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May 31. The date of the Haimar Zubeldia Klasikoa. The oldest cycling tour in Guipúzkoa, 36 editions old, starting and finishing in Zarautz. A beautiful, challenging 150 kilometres, along the Valle de Urola and Goierri, returning along the coast.
“It is a gentle start, eventually heading inland. Then, in the valleys, the road rises and falls and that takes its toll, for sure. We could have taken a route across the plain, but the chance to ride those climbs was more attractive, before returning to the coast and ending where we started a few hours earlier,” describes Haimar.
“It is a ride that has a simple first hour. About 30 kilometres, seeing the sea and gradually gaining height to the Tolosa Valley. Then, a continuous rise and fall before returning to the coast road via Mandubia and Etumeta.”
The roads of Haimar Zubeldia.
In total, 150 kilometres, with a tough 2500 metres of ascent. A test, for everyone.
Haimar speaks of “The landscapes through which I trained as a professional, roads I know to perfection.”
ERREZIL (13.4km – 3.5%)
For instance, the first big climb of the day, Errezil, was Haimar’s thermometer, the way he guaged his shape, season after season. “It is possibly the port I have climbed the most; countless times,” he admits. “It is not very hard, its gradient is between 6 and 8%, and it rewards your effort with the landscape. It is very beautiful, especially the forest in the final kilometres
Un sitio por el que ha pasado en innumerables ocasiones: “I had it an hour’s ride from home, so I arrived at its base with the ‘engine’ already warm, ready to push myself to the maximum.”
ALTZO (1.9km – 6.5%) , LARRAITZ (5.5km – 4.2%), LAZKAOMENDI (2.4km – 11.6%) AND OLABERRIA (1.4km – 8.4%)
From the top of Errezil you pass into an area notable for the constant changes of gradient, climb after climb, without respite: Altzo, Larraitz, Lazkaomendi and Olaberria.
Of the four climbs, two are violent and short. “Places to try,” says Haimar. “Between Altzo and the start of Larraitz there are a couple of kilometers of flat, the other two ascents, however, arrive without warning, without transition. The Lazkaomendi, for example, starts as you leave a town, with an unexpected turn. It is short but hard, one of those places where you like to test what form you have.”
MANDUBIA (8.4km – 4%)
After the string of climbs through the valley, Mandubia arrives. “It is an ascent similar to Errezil, more tended, although in this case you are always in a forest that opens at the top. It has views of the dam on the right side, ideal to enjoy the ride and the landscape.”
ETUMETA (7.3km – 5.8%)
Earlier, in Larraitz, you will have gone through the first feed zone, the second will be at the foot of Etumeta, with almost three quarters of the route completed. Etumeta is the turning point, the climb whose summit allows the rider to see the sea once more. “The start is at a point that we have already passed in the first hour of the ride. It is a very narrow road, a car’s width at most, that climbs through a forest. It is usually the point on the ride where people will push themselves, knowing that what is left is easier.”
And it is, because the descent leads to a final stretch that retraces the route along the coast, between Zumaia and Zarauz, with the riders enjoying the twisting ribbon of tarmac, hugging the coastline as the waves break on the shore.
The third and final feed station is always the most desired: Sausages, croquettes and other delicacies that taste like glory after hours of effort. A watered glory – it could not be otherwise, after all – by txakolí and cider.
“”Everyone can relax, park their bicycles and share their war stories of the day,” says Haimar.
Zarautz and Haimar Zubeldia
Haimar’s link with Zarauz and its people is well established. “I am from Usurbil, about 15 kilometres away, but I lived in Zarauz 20 years ago and I still have many friends here.”
Among them, the members of the Zarauzko Zikloturista Elkartea, the Zarauz cycling club that, in 2017, a couple of months before his retirement, proposed a tribute in the form of a ride the following year.
And so the veteran of Euskaltel, Astana and Trek put his name to an event that attracts some 700 riders, a manageable number because “We must keep in mind the type of roads we use and the fact the club is not dedicated exclusively to this. We have to limit the numbers.”
A stated objective of Haimar’s is to attract more female riders, but it is not simple. “For traffic reasons we can only have one route for everyone and we do not have a shorter one,” he says.
A jersey that makes you visible on the road
This year’s specially made Etxeondo jersey will be orange, with black sleeves. Its objective? “To be more visible on the road,” says Haimar. “In fact, every year we link the colour of the jersey to an objective related to cycling. Last year it was blue and had an ecological pocket, in which the cyclists could carry their used food wrappers without throwing them in the gutter.”
This May, Haimar will once again feel the warmth and affection of the people of Zarauz and the region’s cycling fans on the ride that was once the famous Zarauz-Gernika-Zarauz, and, for a time, the Memorial Pedro Larrañaga, a tribute to a member of the club who died during the 1987 edition.
An exploration of the unique landscapes that shaped one of the best Basque cyclists of the 21st century.