Missing the action again

With my beloved enjoying semi-retirement, I had hoped that we might finally be heading back to the Tour of the Basque Country aka Itzulia. Sadly it appears negotiations on two of his projects are in a critical phase……maybe next year.

I’ve been saying that for the past few years.

So let’s have a look at what I’ll be missing. Taking place this week (3-8 April), the 62nd edition of this World Tour race will finish in Eibar, 2023’s European City of Sport,  after crossing (in order) Alava, Navarre, Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia. Typically the race concludes with an individual time-trial but not this year which makes the general classification much more open. GC riders will be scrapping for bonus seconds.

It’s always a lumpy race, providing the professional peloton with the chops to tackle the upcoming Ardennes Classics or the Giro d’Italia. This year’s no exception and will include 26 scoring mountain passes: 3 will be category 1, 7 will be category 2, and 16 will be category 3. But realistically there’s very little flat in the Basque Country – I speak from bitter experience.

Let’s have a look at the stage starts and finishes which I can see have been chosen to celebrate the region’s rich culture and heritage.

La Itzulia presenta el recorrido completo de la edición de 2023


The first undulating stage begins in the capital Vitoria Gasteiz but probably not in the beautiful historic centre. The peloton generally sets off from a sports ground just outside the city.  The climb to the Opakua pass, which will decide the first mountain jersey, occurs too early to be decisive. From this point the race follows narrow, winding roads, passing Laguardia  which I visited in 2018,  until it reaches the slight uphill sprint into Labastida.

Labastida located between the River Ebro and the Sierra de Toloño mountain range, and only 30 km south of  Vitoria-Gasteiz. It dates back to pre-historic times largely because it occupies an important position close to the river and at a junction on routes between Burgos, Pamplona and the Basque coast. In 16th century the town was very prosperous and consequently a large number of palaces were constructed in the Calle Mayor, as well as the  classical church, Our Lady of the Assumption, decorated in an opulent Baroque style. It’s clearly a beautiful medieval town with a wealth of heritage.

Stage 2: VIANA-LEITZA 193.80 km

The longest stage of this year’s Itzulia, the first part of which passes through the finish in Leitza, is ideal for a breakaway. The second part of the stage includes a circuit, where those fighting for the GC will need to be at the front of the bunch, as its winding roads and the weather could be decisive due to its long downhills.

Viana was founded in 1219 by King Sancho el Fuerte, in order to defend Navarre from the powerful neighboring kingdom of Castile. It was always a walled city a stone’s throw or catapult from the city of Logroño and suffered many sieges. Viana has preserved the historic centre of what was once a walled city. The Church of Santa María was declared a national monument in 1931 and has an interesting Renaissance facade and a superb 13th century Gothic interior.

Leitza is a rural community surrounded by mountains, ideal for cycling.  Farmhouses nestle in green meadows full of grazing sheep and cattle, together with carefully-tended market gardens, fast-flowing rivers and dense forests. Towering over the pretty old quarter is the church of San Miguel whose streets are lined with large gable-roofed houses. It’s very picturesque and understandably popular with photographers.


A stage with a predictably very fast start covering a large part of the Gipuzkoa coast, starting at Amasa-Villabona with a particularly leg-breaking circuit on narrow roads with ups and downs creating lots of tension in the peloton as the leaders position themselves at the head of the stage. The last kilometre will be particularly explosive and hard until the riders reach Hika.

Errenteria was founded in 1320, during the reign of Alfonso XI of Castile, with the name of Villanueva de Oiarso or Oyarço. It soon started to be known as La Rentería  because it hosted the office where iron export taxes were collected. The Basque form Errenteria started to appear towards the end of 16th century. In 1998, the town hall decided to use Errenteria as the only official name.

Amasa-Villabona is a village located in the Oria Valley, in the foothills of Mount Gazume and Mount Uzturre, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from San Sebastián. The village originally grew around the Amasa Quarter, in Amasa-Villabona’s highest area. In 1619, both settlements set up a joint town council. The Parish Church of San Martín de Tours stands in Amasa. This church, built between the 16th and 18th centuries, has an interesting high altarpiece. Close by is the Hermitage of Santa Cruz, the first parish of the area.

Stage 4: SANTURTZI-SANTURTZI 175.70 km

A typical Itzulia stage with many uphill and downhill sections conducive to breakaways, entering the final part with the Asturiana pass and the subsequent descent from the Arboleda which, as in previous years, could be decisive.

Santurtzi is a port town in the Bilbao Abra bay, near the mouth of the Nervión river, on its left bank, 14 km downriver from Bilbao. According to legend, the town grew up around the church of St. George which was originally founded as a monastery by English monks fleeing from religious persecution.


A complicated stage and a good opportunity for team managers to position their riders and where, despite there being no significant mountain passes up to Paresi, the race will traverse ideal terrain for testing finishing strategies, entering a circuit in which being at the front could be key to the general classification.

Amorebieta-Etxano is an inland town,  about 25 km (16 miles) east of Bilbao, located in the valley of the River Ibaizabal. The town is situated among rugged mountains and has a rich historical heritage. The church of Santa María de la Asunción, in the centre of Amorebieta, is a large Renaissance building started in 1555 and opened for worship in 1608 and is noted for its altarpiece. Another Renaissance church is the Parroquia de San Juan Bautista de Larrea. which dates back to 17th century and was previously a convent for the Carmelite Order.

Stage 6: EIBAR-EIBAR 137.80 km

The final stage of Itzulia is a demanding one from the outset, where the main protagonists of the day will be the riders competing for the general classification. And where, as in previous editions, a great teamwork will be very important to ensure control.

Eibar lies in a narrow valley in a mountainous area, traversed by the river Ego.The city was chartered by Alfonso XI of Castile in 1346. Eibar, like the rest of settlements in the valley, had an industry based on finery forges and the manufacture of arms. In the Spanish Civil War, Eibar was practically destroyed by Italian bombers aiding the Fascist. The rebuilding brought important industrial development and a demographic increase.  Among the city’s architectural heritage is the church of San Andres, which dates from 16th century and accommodates a Renaissance altarpiece; Unzueta Tower-house; Markeskua Palace; and the Town Hall.

Eibar is home to football team SD Eibar, which earned promotion to La Liga in the 2013-14 season. After seven seasons in the top division, it was relegated to Segunda División in the 2021–21 season.

I may not be there in person but I shall be there in spirit, watching every stage on Basque television.

13 Comments on “Missing the action again

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