Cycling is one of the most popular sports, both spectator and participation, in the Basque Country and one of its most successful and renowned  exponents is Joane Somarriba Arrola. Born in Gernika on August 11, 1972, she faced a tough start to her cycling career. While preparing to take part in the summer Olympics in Barcelona in 1992, she suffered complications from minor surgery, resulting in her missing the games and putting her budding career on hold. She fought back to fitness and was competing on the pro-circuit by the mid-1990s.

At the end of that decade she really hit her golden period, winning the Giro d’Italia (now known as the Giro Rosa), Italy’s premier road race, in 1999 and 2000, as well as the famed Tour de France in 2000, 2001, and 2003. Moreover, in 2003 she also won the World Time Trial Championship. She brought her illustrious career to a close in 2005 by winning the Trophée d’Or Féminin in France, one of the principal women’s stage races.

She was named best athlete of the year in Spain in 2003, and she was also honored with the Universal Basque Award in 2004, one of the most prestigious honors for Basque people, for her contributions to gender equality in Basque sports and for raising awareness of the Basque Country abroad.

If you’re interested in the topic of Basque sports, check out the CBS Press publication Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi, also available free to download here.