From our special correspondent in Andorra la Vella,
If the excellent direct from 20 Minutes are not enough to satiate your hunger for cycling, you have to take a look every now and then at the Tour de France on TV. In which case, the information could not escape you, as it is repeated over and over again: Julian Alaphilippe arrived this Sunday “at home”.
The free electron of the Deceuninck-Quick Step, native of the Berry flat, has gained altitude for three years in Andorra, like so many athletes before him. More exactly in La Massana, in the north-west of the small country of the Pyrenees, not very far from his compatriot Fabio Quartararo, current leader of the Moto GP world championship.
Almost all of the Movistar squad, the stealthy polka dot jersey Michael Woods, the twins Simon and Adam Yates, the winner of the Giro 2020 Tao Geoghegan Hart… Several dozen cyclists have chosen to land in this peaceful corner of 77,000 inhabitants when ‘they don’t roam the world, sitting on a saddle. Egan Bernal lived there, before opting for Monaco, like Chris Froome or Geraint Thomas.
Andorra, Monaco… Two micro-states whose common points do not boil down to being a principality. “Taxes are low here, testifies Victor Duaso, daily sports journalist Bondia, and local correspondent for the Spanish news agency EFE. But the runners also explain that they are quiet with the family. “
Let us dwell on the advantageous taxation. High-level athletes, but also artists and scientists can benefit from a “category C passive resident” status. A cryptic title for a very simple reality, summarized on the private concierge site SetUp Andorra: “the maximum income tax is 10% [NDLR : 45 % en France], while the VAT rate applied to consumer goods is 4.5% [20 % en France] ».
Frenchwoman Virginie Hergel, founder of SetUp Andorra, details the required conditions: “demonstrate worldwide notoriety in her discipline, live there 90 days a year, deposit 50,000 euros [auprès de l’autorité financière andorrane] plus 10,000 euros per dependent, prove that one has annual resources corresponding to at least 43,000 euros per person, ie three times the Andorran minimum wage ”. If you wanted to expatriate after finishing 12th in the cyclosportive L’Ariégeoise in 2018, you’d better forget.
Here is for the financial aspect, essential, but which is not the only motivation when crossing the Port d’Envalira. “Andorra is a territory for cycling,” assures journalist Victor Duaso. People here are used to cyclists, who can train quietly, in the passes. “
“Purito”, one of the pioneers
If the traffic is dense around the capital and on the axis that crosses the country, from Pas de la Casa on the French side to Sant Julià de Lòria towards Spain, it is much less elsewhere. An undeniable asset for a profession very exposed to road accidents. And then, of course, the relief of the principality, whose lowest point culminates at 840 m, offers an ideal training ground and pushed many cyclists to take the wheel of the Catalan Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez, former n ° 1 worldwide and among the pioneers of the “exodus” to Andorra in the mid-2000s.
“Just before running the Tour de France, José Luis Rojas [absent cette année] and his Movistar teammate Enric Mas made the Envalira, the Ordino and Beixalis passes, continues Victor Duaso. A month before the Tour or the Vuelta, we meet a lot of cyclists, residents or not, who come to train here. “
Virginie Hergel continues in the same vein: “What attracts athletes is obviously taxation, but above all the possibility of working at altitude, with structures adapted for high level. The climate is also ideal. And then, they are public figures. Here they are not bothered, it is very safe, and there are excellent schools for those with families. The Andorrans are also very nice, quite supportive, with a very warm state of mind. “
In short, to hear the business manager, Andorra is a little paradise, especially when you have the means. “Whatever sport they practice, cycling, golf, motorcycling or others, we talk a lot with the athletes and their managers, so that they only have their heads up to the competition. We are their mom, we coconut them. “
And the small country, landlocked between France and Spain, relies on the image of these ambassadors to take off the ambivalent image that it still conveys, between tax haven for the rich and Eden of tax-free trade for others. Hosting the Tour for the sixth time since 1964, and for three days, is part of this “soft” diplomacy. “It is important for the country in terms of tourism”, assures Victor Duaso, about a State whose economy has particularly suffered from the pandemic. And which currently has no professional cyclist among its nationals.