The ikurriña to take to the streets of the Basque Country for the three days of the Tour
- Bingen Zupiria, Basque Government Minister for Culture and Language Policy and Spokesperson, this morning presented the activities organised as part of the Tour de France’s arrival in the Basque Country.
- The celebration will be marked by the start of the countdown to the 100 days, cycle rides and family cycling festivals in the three territories.
- The event brought together representatives of the Basque institutions involved in the project as well as cyclists with a close relationship with the French round, such as Marino Lejarreta, Roberto Laiseka and Eneritz Iturriaga, among others.
- The presentation served to call on Basque citizens to take the ikurriña to the streets and to spread the passion with which Basque fans have historically experienced the Pyrenean stages of the Tour de France to every corner of the Basque Country.
Azkuna Zentroa has become the epicentre of the Grand Départ Pays Basque 2023. And wherever there is cycling, there is an ikurriña. With the long-awaited arrival of the Tour de France in the Basque Country, the tradition will not only be maintained, but reinforced. The Basque Country’s support for cycling is unconditional, as is shown by the fact that every year the ikurriña colours the Pyrenees and other major mountain passes of the Tour de France. This year, the very roads, towns and cities of the Basque Country will sport the red, green and white of the thousands and thousands of fans who will take to the streets with their ikurriñas.
To celebrate this great event, the Grand Départ Pays Basque 2023 presented this morning in Azkuna Zentroa the schedule of milestones and activities that will be held in the coming months, until the first stage of the Tour de France starts on 1 July. In addition to a large representation of the heads of the seven institutions involved in the organisation of the great Basque Country start, the event was attended by former Basque cyclists with a very close relationship with the Tour de France. Among them, Marino Lejarreta, Roberto Laiseka and Eneritz Iturriaga. Three figures who have shone at the highest level and who have experienced first-hand the emotion of crossing a sea of ikurriñas, something that has left its mark on all of them. “We are pushing hard, there are many times when you go to the limit, but to see and feel the fans on the side of the road, cheering, as they open the corridor in front of you... The feeling is incredible” said Roberto Laiseka. “Basque fans and the ikurriña always end up showing up in the end. After flying it so many times in the Pyrenees, showing the pride of an entire country, now it is our turn to wear it at home. What better symbol than the ikurriña to show the whole world that feeling, that passion, that emotion with which we experience cycling in the Basque Country. Those of us who have been able to see the ikurriña from the bike know what we are talking about. There is no better energy boost than an ikurriña. So, this year, more than ever, it is our turn to take the ikurriña out onto our streets”, said Laiseka.
Marino Lejarreta said that “there is almost no need to encourage people to go out on the road, I am sure that the fans will respond, they have always done so, they are very loyal. Wherever we have gone as cyclists, any of us, whenever there was a Basque rider there was always an ikurriña. These days of the Tour in the Basque Country will not fail. It is ours, it is everyone’s ikurriña. I encourage fans to take out their ikurriñas, not only on the road, but also on the balconies of our homes, anywhere where we can show what we are, the best cycling fans in the world”, said the Junco de Berriz.
For his part, Eneritz Iturriaga revealed that the ikurriña is “a symbol of a collective feeling, the only one that represents and unites all Basques.” “The Grand Départ Pays Basque will boast an emblem that perfectly reflects the values of Basque cycling fans and cycling in the Basque Country. The Basque Country is unique, its flag is unique, just like its cycling fans,” stressed Iturriaga.
Prior to the statements by the former cyclists, Bingen Zupiria, Minister of Culture and Linguistic Policy and Spokesperson for the Basque Government, outlined the numerous and varied activities that will be taking place between now and when the best cyclists in the world cycling peloton pedal their way through the Basque Country on 1, 2 and 3 July. Zupiria was accompanied by representatives of each of the institutions involved in this great project, such as Xabier Ochandiano (Councillor for Economic Development, Commerce and Employment of the City Council of Bilbao), Cristina Múgica (Director General of Territorial Competitiveness and Tourism of the Provincial Council of Bizkaia), Martin Ibabe (Delegate Councillor for Sports, Citizen Safety and Civil Protection of the City Council of Donostia-SanSebastián) , Iker Goiria (Director of Tourism of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa), Livia López (Councillor-delegate of the Department of Sport and Health of the City Council of Vitoria-Gaseiz) and Jose Luis Cimiano (Director of Strategic Areas of the Provincial Council of Alava).
