous experience in it, having even managed to finish on the podium in 2021 with Fernando Tercero, currently a professional cyclist in the same structure where it was formed.

The cyclists will face 5 stages from Wednesday to Sunday against continental teams and the best U-23 teams. They will ride on roads and climbs in the Occitanie region, such as the Plateau de Beille, which are well known in cycling. The first stage will be, at first, the easiest stage of the edition. With 145 kilometres between L’Isle-En-Dodon and Trie-Sur-Baïse, the riders will face several non-scoring climbs and a third category climb to Castelanau-Magnoac. It will be a first taste of the French race with the danger of wind influence.

The second day will welcome the high mountains. Starting and finishing in the well-known towns of Bagnères-de-Bigorre and Bagnères-de-Luchon, the riders will tackle a 125-kilometre stage with three first category climbs. Hourquette d’Ancizan, Col de Val Louron-Azet and Col de Peyresourde will be the demanding mountain passes to overcome.

The third day of competition will be easier on the riders’ legs. They will have to cover 153 kilometres and climb the famous Col de Portet (1st), but they will do so 90 kilometres from the finish line. They will also climb the Col des Ares (2nd) at the start of the stage and the Col de Lacabane (3rd) in the final part.The fourth day will again be decisive for the definition of the general classification with 122 kilometres between Lavelanet and Plateau de Beille (1st). Despite the large number of mountain passes to be climbed during the race, this will be the only one with a summit finish.

The fifth and final day between Pamiers and Saint-Girons will have 134 kilometres and a start with several steep climbs in the profile. The most demanding point of the day will be the Col de Portel (1st) which will be crowned 36 kilometres from the finish, totally favorable until the finish.

Gerard Cano returns to competition and he will do it in a big way; racing his first race abroad with the team: “I’m really looking forward to this Ronde de l’Isard, as I’ve been stopped for 3 weeks to train well and to be able to face the race in the best possible way”. The Catalan rider is looking forward to a high level race: “It is a very hard and demanding stage race because of the level of the riders, and it is also my first experience outside Spain with the team. Looking at the routes and mountain passes, it’s the hardest stage race I’ve done so far, but we’re well prepared and really looking forward to competing. The team is well prepared and we will try to do a good job”, he concludes.

Rafael Díaz Justo will lead the team through the roads of France and the summits of the ‘Tour’ in a race of the highest level and importance: “It is one of the three most important races that the team does. It’s a bit softer, this is taken with a pinch of salt, because it doesn’t have as many stages with as many climbs as in other editions. But it’s still a very tough race with a finish in Plateau de Beille and two days of many steep climbs where the wind will blow. It’s going to be a very tough week in terms of weather”. The weather will be one of the factors that Díaz Justo highlights, as well as the route itself.

The Vuelta al Bidasoa has conditioned the configuration of the squad for the race: “In sporting terms, we will take a team of climbers, veterans and youngsters. I think the worst day for us will be the first one, with flat terrain and a lot of wind. It already happened to us in 2022 when we lost a lot of time with other teams on a similar day. The rest of the race will be long and hard mountain passes. Luca, Martín and Antonio will be our strong men. Gerard, Alex and Archetti are younger and need to know this type of race”.

Stage 1: L’Isle-En-Dodon – Trie-Sur-Baïse (145,5km)

Stage 2: Bagnères-de-Bigorre – Bagnères-de-Luchon (125,5km)

Stage 3: Bagnères-de-Luchon – Saverdun (153km)

Stage 4: Lavelanet – Plateau de Beille (122km)

Stage 5: Pamiers – Saint-Girons (134km)