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For readers in Basse Normandie at least, the town of Lisieux will need no introduction. It is the capital of the Pays d’Auge. Its population of around 23,000 makes it the second largest town in Calvados, behind Caen. The town’s mayor, Bernard Aubril, is also President of the Communauté de Communes de Lisieux Pays d’Auge and Vice-President of the Conseil Général de Calvados – and, it emerges, a keen cyclist.

“I competed until I reached the age of 45,” Mr Aubril says, “and although I no longer take part in competitions, I still do just as much cycling.”

He briefly summarises his lifelong connection with Lisieux: “I was born at Le Faulq, a little village 15 kilometres from here. My parents were farm workers. We moved to Lisieux when I was five and I received all my education here. I became a primary school teacher; I stayed at my first job at L’Hôtellerie for nine years, and my second job was at Moyaux where I became headmaster and stayed for 25 years. I was first elected conseiller municipal in 1983, I have been conseiller général since 1989, mayor since 2001, and president of the Communauté de Communes since 2003.”

Lisieux’s economy and agenda is far too diverse to be summed up as neatly, but Mr Aubril highlights some of the salient points. “Our economic structure benefits from having around 400 small-to-medium enterprises, the majority of which are run by businessmen who were born in the Pays d’Auge, studied here, learned their trade here, in many cases took over from their parents, and have a firm belief in the future of the Pays d’Auge,” he says. Unemployment in Lisieux never deviates significantly from the national average. The hospital and the town itself are the biggest employers. Multinational companies like Nestlé and Knorr Bremse have sites here; within the CDC, 1,200 small-to-medium businesses employ 12,000 people in food processing, metalwork and other sectors; there is tourism; there is a strong nucleus of local shops. Future economic development will be greatly boosted by the extensive enterprise and industrial zones being developed by the Communauté de Communes, Mr Aubril says.

Turning to civil life, Mr Aubril mentions numerous projects currently on the table at the town hall. Some are small and some are large-scale, such as demolition-reconstruction works to replace accommodation built immediately post-war, a ‘residentialisation’ project to improve security and amenities for tenants, a salle multi-activité currently under construction, and a new crèche scheme.

Lexoviens enjoy a full calendar of events and exhibitions including concerts, exhibitions, weekly markets, the prestigious Foussard fencing tournament, chess tournaments, competitions for the resident with the best window-boxes and best Christmas lights, an annual Tree Fair, now in its 549th consecutive year ... and every year, 48 hours after the Tour de France ends at the Champs-Elysées, some of the competitors come to Lisieux to participate in a cycle race through the town centre: “In a good year, this event attracts between 25,000 and 30,000 spectators.”

It’s a safe bet that the Mayor will be amongst them.