Posted by: Ian | July 26, 2011

Mountain-lite cycling in Corsica

Tucked behind the hills above Ile-Rousse is a lake called Lac de Codole. One way to get to see it would be to cycle up to the village of St Antonino, which the Michelin map identifies with a viewpoint symbol and two stars, indicating that it’s an impressive destination for the tourist. From the villa it would be a pleasant nine or ten mile climb with a return downhill by the same route.

A circular route enclosing the lake would be more satisfying and there are several options for this. I mapped out an ambitious one on BikeRouteToaster a few days ago and then found that the same route featured in Lonely Planet as a 90 km day drive. It crosses the range of fairly high mountains that lies between us and the Asco valley and passes through a number of villages that I’m sure would be interesting.

This morning, though, I hadn’t set my alarm and awoke a couple of hours later than I’d want to for a ride of this difficulty in Corsica’s late July heat. Instead, I plotted this much easier route:

All of the height needed to get above the lake is gained in the first third of the circuit ending at the crossroads at Cateri. The road ahead leads to the route across the mountains to Calenzana that I came down on my ride last week. Today I took the left turn, which follows a road that hugs to a constant contour around the hills to the East. This gave me the longest stretch of level road that I’ve encountered since arriving in Corsica; it’s unlike anything I ever get to cycle back home in Somerset.

Exiting one of the many hill towns that the road takes in, I passed a cyclist standing by his upside-down bike at the roadside talking on his mobile phone. After an initial “Ca va?” my French deserted me. When I use it a lot I’m usually okay but today I felt like my Mac sometimes gets, with a spinning beach ball locking up my ability to articulate simple schoolboy phrases that I usually know well. Somehow we managed to communicate nonetheless and it transpired that he’d forgotten his puncture kit, which would soon be brought to him from his place very nearby.

Before I’d regained my rhythm a silver-haired Frenchman on a Peugeot roadbike cycled past me. He reminded me of a guy I’d met last time I was in Corsica who went on and on (my French then being more functional), as we rode, about the hot shot times he posted on one of the major Tour climbs. I rode behind the wheel of today’s silver fox for a short while before deciding that my natural speed was higher – I slipped past and didn’t see him again. I don’t think I was being competitive.

About 15 miles past Cateri I reached Belgodere:

One of the attractions of this particular route was that I knew at this point I’d join the unusually excellent road that drops from here down to the coast – and, equally, that I’d avoid any of the shoddy, bumpy alternatives that I could potentially encounter if I went a different way. Sure enough, the descent from Belgodere was extremely pleasant: smooth, wide, twisting enough to be interesting, and at a gentle enough gradient to obviate the need for much braking. I’ll be doing it again.

The final eight miles followed the coast road – the familiar N197 – through Ile-Rousse. Having driven the sclerotic section of the road that passes through the town a few times recently, it was a joy to whizz through the traffic and outpace it up the hill and out to the Calvi side.

Back at the villa I again encountered a large discrepancy between the altitude gain reported by the Garmin 800’s barometric altimeter (1,877 feet) and the “Elevation Corrected” report of the altitude gain on Garmin Connect (2,896 feet). Again, the “uncorrected” version feels right, also according more with BikeRouteToaster, which gives an altitude gain of 2,191 feet.

The profile map from Garmin Connect shown here has a spikiness to it that on the pre-corrected version is entirely absent. Again, the feeling on the bike was of the smoother ride as presented before these “corrections”.

The distance (37 miles) and time taken (2hour 22 mins including photo stops) were established by the Garmin without technical uncertainty. I’d recommend it as a straightforward training route. While not having quite the romantic remoteness of my longer rides here, the island is beautiful virtually everywhere and the sea and village views are constantly spectacular.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: