Stage 19: Noja - Bilbao
Back to the Basque Country
Sixty kilometres into this stage, the Vuelta will pass into the Basque Country for the first time since violent demonstrations were the backdrop for its last visit in 1978. This is one of the heartlands of Spanish cycling, which should guarantee an impressive turnout on the roadside. They will be hoping that a Euskaltel rider will mark the occasion with a win and that team’s distinctive orange jerseys are sure to be prominent on the two passages over the cat 2 Vivero. But some sprinters will fancy this stage too and it may be one of them who comes out on top in Bilbao.
Vuelta flashback 1955, The Vuelta finds a Basque Country home
Incredibly, for a long time the Vuelta was indelibly linked to the Basque Country. After a hiatus of five years, the Vuelta returned in 1955 thanks to the backing of El Correo Español-El Pueblo Vasco, the newspaper run by Basque sports fan Alejandro Echevarría. The race had always started and finished in Madrid, but Echevarría made Bilbao its new home, and it was to finish there every year up to 1970. The field was strong that year, too, with Bahamontes, Loroño, Poblet, Magni and Géminiani among the favourites, although less fancied Frenchman Jean Dotto took the title.
Highest point: 410m
David López says...
"The stages in the Basque Country won’t have an impact on the GC because the climbs are too far from the finish. But neither one is easy. I’d expect breaks to go all the way on both stages. They will be very intense and the action will be full on."
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