Bilbao looking to host the Tour de France

Basque city say they're hoping to hold a stage of the Grand Tour as soon as 2019

Several Basque institutions are working with ASO to bring the Tour de France to Bilbao. According to Spanish publication AS, they believe the economic return of bringing the Tour to the region’s capital could be 10 to 12 times their initial investment. If it were to happen, however, it would "not be in the medium term and not before 2019".

Imanol Pradales, the Provincial Deputy for Economic and Territorial Development, explained that negotiations with the ASO, the Tour de France organisers, are being carried out by the Provincial Council, the City of Bilbao and the Basque Government. Discussions are ongoing as to whether Bilbao would host a stage start or finish, or perhaps the Grand Départ.

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme first met with the institutions that are leading the bid for Bilbao in September, and he was reportedly open to the plans. They met again at the Tour de France 2017 presentation last month.

The report says that bringing the Tour to Bilbao any earlier than 2019 would be impossible as both those editions have been planned. If it pipped for the 2019 Grand Départ, it would go up against Brussels, which announced in 2014 that it wanted to bring the Tour de France to the city in honour of the 50-year anniversary of Eddy Merckx’s first overall victory.

It would be more likely that it would feature as a stage start or finish after the Tour visits the Pyrenees. The Tour de France has visited Spain three times in the past decade and skirted the Basque region in 2007 during stage 16. It last visited the Basque Country in 1996 with a stage finish and a stage start in Hendaye on the Franco/Spanish border. In 1992, the Tour de France began in the Basque Country with three stages in the seaside city of San Sebastián.

The 2017 Tour de France will skirt along the border of Spain as the race passes through the Pyrenees but it will not visit the country. It will start in Dusseldorf on July 1, the first time in almost 30 years that the race has visited Germany, and will pass through Belgium before heading into France. It will finish on the Champs Elysées on July 23.

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