Come the end of March, I’m usually looking forward to a trip to the Basque Country over Easter and beyond to watch the cycling stage-race Itzulia. I had hoped to be heading there this year……..but we all know what happened to that plan. Here I revisit our 2012 trip.
Sadly my plans to ride some of the Tour of the Basque Country course have gone awry. We arrived in Estella on Friday evening, dined well and enjoyed a good night’s sleep, to awake to yet more glorious sunshine. We decided to ride a couple of the loops of the GP Miguel Indurain, catching the race both en route and as it passed through the town. I also rode up to the steep summit finish twice! Please note the peloton only had to do it once.
Sunday, also dawned fair but soon turned grey and overcast. We were now in the heart of the Basque country, ideally placed to view each of the start and finishes of the six stages in the Tour of the Basque country. Undaunted, we muffled up and rode out, heading due north. I hadn’t been riding for long when my bike went “kerrching”. Never good news. I stopped to discover I had broken a spoke on my rear wheel. Initially, I wasn’t too concerned. Every small town here has a bike shop. Surely, someone would be able to fix it?
A quick search on the internet revealed a large bike shop on the outskirts of Bilbao which we could visit en route to the following day’s stage, finishing and starting in Guenes, 20km south-west of Bilbao. The shop took the wheel and suggested I call back later.
My beloved elected to ride some of the day’s course while I spent an enjoyable day bombing around the Basque countryside, in the warm sunshine, in the company of my friends, Dom and Susi, who were taking photos for Cyclingnews.
At the stage’s conclusion, we headed back to the bike shop. They hadn’t managed to find the requisite parts but suggested I leave it in their tender care for another day. I was happy to do so though rather chafing at the bit to get back into the saddle.
I rang the shop the following morning and they confirmed it would be ready for collection that evening after stage two’s conclusion in Vitoria-Gasteiz. This is a place I’d seriously underrated on my last visit there during the Vuelta. The stage had finished on the town’s outskirts, today we saw its delightfully charming old town. When we returned to the bike shop, it was to bad news. They’d been unable to source replacement spokes for my Campagnolo wheel.
Undeterred, I decided I would have a chat with the men from Mavic (race support crew) the following morning. It just so happened that I’d previously met one of the Mavic guys at Paris-Nice. I turned to him for some words of wisdom before the start of stage three. He basically told me that the wheels were a bugger to fix and he couldn’t help me. I’m assuming that’s a technical term. He advised I carried spares in future – noted.
I then turned to see which of the ProTour teams were sporting similar wheels. A couple of the guys at Movistar had the same model but in view of the fact they were fiddly to fit, and knowing how hard the mechanics have to work, I decided not to ask. Though I did keep looking longingly at anyone who had a bike the same frame size as mine and my beloved had to keep admonishing me to step away.
In any event, it rained pretty much solidly for the last four days. So it’s doubtful I would have actually ridden even had I been able to fix the wheel. My beloved has been out most days, only to come back as mud-spattered as a cyclo-cross rider – thank heavens I bought plenty of kit with us. The washing machine will be going into overdrive on our return!
For my previews and reviews of both races head on over to VeloVoices.