Barcelona, Grand Départ of the 2026 Tour de France. 'X'@LeTour

First it was San Sebastian, then Bilbao and now Barcelona. The Tour de France will start in Spain for the third time in 2026. It will be the 113th edition of the Grand Boucle. Catalonia will host two complete stages and the start of the third stage towards France.

Last Tuesday, the Tour de France announced that the 2026 edition will start in Barcelona. It will be the fourth Grand Depart abroad in five editions: Copenhagenin 2022, Bilbao in 2023 and the upcoming 2024 edition, which will start in Florence on 21 July. The French race is becoming more international than ever, and this time it has chosen Barcelona, "a city of prestige and a city of sport," Prudhomme told AFP. The 113th edition of the Tour will be held in Barcelona.

The 2026 Grand Depart in Barcelona will be the third time in more than a century that the world's premier 21-day race has started in Spain. The first time was in 1992, the year Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games. That edition of the Tour started in San Sebastian with an individual prologue to open the race. 

The winner was Miguel Indurain (Banesto). He was defending the title he had won in 1991. It was the Spanish rider's first victory. In 1992, he won the first stage in San Sebastián and the general classification. This was his second Tour de France. He would go on to win three more editions. This edition was spectacular because Indurain was the best cyclist in the world and the Tour started just 100 kilometres from his home in Villaba (Navarra).

The next edition to start in Spain was the most recent, in 2023, which started in Bilbao. The finish of the first stage was unique. The finish line was very close to the Guggenheim Museum and there was a breakaway by the brothers Simon and Adam Yates. It was a truly remarkable event. The Basque fans fully embraced the race and gave it a unique atmosphere.

And now Barcelona, with its fans and its passion for sport. The mayor of Barcelona, Jaume Collboni, was present at the announcement. The city hopes to inaugurate the renovated Sagrada Familia Cathedral, designed and decorated by Gaudi, in 2026.

ASO director Christian Prudhomme insisted that the Tour would always respect its roots and visit smaller towns and villages. But he said he was delighted with the 2026 venue. Few details were announced by ASO, although it was made clear that two full stages would take place in Catalonia and the third stage would also start there before crossing into France.

Miguel Indurain wore the yellow jersey at the start of the Tour in San Sebastian in 1992. GETTY IMAGES
Miguel Indurain wore the yellow jersey at the start of the Tour in San Sebastian in 1992. GETTY IMAGES

He was enthusiastic about the platform a city like Barcelona would provide to build up to the so-called Grand Depart as regards the global television audience. "These kinds of Grand Departs make the Tour de France shine even brighter," said the man who has built up the Tour's brand in recent years.

Next year's Tour will start in the northern French city of Lille. It will be the only time in the last five editions that it has started on French soil. The Grand Boucle has also had to change its usual route this year. It will finish in Nice on 21 July due to the preparations for the Olympic Games in Paris. The Tour will end on 21 July and just five days later, on 26 July, the Paris 2024 Games will begin. France will be the epicentre of the sporting world.

The practice of starting outside one's own country is not new. It is a strategy that has been used by the Grand Tours. In 2022, the Giro in Hungary, the Tour in Denmark and the Vuelta a Espana in the Netherlands will all start abroad. The Vuelta a Espana, which has started abroad on four occasions, is already scheduled to start in Monaco in 2026. The Piedmont region is in talks to host the race in 2025.