|I could eat these all day!|
|First beer in Ajaccio waiting for the van|
|Time to chill before we bust our butts on the bike|
|Shot from our room looking to the "Med"|
|Lunch doesn't get much better than this|
|Our general route for the next 14 days|
SEPTEMBER 4- Porticcio>Tassinca>Col de Gradello
Today we headed out for our first look on the roads of Corsica. Heading south on coastal Hwy D55 passing beach after beach of crystal blue water. It's the clearest I've ever seen anywhere in the world. As we climbed from small villages on the coast the views up above were gorgeous. The terrain reminded us a lot of southern CA or even Mexico.
|Acqua Doria lookout with Ajaccio in the background|
|A welcome lunch spot at the summit of the Col de Gradello after climbing over 3,000 feet|
|Plat de jour- stuffed squash and tomato with sausage on "riz"|
Today is the official first day of the tour. Our group numbers 26 riders, three of which are tandems. We leave the picturesque coast for the inland mountains. We climbed the other side of the col de grandello across more scub like mountain ranges to St. Marie Sicche. Here we began to see pines and a real mountain feel. The final climb to the small village of Zicavo (famous for its salami and sausage) was really steep and we were ready for a rest after 51 miles and 5174 feet climbed.
|A forest of cork/oak trees. They are only found in Corsica in the south.|
|Potty stop views don't get much better than this, up the col de Cortone|
|The two Marks and Jenny taking a "col" break|
|The village of Zicavo, a welcome sight after a day of climbing|
|Rest stop above the village of Cozzano|
|Foret de San Antoine, St. Pietro e Verde|
|One of the most dramatic descents of the trip|
|More mountain ranges as we head east|
|Midway up the col d' Ominanda looking back to Corte|
|Climbing away on the Scala di St. Regina|
|Foret de Valdu Niellu- lots of pigs in here!|
|The captain in Porto|
|Porto looking back to the mountains that we descended coming to town|
|Our first pizza in Porto|
|Dramatic coastline and a storm on its way|
|Incredible view and water on the road to Galeria|
Another picture perfect day leaving Calvi. This would be a day of incredible varied terrain from ocean roads to the "desert". We quickly began climbing to the small village of Montegrosso. It was steeper than we thought, close to 15% in some sections. We proceeded to work our way northeast through tiny inland roads to Belgodere then decided to take the long route through Novella. Our tandem partners Alan and Lisa joined us. The area around Novella was something out of the AZ desert. Not much but cows and scrub trees. This big "U" turn took us back to the main hwy D81. Our last climb, the Bocca di Vezzu was our strongest effort of the trip. It was a beautiful ridge road that wound its way to the final 40 mph descent into St. Florent and a two day rest for us. We were ready. Daily stats- 71 miles, 4725 feet climbed.
|Montegrosso looking back to Calvi|
|An interesting sight at 40 mph|
|Ridge road on the final leg to St. Florent|
|Our beach front hotel in St. Florent|
We decided to actually take a rest day on the 10th. St. Florent was a bustling little town full of restaurants and toursity things to do. We walked to town from our hotel which turned out to be quite a little jaunt. I think it did our legs good to do something other than cycling. I sampled the mussels for lunch and was happy.That night we found a cool restaurant right on the water below the Citadel. Their specialty was "feu de bois", "wood fired" grilled fish.
|Octopus salad, really good.|
|The wood fired grill. Check out the size of the logs.|
|One of the favorites, chevre chaud, warm goat cheese salad|
|A fun little store with some great salami, coppa, and proscuito|
|Col de Teghime, beautiful climb|
|Summit looking back to St. Florent|
|Tomato and mozzarella salad, one of the best on the trip|
|Prosciutto salad. Not bad for a pool club!|
Today we head back inland through more narrow roads (no guard rails here for the weak at heart) with some outrageous descents (Col de Bigorno) as you will see from the pictures below. This day was very much the essence of "wild" Corsica and confirmed this was no ordinary bike trip. Today's stats, 57 miles, 5892 feet climbed.
|All smiles before we take off in St. Florent|
|Wicked descent. The crazy tandem descenders |
taking a break to wait for the others
|Rough road but what a blast|
|My favorite descent shot just passing the "sisters"|
|Looking out from the deck of our hotel in Piedcrocce|
Today we would circle back to Corte. It was only 13 miles as the crow flies but our route took us 48 miles and 4416 feet climbed. We are still kicking ourselves for not stopping in to visit Orezza where they make the refreshing sparkling water we drank EVERYDAY. Make sure you never ask for Perrier in Corsica, it must be Orezza. We crossed a number of mountains to find ourselves back in familiar territory in Corte. After a great lunch in town we made our way to the hotel where I had new found energy and took our friend Jenny's single bike solo up the Gorge du Tavignano, 8.8 miles and 2,936 feet. A great ride on Jenny's new DeSalvo Ti S&S bike. This was one of the biggest day's I have ever done totaling 57 miles and over 7,000 feet climbed.
|Just down the road from our hotel, the oldest structure in Corsica dating to the 1400's|
|The mothership as we would be named with her child before lunch|
|Carbo and rose loading for the upcoming ride up the gorge|
SEPTEMBER 14- Corte to Solenzara
Today we would ride to the east cost town of Solenzara. We decided to take the long route to avoid to big highway and soak in as much mountain scenery as possible knowing we are nearing the end of the trip. These roads were really off the beaten path as we slowly made our way down to sea level. The east coast terrain was vastly different than the west. It was much flatter and no real mountains near by. Quite boring. It was a long day and we were the last to arrive in. Today's stats, 73 miles, 5,536 feet climbed.
|Hotel in Solenzara. We didn't see much of this town.|
|Long gradual climb up the Col de San Cervone|
|Not as many fountains in Corsica as mainland France|
|Chain got wedged sideways behind the cassette. Master Hayes came to the rescue.|
|A welcome lunch spot with some locals|
|Beware of the boar!|
|The ultimate refreshment on a hot day|
There was a lot of hype for today's ride. We would ascend the Col de Bavella, Corsica's biggest climb and a VERY popular tourist attraction. We climbed 4,000 vertical feet from the ocean to the top in 20 miles. The last five miles was an 8-12% grade, really tough. We compared this climb to our ascent up the col de Bonette, the highest paved pass in Europe, in 2008. We think this was harder. Once at the top we assumed it would be downhill all the way to the west coast town of Propriano. NOT!!! Glenn wound us around more mountains including a few dirt roads. A great adventure but we were beat at the end of the day. Thank goodness we would be staying at this hotel on beach for two nights. Today's stats, 56 miles and 6,594 feet climbed.
|Stunning mountains that lead to the summit of the Bavella|
|It was hard to believe there would be some 12% grades after riding this for miles|
SEPTEMBER 16-17- Propriano and the beach
We did nothing for the next two days but lay around the beach, eat and drink. It was well deserved. We did partake in a bit of culture by visiting Filitosa, the 8,000 year old stone structures. It was worth the trip just to say we had been there.
|A great deck right next to the ocean provided some great serenity|
|Maria and Master Mark at the Filitosa museum|
|One of the mysterious stone carvings|
Our last day riding was over some familiar ground as we retraced our steps in reverse from the very first warm-up day ride. It was only 30 miles and a sprint to the finish. That evening we enjoyed our last night at the beautiful Sofitel. The sunset tells the story. All in all a fabulous trip, 660 miles and 58,000 feet climbed. We discovered a country that had it all for the cyclist; mountains, oceans, climbs, descents, and perfect weather.