Mountains, tranquility and favorable taxation: the principality of Andorra, where the Tour de France took a break on Monday, is full of professional cyclists.
On this day of rest for the Tour de France in Andorra, a principality in the heart of the Pyrenees, it is a break at home for some riders. More than sixty cyclists live there year round, such as Julian Alaphilippe, Kenny Elissonde, Egan Bernal or Dan Martin. A family place, where the great champions organize outings in the mountains.
In La Massana, a small town in the principality, two French runners are neighbors: Kenny Elissonde and Julian Alaphilippe. Member of the Trek-Segafredo team, Elissonde did not hesitate to come and settle here: “Me, what I like is to see the mountain. Next to my house, there are horses. and when I come back from racing, I ask myself, it’s my little paradise “. And it is also a land of cycling. No need to walk around for a long time to realize it. Three cycling shops not even a hundred yards around.
Marcos, salesman at Viladomat, a shop specializing in mountain biking, is used to meeting them: “We are in a country where we practice a lot of sport. So there are a lot of athletes who live here and some cyclists come to the store for us. consult. After that, their team takes care of the rest. A country of sportsmen, but also very attractive by its very advantageous tax situation, like Monaco where other cyclists have put down their bags, such as Christopher Froome.
The weather and the airport in negative points
It is also a perfect playground. High mountains just a few kilometers away, with the Port d’Envalira at an altitude of 2.408m, taken last Sunday during the fifteenth stage of the Tour de France. For Kenny Elissonde, previously settled in the Nice region, the sporting choice was predominant: “As a climber, being confronted with the mountain on a daily basis is important. Even to return home, I have 15-20 minutes of Ascent. We are at an altitude of 1,400m, we roll at 2,000m then we descend, the body gets used to it and that obviously helps “. And a real synergy has developed between the dozens of runners living in this small Andorran territory, remarks the 29-year-old runner.
“We all live not far away, we see each other often, we cross paths when we are not riding. I cannot say that it is a small family, but sometimes we have dinners at each other’s house. Our women rub shoulders and it always brings us closer “. A Whatsapp group has even been created. And the Trek-Segafredo runner is one of them: “We are 70-75. But with Julian, we just send a message if we want to go running together. This group also served during the Covid, we had information on vaccination for example “.
So many positive reasons to live here, but Andorra still has its share of negative points according to Kenny Elissonde. And the comparison with Nice and Monaco is essential for the runner. “The negative side is the weather. Winter, in Nice-Monaco, is the best weather that we can have. Here, the weather is not good. But the definite disadvantage is airport. The closest is Barcelona, it’s not nearby. While in Nice-Monaco, the airport is 20 minutes away. ” But for all that, the Frenchman speaks from his home with a smile in his voice.
“They appreciate the anonymity”
“It is true that we are quiet, we can drink a coffee, no one will come or just say hello. We are not disturbed, that’s one of the strengths. People are respectful,” emphasizes Kenny Elissonde For the inhabitants, it has become their daily life to meet or rub shoulders with these stars. Josep, manager of the Massana resort, has always lived in Andorra and knows some runners very well. “We hike in winter together. When we climb a pass, we try to follow them, but often over 50m no more,” says Andorran all smiles. And for him, the celebrities who live here seek above all tranquility.
“It is important that they keep their independence. They are next to us, we do not bother them, they appreciate this anonymous aspect, it is one of the reasons why they are there”, explains Josep. Like Richard Carapaz, from the Ineos Grenadiers team and 4th overall in the Tour de France, back from a bike ride, in uniform, who stops at an ATM to withdraw money. Three curious people recognize him, including a father and his son, registered in Spain. Stopped by the roadside with the car, the dad runs to join his son to immortalize the moment. In all relaxation, the Ecuadorian, after having recovered his tickets, kindly lent himself to the game of photos.
It is a small country, where everyone knows each other and knows where everyone lives. Josep, for example, is able to locate exactly where Julian Alaphilippe and his partner Marion Rousse live. “They live on the other side, look, in the mountains. Most of the runners are scattered all over the place,” reveals the station manager, pointing. Houses in the heart of the forest and a few minutes from downtown La Massana on one side and on the other of the mountain roads for training. The ideal spot for runners.