2023 Tour de France to start in the Basque Country

Team UAE Emirates Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia celebrates his overall leader yellow jersey on the podium at the end of the 15th stage of the 108th edition of the Tour de France cycling race 191 km between Ceret and AndorreLaVieille on July 11 2021 Photo by Philippe LOPEZ AFP Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZAFP via Getty Images
Tadej Pogacar is the winner of the past two Tour de France titles (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The 2023 Tour de France will start in the Basque Country, with the cycling-mad autonomous community in northern Spain hosting the Grand Départ stages before the race heads into neighbouring France.

Race organiser ASO confirmed the location of the Grand Départ at a special presentation event held at the spectacular Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao on Wednesday. 

The 2022 Tour de France will start in Copenhagen, Denmark in July, with the Basque Country offering a second consecutive international start.   

Bilbao will be the central location for the 2023 Grand Départ after the city has invested significantly in culture, tourism and sport in recent years. 

The first stage will leave Bilbao on Saturday July 1, 2023 with two more stages through Basque territory before heading into France. The opening 185km road stage will visit the hilly coastline of the Bay of Biscay before returning to Bilbao for a late, steep climb of the Pike Bidea and the finish in the city centre.

Stage 2 is over 210km from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Donastia San Sebastián, with the Jaizkibel climb close to the finish.

Stage 3 will start in Amorebieta-Etxano and is perhaps a chance for the sprinters, with 80km along the Basque Country coastline before a finish in France that will be revealed later in the year.

The Tour de France last visited the Basque Country back in 2018 for a time trial on the French side of the Pyrenees. 

The Tour de France first visited the Basque Country in 1949 when Louis Caput won a stage to San Sebastián. The race returned in 1977 when José Nazaba won in Vitoria. 

In 1992, San Sebastián hosted the start of the Tour with a prologue time trial and road stage before the race headed to Pau in France on the third day. Miguel Indurain won the opening prologue wearing the yellow jersey after winning the 1991 Tour de France.

Basque cycling fans traditionally pack the mountain stages of the Tour de France in the Pyrenees, wearing orange T-shirts and waving the ikurrina flag.

"Cycling is a long-standing tradition in the Basque Country. Our goal is to host a flawless Grand Départ to make our lands an even more attractive destination. Our enthusiasm and commitment fill us with a sense of purpose as we prepare to welcome the 110th edition of the Tour de France," Inigo Urkullu Renteria, the president of the Basque Government said.

"July 2023 will be a momentous occasion for the Basque Country. Fans will turn out in force and pump up the festive atmosphere that Basque supporters are known for on the roads of the Tour de France. The colourful Basque tide that infuses legendary mountains with joy will sweep through our own climbs, coast, towns and villages."

The Basque Country government will spend a reported €12 million on the Grand Départ project, with €6 million reportedly going to ASO. 

Grand Départ became a grand wish. Ever since the Tour de France hit the road in San Sebastián in summer 1992, the authorities and elected representatives of the Basque Country have longed to host the Grande Boucle again," race director Christian Prudhomme said. 

"This burning desire, combined with what the region brings to the table, could not be ignored, and this fervent courtship deserved to get a new taste of the three days of the Grand Départ after such a long wait.   We are therefore thrilled to return to these hospitable lands, which have continued to dispatch passionate orange armies to the Pyrenees and far beyond, flying the ikurrina on the roadsides to boost the morale of their riders.  Halfway between the sky and the sea, Biscay, Álava and Gipuzkoa, the three provinces that make up the autonomous community, are fertile ground for spectacular cycling."

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