Posted by: Ian | July 29, 2011

Col de la Battaglia widdershins

Yesterday I rose earlier enough to get in my third and final sportive-length ride during our fortnight here in Corsica. For my route, I extended the shorter route I described last time with an ascent over the Col de la Battaglia – or the Bocca di Battaglia, if you prefer Corsican to French.

When I fired up the Garmin 800 it offered to “Navigate to start of route”. I usually decline this prompt but this time I accepted. The consequence was that for the next couple of miles the Garmin offered no information about where I was or how far I’d travelled or what speed I was cycling at. To fix it I simply went to Stop Course and then re-started it: the Garmin immediately found my current location (now disclosing how far I’d already cycled and so forth) and all was well.

Here’s a shot of one of the first villages the route passes through (Pigna), with views beyond towards Calvi):

I made good progress up the first hill and along the flat, and in about an hour turned right off the shorter route from last time up towards the village of Speloncato. The gradient steepened and no sooner did it do so than my bike started wailing. At first I thought I had something stuck in the spokes but I quickly determined that the chain was running completely dry. Now, the chain (an excellent KMC) is quite new and since fitting it I’ve so far left it uncleaned and unoiled to benefit from the special grease the manufacturers apply at the factory. Evidently that’s all worn off: it sounded terrible.

Stuck in the absolute middle of nowhere, I had no option but to carry on with the ride. Cloud had settled over the mountains some way before the top of the pass so I couldn’t even distract myself with the views. It was a shame: at the col, which I reached by 9 a.m., I was higher than all of England.

On the way down the other side of the pass I was soon out of the cloud and cycling through very pleasant woodland of chestnut and oak. After several miles of this I rejoined the head of the valley up from Piana that I struggled up the other day and then had a fabulous extended descent, first down to Belgodere and from there on down to the coast road. The Astraeus groaned less on the descent and I freewheeled more than usual to spare it. In Ile-Rousse I bought and applied some chain oil: it was transformational.

The entire circuit back to the villa ran to 53 miles with 5,000 feet of ascent.

It transpired that this wasn’t my last sportive-length ride of the holiday after all. Both Paula and Zoe fancied the idea of doing the 37 mile ride that I described last time, though in Zoe’s case without the initial seven or eight miles of climbing. Inconveniently, today was our last day with the Giant that we had rented for Paula so first I did the ride with Paula and then, after a quick stop for a baguette and croissant at the villa, drove Zoe and the two bikes up to the top of the hill and did it again. Zoe peeled off and went back to the villa at the end instead of following me back up the hill to the car. For Zoe, who doesn’t ride much these days and is probably getting a bike for her birthday with a view to taking it up again, the 15 or so miles of flat followed by a five or six mile descent and then a slightly lumpy eight or nine to round out her ride (with a tartelette aux fraises en route in Ile-Rousse) was ideal. Paula enjoyed doing the complete ride, and I was pleased to have an unexpected 70 mile day.

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