“The wide range of proposals aimed at all audiences is a true reflection of the desire for all citizens to feel that they are stakeholders and involved in one of the biggest shows in the world,” said the minister. On 22 March it will be installed and the following day the 100-day countdown will start with the classic Tissot clock in Bilbao, and from then on a cascade of events will begin. The yellow lighting of emblematic buildings in the three capitals will symbolically light the fuse that will glow until the professional peloton takes to the roads. Audiovisual shows in Vitoria-Gasteiz and the premiere of a giant jersey in Donostia / San Sebastián are some of the activities scheduled.
“The arrival of the Tour de France is a great opportunity to show the great passion that is felt in the Basque Country for cycling,” said Zupiria. One of the ways of showing this enthusiasm will be by cycling on our roads. The Grand Départ Pays Basque, as well as organising a replica of the first stage of the Tour with L’ÉTAPE BILBAO BY TOUR DE FRANCE (11 June), is also collaborating in the development of two special editions of two traditional cycle touring events in the Basque calendar, the Donostia-Baiona-Donostia (13 May) and the Vitoria Cycle Tour (24 June).
As explained by the Government spokesman, “the more family-oriented public will also have a host of activities. The BiziTour Jaiak, organised by the Basque Country Cycling Foundation, will be a highlight.” Donostia / San Sebastián (7 May), Vitoria-Gasteiz (4 June) and Bilbao (25 June) will each host a family bicycle festival. Short, low-mileage popular rides will be held to promote cycling culture and sustainable mobility in a fun and festive atmosphere. “In short, enjoying a pleasant day of sport and leisure with the family,” he summed up. In parallel, the Tour Eguna will continue to be held.
The week leading up to the start of the 110th edition of the Tour will be packed with major events with worldwide repercussions. “The Fan Park will be inaugurated on 29 June in the Paseo del Arenal area of Bilbao. An open space in which, from cycling in general and the Tour de France in particular, a wide variety of activities and proposals will take place. In short, a txirrindulari theme park that will extend along the quay and the Arenal promenade, with spaces, initiatives and performances to enjoy with the family, with friends... Admission will be free,” he explained.
On the same date, in the afternoon, it will be time for the Official Team Presentation of the 2023 Tour de France, a race that will be broadcast in almost 200 countries. “The event will take place in the extensive surroundings of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and is aimed at all audiences. A party where you will also be able to admire the great protagonists of the race,” he emphasised. On 30 June it will be time to take a break for the explosion that will take place over the next three days, with the stages of Bilbao - Bilbao (185 kms), Vitoria-Gasteiz - Donostia / San Sebastián (209 kms) and Amorebieta-Etxano - Baiona (185 kms).
After the minister’s speech, the video of the Grand Départ Pays Basque was shown, which gave goosebumps to all those present, including some of the biggest names in Basque cycling. The event was attended by a small representation of Basque cyclists with a very close relationship with the Tour de France. In addition to Marino Lejarreta (winner of a stage in 1990), Roberto Laiseka (winner of another stage in 2011) and Eneritz Iturriaga (competed in the 2000 edition of the women's Tour), other well-known Basque cycling figures such as David Etxebarria (won a double in 1999), Igor González de Galdeano (the last Basque txirrindulari to wear the much-prized yellow jersey, He did so during one week of the 2002 edition), Agurtzane Elorriaga (she took part in the 2000 women's Tour de France), David López (one of the few Basque cyclists to have won the Grande Boucle as a team-mate, Chris Froome's victory with Sky in 2013) and Igor Antón (he competed in the 2007, 2009 and 2013 editions of the Tour de France).