Baku, October 9, AZERTAC
The Tour de France is set to start in the Basque Country in 2023, with a final agreement between the Basque government and race organizers ASO said to be close, according to cyclingnews.com.
Meetings were held on Monday between representatives from different departments of the Basque region, which spans Spain and France.
In a subsequent press conference, Jean-René Etchegaray, president of the French Basque Country and mayor of Bayonne, seemingly confirmed the plans.
"Thanks to you, the Grand Départ of the Tour de France will be celebrated here," he said, according to Spanish media reports.
The president of the Basque autonomous community in Spain, Iñigo Urkullu, was less forthright, saying the discussions were still in their "initial stages". However, he did confirm that all parties were working towards hosting the Grand Départ in 2023.
"It's still to be decided the concrete location of the start and then the following stages in the area," he said.
The Tour de France started in Brussels, Belgium, this year, and will start on French soil in Nice next year ahead of another foreign Grand Départ in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2021.
The Tour last visited the Basque Country in 2018 for a penultimate-day time trial on the French side. It first visited in 1906 in what was the fourth edition of the race, with a stage finish in Bayonne, which went on to host another 29 stages. In 1992, San Sebastián in Spain hosted the Grand Départ with a prologue and road stage before the race headed to Pau in France on the third day.
According to Spanish media reports, Bilbao, the capital of the Basque autonomous community in Spain, is the most likely hub for the 2023 Grand Départ. The city has been keen to invest in sport in recent years, being one of the host venues for the Basketball World Championship in 2014, staging the rugby European Cup final last year, and being confirmed as the Spanish venue for football's Euro 2020.
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