In Bilbao, Spain, the Tour de France was in full swing, bringing with it a bustling atmosphere of cycling teams, media, publicity, and security. The reigning champion, Jonas Vingegaard, was getting ready to kick off his title defense.
The 22 teams were given a warm welcome as they paraded through downtown Bilbao.
We began our journey in front of the iconic Guggenheim Museum, feeling the excitement in the air. The cyclists were getting ready, surrounded by dark clouds hanging low in the sky, and the unique hills in the distance.
Vingegaard, the Jumbo-Visma rider, expressed his positive emotions, stating, “I feel great, I feel prepared, and I’m exactly where I want to be.”
Vingegaard expressed his readiness to reignite his rivalry with Tadej Pogacar, a two-time champion. He dismissed the idea that Pogacar’s wrist injury from April would hinder him and even laughed it off.
The Dane said, “I anticipate him to attack right from the beginning, just like he did last year, and I’ll be there to support him.”
You could say that as the champion, I’m the one being pursued, but trust me, I’ll also be on the hunt.
The 110th edition of the event will be held in the Basque country, a region known for its love of cycling. The course is expected to be exciting and will span three days.
Stage 1 is a circuit that spans 182km and begins and ends in Bilbao. The route features continuous undulations throughout.
Julian Alaphilippe, a rider from France, mentioned that the start of the race in the Basque Country is quite intense. The riders who aim to win the race will not have any opportunity to relax. Alaphilippe, known for his aggressive riding style, believes that Saturday’s opening stage could be appealing to riders like him.
Keep an eye out for Jumbo’s Wout van Aert on the first day. He’s definitely a rider worth watching.
The race I’m about to participate in is considered the biggest in the world. I’m really looking forward to getting off to a great start because I know how amazing it feels.
In Bilbao, you’ll find buses adorned with Tour de France images and plenty of local police officers sporting the iconic red berets of the region.
During Thursday’s reception, the riders got a glimpse of what they can expect while cycling through this renowned area.
According to tour director Christian Prudhomme, the region is often referred to as “the yellow jersey of spectators.”
When asked about his feelings before the race, Mikel Landa, a local rider from the Bahrain Victorious team who grew up speaking Basque, had a big smile on his face.
Landa, who came in fourth place in the 2021 Tour and has a chance to compete again this year, mentioned that there are seven riders from our region. The Basque people have an immense enthusiasm and love for cycling.
Pello Bilbao, a teammate of his from the Basque town of Guernica, mentioned that he, Landa, and the rest of the Bahrain Victorious riders are determined to pay tribute to Gino Maeder. Sadly, Maeder passed away at the age of 26 after a fall during the Tour of Switzerland a few weeks ago.
He said that we’ll be riding every day in memory of Gino, his former teammate from Switzerland.
The Tour also includes a visit to the nearby coastal city of San Sebastian. San Sebastian had the honor of hosting the Grand Depart of the 1992 Tour.
On Sunday, the second stage of the race will begin in the town of Vitoria and end in San Sebastian. Then, for the third stage, the race will start in Amorebieta-Etxano and take the cyclists out of the Spanish Basque Country and into France, finishing in Bayonne. This stage will cover a mostly flat distance of 185km.