Tour of the Basque Country
|Region||Spanish Basque Country|
|English name||Tour of the Basque Country|
|Competition||UCI World Tour|
|Editions||57 (as of 2017)|
|First winner||Francis Pélissier (FRA)|
|Most recent||Alejandro Valverde (ESP)|
The Tour of the Basque Country (Spanish: Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco, Basque: Euskal Herriko Itzulia) is an annual cycling stage race held in the Spanish Basque Country in April. It is one of 24 races that make up the UCI World Ranking calendar.
Because the Basque Country is a mountainous area, there are few flat stages, and thus the event favors those who are strong climbers. Most ascents in the Tour are not particularly high by professional cycling standards, but are often quite steep.
The original Tour of the Basque Country had a troubled history, with 8 editions contested between 1924 and 1935, before the civil war seemingly wiped it out for good. In spite of its short tenure, it is mentioned and described in Ernest Hemingway's novel The Sun Also Rises.
In 1952, the Eibar Cycling Club (erstwhile backers of Spain's first national stage race, the pre-Vuelta a España Gran Premio República) launched a new 3-day event called Gran Premio de la Bicicleta Eibarresa to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Former French national champion Louis Caput took the inaugural edition.
In 1969, organizers opted to promote the race (by then 5 stages long) as IX Vuelta al País Vasco - XVIII Bicicleta Eibarresa, effectively merging the Bicicleta Eibarresa into a reborn Tour of the Basque Country. However, the palmares of the Bicicleta Eibarresa (featuring Vuelta a España winners Jesús Loroño and Rolf Wolfshohl) is not recognized as part of the Tour of the Basque Country's history. The Eibar Cycling Club would relinquish control of the competition following the 1973 edition, while retaining the rights to the Bicicleta Eibarresa name, which has sporadically been reactivated to help promote other, lower ranked events.
The first winner of the Tour of the Basque Country was Francis Pélissier from France, while the first winner of the 'modern' Tour (1969) was Jacques Anquetil, also of France. The most successful riders in the history of the Tour are Spain's José Antonio González, who won the race four times in 1972, 1975, 1977 and 1978, and Spain's Alberto Contador, who also won the race four times in 2008, 2009, 2014 and 2016.
The most recent edition (2017) was won by Spain's Alejandro Valverde.
The winner traditionally dons a basque beret on the podium.
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