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Basque parliament votes for Vuelta’s return

The final Vuelta 2009 podium: Samuel Sanchez (2nd), Alejandro Valverde (1st) and Cadel Evans (3rd)

The final Vuelta 2009 podium: Samuel Sanchez (2nd), Alejandro Valverde (1st) and Cadel Evans (3rd) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

The Basque regional parliament has voted in favour of a motion calling for the Vuelta a España to return to the region for the first time since 1978. The vote gives a further boost to initiatives begun at this year’s Vuelta, when Basque cultural and sporting minister Blanca Urgell met with Vuelta director-general Javier Guillén to push for the race’s return to the region.

The vote reflected a recent change in the balance of power within the Basque parliament. Previously, Basque regional parties were able to block a motion asking for the Vuelta to return to the region. However, nationally focused parties now hold sway in the assembly.

The proposal requests that Vuelta organisers Unipublic agree to a stage start and a finish within the Basque Country and requests the various regional cycling bodies to assist in this goal.

The Vuelta’s last visit to the region was for the 1978 edition, won by Bernard Hinault. The concluding four stages were scheduled to take place in the Basque Country, and three of them did, although the penultimate one was radically shortened. The concluding time trial in San Sebastián was cancelled due to fears of terrorist activity against the race. In subsequent years, some Basque towns and cities including Bilbao have requested the race’s return, only for their proposals to be turned down because of fears of terrorism.

Gorka Maneiro, a representative for the UPyD party, described the proposal, which also called for the Spanish football team to play matches in the region, as a demonstration of "normality, not of Hispanification". He said that until now sections of the Basque population "could not freely express their feelings".

Spanish minister of sport Jaime Lissavetzky welcomed the news. "This request expresses the feelings of Basque society," he said. "Like any other part of the country they have the right to watch the Spanish national team and the Vuelta. The Basque Country is region known for its love of football and cycling."

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).