Life

Two Days Around L’île de beauté

Corsica, France

By: Billy Ceusters of Specialized Europe

The adventure began one evening around a few beers in a typical local bar. My friend Cyrille Vincenti and I love taking on new outdoor challenges. While drinking our beers we said to each other,

Oh, Fradé (brother)? Why not do the Tour of Corsica?

Why not? We knew it would be tough to find a complete week in June due to our crazy jobs. So how can we make it work? Let’s do it in two days! We picked the end of June and began to plan.

I was introduced to Corsica a few years ago when Cyrille, who is a native Corsican, and I did a ski touring adventure in the northern part of the island, the Alta Strada. I discovered a true natural paradise just one hour away from the French mainland, where the heritage is wonderfully well-protected. Very attached to its traditions and offering astonishing scenery and pleasant climate all year round, Corsica was a natural choice for our road journey. 

As Cyrille was born in Corsica and knows the island inside out, he worked on the best route: 620km (385 miles) and 7400m (24,280ft) of elevation in 2 days. I worked on the equipment choice. We opted for the new Specialized Roubaix: comfortable and efficient. Due to flat sections and super steep hills along the course, we also needed a wide range of gears. We picked the new SRAM Force eTap AXS™ groupset with a 48-35T chainring combo and a 10-33 cassette. And of course, disc brakes!

Day 1: Bastia to Ajaccio - 317km, 4,327m of elevation

5.30, June 24, 2019. The sun is just starting to rise, and it’s time to get on our bikes. Shortly after going out of Bastia, the second biggest city on the island, we ride to Cape Corsica on the northern tip. It’s a beautiful road flowing up the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and taking us from the east to the west coast of the island. For a while, we’re on the seaside with a magical view of the islets of Cape Corse. The sun is now starting to pass the horizon.

From Cap Corse, we go through Saint Florent and head to the Agriates Desert The temperatures are now approaching the 30°C (86°F) mark.  We go back to the seaside overlooking L’île Rousse. Before entering Calvi we turn left towards Porto, a remote but beautiful village overlooking the Golfe de Porto. As the temperature hits 42°C (110°F) we start to ride up towards the Col du Marsolino. We are both happy with our 35x33T low gear!

We go up to another pass, about 10km of climbing, and then we start to descend. I simply have no words to describe how amazing the view is. The view on the “Calanque de Piana” is magical. We stop in Porto for some coffee and snacks before going back to the Calanque de Piana. The last 70km, with 2,000m of elevation, has been incredible with the wild coast and the red rocks towards Porto. 

From the top of Piana, we ride towards Carghése, Sagone and Ajaccio by the Col de San-Bastiano, where we end our first day very tired, but with stars in our eyes. 

Day 2: Ajaccio to Bastia - 300.2 km, 3,371m of elevation 

The 5 am alarm was tough to hear, but we were excited by the day ahead. So, we jumped into our kit, ate breakfast, and got back on the bike… 

From Ajaccio we ride directly to the Col Saint Georges. Climbing, climbing, climbing… over 10km (6.2 miles). Legs are tired from the day before, but we have a good pace. With the data we get from the power meter, we are able to manage our effort and avoid blowing up. Slowly we ride to Propriano and then to Sartène… in the village we climbed a “wall” with an 18% gradient. Thankfully it’s early morning and not hot yet. The course is really hard toward the Lion of Roccapina. The rocky point, whose highest point is 144m above sea level, is remarkable.

Heading to Bonifacio is like a roller coaster with quite a bit of wind

So far, we have ridden 110km (68mi) from Ajaccio with 2200m (7200ft) of elevation, and we’re starting to feel it. After Bonifacio we have to go up into the Eastern lowlands, 180km (111mi) right into a ¾ headwind we had to fight through. 

In Porto Vecchio, we take a break at the Panier D'Annie to get typical charcuterie from Corsica (kind of Spanish ham and bacon). At this point, our photographer and support car driver Antoine has to leave us, so we ride the last 120km (75mi) without any assistance. With 40°C (104° F) temps, we make sure to stop regularly in local bars for snacks. A few more hours in the saddle and we are back in Bastia.

Oh, Corsica! Nothing is flat except the airport terminal. An incredible island with stunning landscapes. We can’t wait to return.

SOME NUMBERS:

Bottles 

  • 11 on day 1 for each rider
  • 13 on day 2 for each rider

Strava links

Power data

  • Normalized power Day 1: 185 Watts/ Day 2: 176 Watts
  • Highest speed:  Day 1: 75 km/h/ Day 2: 69.7 km/h 

 

INSTAGRAM

Billy: https://www.instagram.com/billy_lebelge/

Cyrille: https://www.instagram.com/cyrille_vincenti/