To Star the Tour de Francia-TDF- and the 3 first stages around the Basque Country 2023


The Grand Depart of the Tour de France -TDF– of the year 2023 took place from the Basque Country. It was  not be just one stage, but there were 3 varied stages: The first with departure and arrival in Bilbao. The second through the inland  of the Basque Country and the third along the entire Basque coast to sign off with a spectacular arrival in San Sebastián

Usually the first stage is one of the most valued internationally, even more than the arrival at the Champs Elysios in Paris. There are several reasons: Because it is the beginning of the Tour, because all the televisions in the world are focused in the event, because the 176 best cyclists in the peloton are in full force intact, and because there are still no clear favorites. It is a psychological equality that makes all the riders go to the fullest to compete for the first trophies of the Tour.

The Basque Country was not chosen for nothing. There is a historical idyll between Basque people , which has one of the best supporters  that constantly encourage each of the riders in the peloton. The fans know where to position themselves to give encouragement at the moment when the runners need it the most. Those short but hard mountain passes that the Basque orography has, where the effort of the cyclist reaches the limit.

The Basque Country has had great champions and winners of this great show. From Miguel Indurain, with 5 Tours de France, Abraham Olano, stage winner and world champion, and currently great cyclists such as Mikel Landa, Peio Bilbao, or the Izaguirre brothers, among others. Not counting all the Basque cyclists who have won at least one Tour stage. Beginning with Federico Ezquerra, the first winner in the distant year 1936, followed by Jesús Loroño in 1953, Jose Maria Errandonea, Miguel Maria Lasa in the 70s, Julián Gorospe, Marino Lejarreta…, up to current cycling with Peio Bilbao, Omar Fraile and others that make up the different teams.

From days before the departure from Bilbao, the city had an excellent cycling atmosphere. The Biscayan capital was taken over by the great caravan that was made up of the entire Tour de France advertising and merchandise parade. This one landed days before with an extensive program of previous activities and the celebration of the great presentation gala before the start of the race. A large number of people including participating teams, sponsors, security members and nearly 3,000 accredited journalists who broadcast the event live to 190 countries.

The fans came to the hotels to take a picture or ask for an autograph from their idol. At the same time, the cyclists were seen training in the surroundings, recognizing and visualizing the terrain where they played the first stage.

The first stage, the start of the Tour, Le Grand Depart started on July 1 from Bilbao. Everything as established: runners, schedule, etc. A spectacular day to ride a bicycle, with a temperature of about 25º, incredible for the month of July. They were 182 kms with departure and arrival in Bilbao. The Basque Country has its mountainous difficulty, which is why the cyclists finally had to ascend 3,400 positive meters. The mountainous profile does not have large peaks, but the terrain is a constant up and down, come on… like a roller coaster. The tour of the Biscayan coast, not without great attractions: fishing villages such as Plentzia, Gorliz, Bakio and Bermeo have that ancestral attraction with deep local traditions of the Basque culture. Once the peloton crossed Mundaka, a surfing paradise, the professional peloton headed inland from Vizcaya through the historic town of Gernika. Without forgetting the passage through the island  of San Juan de Gaztelugatze, the small islet with endless stairs to the small church located on top. Place of pilgrimage from the 10th century to our times for being the chosen point of an episode of Game of Thrones…

The final outcome of the stage went to the winners twin brothers Adam and Simon Yates. In the descent of the Pike Bidea pass, they escaped from the main group and in a fratricidal duel to win the first stage of the Tour de France, Adam beat his brother.

The second stage The Basque fans continued to enjoy a second stage between Vitoria-Gasteiz and San Sebastián-Donosti. The distance of 208 km of route through the entire interior territory between the provinces of Alava and Guipúzcoa. The first and important casualties of the platoon occurred with the withdrawal of Richard Carapaz and Enrique Mas.

This stage, starting in Vitoria, had a tour of historical places in the interior of Alava and Guipúzcoa. The Villas with interesting historical centers such as Oñate, Beasain and Tolosa, among others, were the places visited by the Tour de France. After passing through two 3rd category peaks (Col de Udana and Col de Alkiza), we finally reached the Jaizkibel mountain pass (455m and 2nd category). Mythical mountain pass next to the Cantabrian Sea, and a place of obligatory ascent every August in the WORLD TOUR CLASSICA DE SAN SEBASTIAN test, approved by the UCI.

Victor Lafay ended the 15-year drought in the Tour de France for the Cofidis team. He prevailed at the finish line in San Sebastián, the end of the second stage of this 2023 edition, with a powerful attack one kilometer from the finish line that frustrated Jumbo-Visma’s strategy of positioning one of its best cyclists-sprinters, the Belgian Wout Van Aert, ultimately second classified at the finish line in San Sebastián.

The third stage. Last stage of the 2023 Tour in Basque lands, before crossing into the French Basque Country and finishing at the finish line in the French Basque capital of Bayonne. There were 193.5 km of travel starting from Amorebieta and going through Durango, Markina to reach the Basque coast through the fishing village of Lekeitio. This place, with its beautiful beach and historic center, was crossed by the cyclists through its fishing port. They continued along a spectacular and winding road next to the sea to the town of Ondárroa, continuing through towns traditionally dedicated to inshore fishing such as Motrico, Deba, Zumaia, Getaria or Orio. From this point the peloton  ascended the mountainous pass of Monte Igueldo or Col de Orio, to descend again to San Sebastián, already on its rapid path towards French Basque lands, but not before crossing through the border town of Irún. The charming French towns of Askain and Ustaritz were passed through before reaching the finish line of Bayonne.

 The Belgian rider Jasper Philipsen prevailed with authority, magnificently launched by his teammates from the Alpecin team. In second place came the rookie Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) and in third place the experienced Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Dstny). It was a linear stage, without major movements, in which the peloton was content to say goodbye to the Basque Country and calmly run along the Atlantic coast waiting for the massive arrival that occurred.