Itzulia Basque Country 2023 (April 3-8)

“I like to inhale cannabis in every single climb of this race. Pais vasco.” – Philippe Gilbert, 10 years ago to the day on Sunday

In unrelated news, there are no less than 46 climbs in this race of which I have a profile. Stonewall takes on a different meaning in the Basque Country.

Despite this, it’s not that hard of an edition – relatively speaking, at least. Two fairly easy stages, one descent finish that didn’t do too much for GC in 2021, two Ardennes-style stages, and then the queen stage on the final day. The latter is around Arrate, as always, but finishes in the valley below, in Eibar, this time.

Notice anything missing? That’s right, the ITT is gone, in a major break with tradition.

What hasn’t changed is the quality of the competition. Martínez starts his title defence as a rank outsider, in a field headlined by Vingegaard and also containing (as per the provisional startlist) Bilbao, Mas, Gaudu, Landa, Skjelmose, Carapaz, Higuita, Bernal, Rodríguez and, finally starting his season, Ayuso.

Full startlist

The route

Stage 1: Vitoria-Gasteiz – Labastida, 175.4k
The weakest opening stage I can remember in this race. Probably a sprint, although there are a few hills to contend with.

Just the one categorised climb, and it’s really early. Probably the main target of the race for the Spanish wildcard teams.

The rest of the day consists of a rolling trek into the wine territories of southern Álava and northern La Rioja (the latter, for the record, isn’t actually Basque). Nothing too difficult, but there are still a few potential launchpads. The most interesting climb is the one just after Elciego, Alto de Misamayor, but there are still 30 kilometres to go from here.

There’s a final, easier hill to the intermediate sprint in Laguardia, where Roglič won a Vuelta stage last year. To note here: there are bonus seconds on offer at the intermediates (and at the finish).

The 20 kilometres from there to the line are mostly flat or slightly downhill. The final kilometres do contain some ramps. With a lack of real sprint trains, finisseur moves may have a chance here.

Stage 2: Viana – Leitza, 193.8k
The longest stage of the race is definitely not the most selective one. While the finale is harder than that of the previous stage, another – reduced – bunch sprint is certainly possible here.

The first half of the stage is flat by Basque standards, except for the fairly easy climb to Etxauri.

The second half of the stage features three climbs that chain directly into each other, starting with Uitzi.

The descent takes the riders through the finish line in Leitza, from the ‘wrong’ side, and immediately onto the next climb, Arkiskil.

This backs onto what is easily the hardest climb of the day, to Saldias.

There’s a flat loop through the Ezkurra valley before the riders head back up to Arkiskil, the final climb of the day. This is a different side than the one seen previously: long, but also very shallow for the most part.

The final kilometres look quite sketchy. The descent to the finish line is the side of Arkiskil that was climbed earlier in the stage: not particularly steep, but certainly not untechnical either. It lasts well past the flamme rouge, then there’s a roundabout in the final 150 metres.
Last edited:
Stage 3: Errenteria – Amasa-Villabona (Hika), 153.9k
The first GC-relevant day. The hills may be short, but they are also both plentiful and steep, with a Puritotastic finish. It could be a great stage, it could also be a waiting game for said finish.

After a flat opening third, the climbing starts with two straightforward ascents: Meagas and Andazarrate.


From here, the riders descend into the finish town of Villabona, but there’s still a lot of climbing to do. In fact, the next climb, though uncategorised, is the hardest of the day. This side of Goiballara is very narrow, very steep, and mostly on hormigón. In other words, welcome to the Basque country.

This is where the new climb has been added, it's the final ~3.1k of the profile below, from the marked junction onwards. Unfortunately this post was already at the image limit, I've put a climb profile further on in a link.

After a steep descent and a valley section, the next climb, Altzo, starts.

The next climb, Orendain, follows shortly after.

Its descent backs directly into a different side of Altzo, the final categorised climb of the day, yet anything but the final obstacle to deal with.

From here, they repeat a bit of route in the opposite direction, descending the side of Altzo climbed earlier and back through the valley and onto Goiballara, almost as steep from this side but not as narrow.

Here, a different the same road is used for the descent. The next two hills are the final ones except for those to the finish, they formed the finale in the 2021 edition of Aiztondo Klasikoa, a Spanish national race. Both Zizurkil Gaina and Aduna are a bit easier than their predecessor but still steep, this is a lovely sequence. There is an intermediate sprint atop the latter of the two hills.


The finishing town, Villabona, is a stone’s throw away from here, and is the next port of call. This would have been a brilliant finale, but the finish is a kilometre further, at the Hika winery. It is located atop a hill, and the road here becomes leg-breaking in the final 200 metres as it reaches 26%. I’m really not sure if it ruins or improves the stage, but even if the former, there will be gaps.

Stage 4: Santurtzi – Santurtzi, 175.7k
A descent finish off La Asturiana, just like in 2021, but without a punchy climb to the line. That stage saw Astana finishing first and second, somehow I doubt we’ll get a repeat.

