Nine years after the founding of Eucor – The European Campus, a cycling tour has been set up to bring together the most motivated members of the five partner universities. We are two reporters from Unistra’s communications department who have decided to take up the challenge of cross-border and …cycling cooperation! An athletic and cosmopolitan experience.
“Alone you’re faster, but together you get ahead.” This well-known saying could be the motto of Eucor – The European Campus. The idea of the network was born 30 years ago, resulting in five universities from three countries (France-Germany-Switzerland) having joined forces to move forward together. The French President Emmanuel Macron wants to establish European universities.
This saying may sound like a cliché, but it’s also perfect for the Tour Eucor, the athletic counterpart to the European Campus. Their goal is to connect the member universities through cycling. And if you ride in a group, you can save up to 30% energy or even more. Imagine that!
It was a great opportunity to participate in this event, both in athletic and interpersonal terms. Meeting people from three different countries who share more than one border promised to be a stimulating and enriching experience.
A cheerful cosmopolitan group
The first difficulty: registration. To get a place is a privilege determined by lottery: 400 requests for participation for only 120 places. The field of candidates is large: all students, administrative staff, lecturers, researchers and alumni of the five universities can participate. This year, the institutions are represented in a balanced way, resulting in a cheerful cosmopolitan group: the Pyrenean, who was already in South Africa and now works in Mulhouse; the Italian and former student employed in Switzerland in Strasbourg; the Alsatian, whom a Swiss helps with repairing a tire. Not to mention us, the two Bretons in the leg (who quickly find a compatriot, a student at the IUT in Colmar!).
Since there are many German speakers (KIT, Freiburg, Basel), instructions and warnings are given in German, be it at briefings or on the bicycle – “Langsam“ (“slow”) “Kürzer,” (“ease up”) “Weiter,” (“ride on”) “Schienen,” (“tracks”), etc. Frightening for those who refuse to speak German? In the end, a few bits of German and a little English will suffice, especially as some members of the organizing team do the translating. And on the bicycle the hand signals are internationally understandable.
Even if the number of kilometers to cycle – between 600 and 900 km in total, 170 of them for the last stretch! – sounds discouraging to many, the Tour Eucor is not a race. There’s no runaway group, no counterattack, no ranking. For each leg there are six groups with different levels, from easy to difficult: light blue, dark blue, light red, dark red, light black, dark black. As levels rise, city bikes and sneakers become rarer and light bikes and cycling shoes with click systems become more common. But beware: clothes don’t always make the people and those who wear worn cloth shoes with low tire pressure are not always the last to climb!
Depending on the actual or assumed level, a group can be selected. It is a delicate balance: people should not overestimate their abilities (there were some failures due to weak knees), but when the effort becomes too much, there is still the light blue group in which good mood, support and tireless encouragement prevail. You can also admire the storks flying over the fields lined with poppies! There are the faithful who remain in the same group from beginning to end, and the butterflies who try out everything.
“Climbs are like contractions!”
Usually you ride in the peloton in rows of two. The result is a compact group that, like a living organism, recomposes according to the terrain configuration, the obstacles and stops that occur. This arrangement is conducive to discussion: an excellent opportunity to get to know each other and to pass the time, especially on level ground when the endless straight lines become almost boring.
Even if we sometimes follow the course of the Rhine, there are also gradients, resulting in the natural choice, each one riding alone (“I’m off!”), but to say it in the words of Monika Bénit: “Climbs are like contractions, when they are over, they are over.”
The daily organization by the KIT’s Wiwi student council is based on the German model: there is a thoroughness and professionalism worthy of the Tour de France. Nothing is left to chance: sprinter stops for food and drink take place every two hours and the daily briefings introduce the legs down to the smallest detail (distance, difference in altitude, profile of difficulties). Not to forget the lunch stops: lunch prepared on the spot and taken together to the music. In this way, participants can benefit as much as possible from these five days spent together.
On cycle paths, ferries or roads that are sometimes, but not always, marked with a blue sign crowned with stars, we find ourselves sometimes in Germany, sometimes in Switzerland, sometimes in France. Border crossings are not perceptible as such. The barriers in people’s minds are dismantled, as is happening in this beautiful region of the Upper Rhine through Eucor – The European Campus, an open, hospitable and pioneering campus.
Edern Appere and Elsa Collober of the communication department of Université de Strasbourg
More information about Tour Eucor