2023 Tour de France to start in the Basque Country

The Grand Départ will consist of three road stages in the autonomous community in northern Spain

Tadej Pogačar Tour de France
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Tour de France will begin in the Basque Country in 2023, with three road stages around the autonomous community forming part of the race's Grand Départ.

It is the second time that the Tour has had a Grand Départ in the area, and the second in Spain as well. In 1992, a prologue around San Sebastián saw Miguel Indurain climb into the yellow jersey for the first time.

The location was announced by ASO, the Tour's organisers, at an event at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao on Wednesday. 

It will be the second consecutive foreign Grand Départ, with the Tour starting in Copenhagen this summer, after it was pushed back from 2020 due to the pandemic.

The Tour has spent the last two years with its opening stages in France, with Brest having the honour in 2021, and Nice in 2020.

2023's stage one will start in Bilbao, take in a 185km loop of hilly coastline around Biscay before returning to the Basque Country's largest city with a punchy finish.

The second day on foreign soil will see the peloton tackle some tricky climbing on 210km from Vitoria-Gasteiz to San Sebastián, echoing the route of Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa. Riders will face the Monte Jaizquíbel.

The third stage will begin in Amorebieta-Etxano and there will be 80km of coast roads before the Tour re-enters France. In a press release from organisers ASO, a sprint finish was hinted at, which will be succour for fast men worn out by the first two days of action.

The press release read: "The three Basque provinces will feature on the programme for the three days that will mark the start to the 110th edition. From Bilbao to San Sebastián, the pack will also ride through the streets of Vitoria and tackle often steep roads on which the most glorious pages of Spanish cycling history have been written.

"The relief of the Basque Country will incite the punchers to move into action and conquer the first Yellow Jersey on the Tour de France 2023 in Bilbao."

Tour director Christian Prudhomme said that there was a strong desire from the Basque Country for the race to return ever since the first Grand Départ in 1992.

"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," Prudhomme said. 

"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."

Inigo Urkullu Renteria, the president of the Basque Government said that it would be a momentous occassion, and promised a festive atmosphere.

"Cycling is a long-standing tradition in the Basque Country," he explained. "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."

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

With the third stage finishing on the other side of the Pyrenees, possibly in the French Basque Country, there might be an early visit to the mountains on the cards, with the peloton not being too far away from Tour-hostpot Pau.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.