Lots of little climbs earlier on in this stage, starting with the tricky Malkuartu.

From here, the riders head to the Bizkaian exclave of Orduña, where they turn back north onto two hills. Neither Campa Hafade nor Peña Oloran hands out any mountain points, even though the former was categorised in the 2019 edition

(the profile below in this link only as far as the junction to Belandia)

The next climb, Santa Koloma, has average gradients for a Basque climb, in other words, just regular steep.

The uncategorised climb to Avellaneda is the main feature of the hilly terrain between it and the next categorised climb, Bezi.


From here, the roads become flatter as the race heads back to the coast for a lap through Santurtzi, passing through the finish from the opposite side. Then, the main feature of the day starts, in the form of the climb to La Asturiana.

Its descent is reasonably technical: Aranburu made the winning move here, while Fraile held off Pogačar for second in the sprint of the elites behind. This time, the finish isn’t uphill, although there is a little kicker at 2 kilometres to go, from where it’s a false flat downhill all the way to the line. The finish is pretty much as close to the final corner as physically possible.
Last edited:
Stage 5: Amorebieta-Etxano – Amorebieta-Etxano, 165.9k
A stage that is remarkably similar to the one two days before it, only with a flat finish rather than a gruelling ramp. GC action or calm before the inevitable storm?

The climbing starts early on this stage, with Monte Kalbo in a key position for the forming of the breakaway.

From here, it’s a relatively easy trek to the coast, which is followed to the west over the stingy climb to Natxitua.

As the riders turn away from the coast, they face an uncategorised climb to Ereño.

The next climb, to Paresi, is the hardest of the day.

It is followed by three uncategorised hills: Jainko-Oleaga, Rigoitia and Aretxabalagane.



The next climb, Belarrinaga, is the final categorised one, but much like on stage 3, there is much more to come, starting immediately after with 530 brutally steep metres to Boroa.


After a flattish section through Amorebieta, we reach the antipenultimate hill, Arrinda, with a brutally steep start and the summit at just 10 kilometres from the line.

It backs immediately into the climb to Arriandi.

This is then followed by the climb into Katia. It is the first half of the climb to Autzagana, of which all profiles to be found online are outdated following the conversion of the road to an expressway. The route follows the new service road, which is surprisingly steep early on due to the need to detour around a gas station.

The descent lasts until 1.5 kilometres to go.
Stage 6: Eibar – Eibar, 137.8k
The final stage, all on familiar roads, but with a revamped route that seems intended to make the finale start even earlier. Even if the GC is close, the last hard climb coming with 26.8k to go should force attacking racing.

Not really much to talk about here, it’s mostly familiar terrain, save for the two hills between the descent of Trabakua and Eibar. For comparison, last year’s finale was Krabelin – Urkaregi – Izua – onward to Arrate.






San Pedro (first hill after Trabakua):

Alto de Areitio (second hill after Trabakua; only the section from Mallabia to Alto de Areitio, which is 1k at 7.5% as per the APM description):

Izua (preceded as always by the ramp from the town to the ring road, which is not on the profile):


Final kilometres:
That route looks... like a total walk in the park until stage 6.

It's not hard enough IMO, i.e. I don't think we're even going to get a good idea of where Vingegaard is in terms of level, not until the final stage anyway. It's not a bunch of Cat 2's & 3's which are going to create GC gaps.
The official profiles make it look that way, but stage 3 and stage are harder than they look, there are multiple muritos hidden on those 2 stages

That route looks... like a total walk in the park until stage 6.

It's not hard enough IMO, i.e. I don't think we're even going to get a good idea of where Vingegaard is in terms of level, not until the final stage anyway. It's not a bunch of Cat 2's & 3's which are going to create GC gaps.

Agreed regarding the route remarks. As for Vinge, it's too early anyway. Dauphine is the place where first glimpses of the monster should appear.
  • Like
Reactions: Sandisfan
I like the route. Especially stage 5 and that Arrate/Ixua is not a MTF. But it would perhaps been better if they used the very steep southern side of Arrate and had a shorter distance to the stage finish than the 28 km is this version.
  • Like
Reactions: Sandisfan
The official profiles make it look that way, but stage 3 and stage are harder than they look, there are multiple muritos hidden on those 2 stages


Maybe you're right (let's hope so anyway...) but stage profile graphics can be decidedly 'fake news-esque' in the opposite direction from the moment cols & muritos which would be displayed as slight bumps on the road on a real mountain stage profile get these spectacular Himalayas style peaks when they're the only climbs on the stage. So on paper at first glance they look way more selective than they really are.


then Vingegard

This is legitimately hilarious in terms of Vinge lookalikes. Well done (FYI that's Charlie Watts, aka Rolling Stones drummer).
Aug 12, 2022
I'm very excited to see how the race will develop. There are a lot of strong climbers at the start, but the profile of the stages doesn't quite suit most of them. I could well imagine an "outsider" with the appropriate punch winning, or a good quality outlier from stage 1 or 2 who manages to defend his lead.