Riding high: How French alpine town gave Tour de France team a leg up

By Dhananjay Khadilkar - RFI
Cycling  Dhananjay Khadilkar
© Dhananjay Khadilkar

At an altitude of 2,100 metres, Tignes, in the French Alps, has long been a choice destination for skiers. It's also become a top destination for athletes keen on high-altitude training, such as the winning Tour de France team Jumbo-Visma. 

"It's a really beautiful area for training... ideal for us to prepare our riders for a better performance," Jumbo Visma's performance coach Tim Heemskerk told RFI.

His team has been training in Tignes for the past four years.

The riders train on the mountain passes around Tignes before the Tour de France. Some of these passes are part of the race's route.

"To do a reconnaissance of the descents and climbs during training is just perfect," Heemskerk said adding that low oxygen pressure at high altitudes means there's less oxygen available for the body.

"As a result, the body starts adapting to the change. When you go back down to the sea level to start the Tour de France, these adaptations give you a better performance," he explained.

"There are many adaptations in the body, one of them being more red blood cells."

Olympic sports

Tignes doesn't just attract top cyclists. Sportspeople from other disciplines visit the town too for high-altitude training

In fact, cycling is one of the nine disciplines for which Tignes has been selected as one of the pre-games training camps for the Paris Olympics next year.

Fabrice Maleville, the director of sport at Tignes Développment, the body in charge of promotion the town, says Tignes' altitude is a real boon.

"We have plenty of experience in welcoming top sportspeople here," he said.

Other disciplines for which Tignes has been selected as a training site includes handball, cycling and the Rugby sevens.

Follow our coverage of Paris Olympics 2024 here.