The competition for what few races remain on the shortened 2020 road calendar has been intense, with 12 WorldTour teams stacking the field in the UCI 2.1-ranked Tour de l'Ain - a race which typically attracts only three or four top tier squads.
UCI rules specify that the maximum participation in 2.1 elite men's races is 50 per cent WorldTour teams, and this year's Tour de l'Ain has maximised that number for the first time, with AG2R la Mondiale, CCC Team, Cofidis, Deceuninck-Quickstep, Groupama-FDJ, Israel Start-Up Nation, Lotto Soudal, Team Ineos, Team Jumbo-Visma, Team Sunweb, Trek-Segafredo, and UAE Team Emirates accepting invitations for the race, which is due to take place from August 7-9.
The US young rider development team Hagens Berman Axeon, lead by Axel Merckx, has secured one of the four places for Continental teams.
The race will be important preparation for the WorldTour stage races, which resume with the Critérium du Dauphiné on August 12 before the Tour de France begins on August 29.
This short, punchy race will be a wake-up for the legs and Jumbo-Visma is expected to field most of its Tour de France team, with Primoz Roglic, Tom Dumoulin and Steven Kruijswijk.
Trek-Segafredo are expected to send Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema and Team Ineos to field defending Tour de France champion Egan Bernal.
The three-stage Tour de l'Ain begins with a 139.5km rolling stage from Montréal-la-Cluse to Ceyzériat before heading into the Jura mountains for a tough 140.1km stage from Lagnieu to Lélex Monts-Jura with four category 2 mountains and one category 3 climb.
The final stage will be an intense 143.1km with the category 1 Montée de la Selle de Fromentelle followed quickly by the Col de la Biche with a finish on the Grand Colombier.
In 2019, the race profile was somewhat similar and Groupama-FDJ's Thibaut Pinot dominated the final stage to Grand Colombier, winning by 52 seconds over Arkea-Samisc's Elie Ghesbert to take home the overall victory for the second time in his career. Other past winners include Arthur Vichot, Sam Oomen, Andrew Talansky and Romain Bardet.
Along with the WorldTour squads, there will be six ProTeams: Total Direct Energie, Team Arkea-Samsic, Circus-Wanty Gobert, Vital Concept – B&B Hotels and Nippo Delko Provence, four Continental squads including the US team Hagens Berman Axeon, Kometa Xstra, St-Michel – Auber 93 and Natura4ever – Roubaix – Lille Metropole and the Swiss and German U23 national teams.
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