Torch Relay Stage 36: Nature, heritage and triathlon in Drôme. PRÉFET DE LA DRÔME

After the amazing Ocean Relay in the France Overseas Territories, the Olympic Torch headed north to the Drôme département. This land of contrasts, from Grignan and Hauterives to Valence, is ideal for resting between natural landscapes and towns and cities full of character. The highlight was a triathlon team relay in Valence, where the famous three-Michelin-star chef Anne-Sophie Pic lit the cauldron in front of a huge crowd.

Locals and visitors alike are well aware of the many charms and attractions of the Drôme. Its mosaic of natural landscapes makes this corner of the world a destination for all seasons. Mountain lovers can head for the Vercors or the Monts d'Ardèche, while walkers, cyclists and canoeists are spoilt for choice with all the trails and waterways. The Drôme is also a popular venue for sporting events, including triathlons and cycle races. 

The Olympic Torch kept the sporting spirit alive. It began with an unusual relay, being carried by a horse rider trotting through the iconic lavender fields on its way to Grignan Castle. It then made its way to Pierrelatte, where it visited the Lac de Pignedoré before heading towards the colossal limestone rock that towers over the town. It passed through Dieulefit, in the heart of this natural site.   

It entered the castle courtyard and the Montélimar theatre, before reaching Romans-sur-Isère and its shoe museum, and the Vercors sports complex in Bourg-de-Péage. From the Camping du Château in Hauterives, the Torch went to the Palais Idéal. The last stop of the day was in Valence, where it visited the Port de l'Épervière, the Monumental Fountain, the Parc Jouvet and the Champ de Mars, where the festivities took place.

A total of 129 people carried the Olympic torch in a département that is a hotbed of sporting activity. The first torchbearer of the day was Anaïs Lambert, a native of Montvendre and French champion in CTR (competitive trail riding). She rode her lead horse, holding the torch in her hand.

Other sports personalities present included Philippe Saint-André, a former French rugby international and coach of the French national team, Florian Jouanny, a three-time Paralympic cycling gold medallist, and Guy Taupin, a visually impaired athlete. Among the everyday athletes taking part was Mireille Meynol, who has been involved in sport since she started dancing at the age of five. 

Anaïs Lambert carried the Olympic Torch on horseback. PRÉFET DE LA DRÔME
Anaïs Lambert carried the Olympic Torch on horseback. PRÉFET DE LA DRÔME

The crowd also cheered on Bertrand Beroud, a passionate rugby player who is committed to making his sport more inclusive; Loïc Bombenon, a volunteer with APF France Handicap; Yassine Zouaoui, an ultra trail runner who ran from Paris to Grenoble with autistic children; and Alixan Gojowczyk, a basketball coach and referee. 

Spectators along the route may have seen Valérie Louage, Romain Tardieu, Pauline Lacombe and Patrick Lebrun in action, part of the 45,000 volunteers for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. These sports enthusiasts carried the Torch in recognition of their commitment and to mark an important milestone just 35 days before the start of the Games. Among the torchbearers were several celebrities, including illusionist Dani Lary. 

The honour of being the last torchbearer of the day went to Anne-Sophie Pic, a culinary icon who is helping to spread the magic of France around the world. The Valence-born chef, who has three Michelin stars, highlighted the excellence of Drôme gastronomy and lit the cauldron at the end of the day. 

The spotlight was on other individuals dedicated to pushing the boundaries and striving for excellence. The day's team relay celebrated triathlon, now in its 24th year as an Olympic sport, having made its debut at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. If all goes according to plan, triathlon will be a major spectacle on the Seine at Paris 2024.      

The French Federation of Triathlon organised the Team Relay together with a local club that works to promote inclusivity in this "Terre de Jeux". Captain Joseph Kerdo has been runing the Valence Triathlon for over a decade, focusing on the values of sport. He was joined by 23 other participants, including European champion Lola Sauvet, volunteer coach Alexandre Dall'agnol and dominant para-triathletes Claire Mege and Julien Viot.