Beer, flags and barbecues: a day on the maddest climb in the Basque Country

Once the Tour de France is done and dusted, the sight and sounds of screaming Basque fans on the slopes of the Jaizkibel lingered on

fans on the Jaizkibel
(Image credit: Tom Thewlis)

Long after the Tour de France has rolled out of Spain, the gargantuan noise generated by the vast hordes of Basque fans on the roads of stage two will be reverberating throughout my ears in the days to come.

I’ve sat and listened to riders like Tom Pidcock describe the feeling and sensation of riding through huge crowds of fans on the roads of some of the biggest bike races in the world, and often wondered to myself, what must that feel like? What kind of emotions, sensations and feelings are pounding through your body as you punish yourself on some of Europe’s steepest roads roared on by thousands of roadside spectators

Well, stage two of this year’s Tour was the closest I was ever going to get to experiencing that as I, like millions of other cyclists, will of course never get the chance to ride the Tour. Instead I got to join the race convoy for the day in the team Africa Rising press car, driving through the crowds bound for the slopes of the infamous Jaizkibel and the beautiful coastal town of San Sebastián and I really couldn’t have picked a better moment to experience it.

When each of the climbs on the route arrived, you could feel the energy and feel the sheer euphoria pulsating through the air as the vast seas of orange parted in front of the car, with the smells of barbecued steaks and other grilled meats wafting across.

A vegetarian’s nightmare, although even the most ardent of non-meat eaters may well have caved in to the smells of Basque roadside cooking in that particular moment.

Once the slopes of the Jaizkibel – made famous by the annual Clásica San Sebastián – arrived, it was something else altogether. I’ll admit it, at times it was genuinely slightly scary, even in the confines of a Mini convertible.

The Jaizkibel is just a bump in the road compared to the likes of the Col du Tourmalet or Alpe d’Huez, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for with the atmosphere in the Klasikoa every year and it was no different yesterday.

As we moved through the masses - almost moving at walking pace at times - the noise was simply deafening. Grown men and women, many clad in the colours of Real Sociedad, lent into the car, roaring us on our way like a swarm of excited bees around an open jar of honey. 


(Image credit: Tom Thewlis)

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1