Sunday, July 10, 2016

Cycling Corsica Day 3 - Cap Corse (95 miles, 11k ft climbing)

After another day of beach-sitting and wine-drinking, I set off on a circumnavigation of Cap Corse, starting from our house in Farinole, crossing east over the mountain range, and then following the rim road counterclockwise all the way back home.  Would it live up to the ride from Calvi to Piana?

Rolling out from Farinole down to the coast, this site lay outside my door.
Farinole in the morning!
One thing would be different from the start: beginning about 5 miles in, I'd take on an hors category climb from Patrimonio to the tower atop the ridgeline.  It's that rather conspicuous spike on the left-hand part of the elevation profile, and it's a monster the likes of which are usually found only on the mainland.  Nearly 8 miles at a 7.5% average grade, for a total elevation gain of 2800 feet.  Not bad for a tiny island!

Legs limbered up with an easy spin, I took on the climb, which turned out to be a 5-6% grind for 5 miles, to the ridgeline.  You then face a choice between heading down to the east coast or turning left onto a tiny road and continuing to the real top of the climb, some 2.5 additional miles away at a 10% grade -- quite the kick at the end.  

By the top, I was dripping with sweat and glad to reach the tower that was visible from both sides of the island.

But in nearly-an-hour it had taken me to climb to the summit, something vaguely magical had happened: the clouds had rolled in from the east, and I was well above them.

Winding my way back down the mountain, the sky was clear to the west, where I could see all the way to Saint Florent.

Continuing yet further down the mountain, swinging back around to the east, the road disappeared into the clouds -- as close as one can get to flying without leaving the ground.

To the south, the road stretched into the distance as the clouds slowly crawled over the ridge line.

The descent to the east coast brought me into Bastia, which is as close to a metropolis as Corsica has to offer, with cruise ships in the docks and a cafe on every corner.  This righteous dude kept everything on the level.

The roads around Bastia had some traffic, but it really was noticeable only compared to the complete lack of it everywhere else.  Traveling north along the coast, I glided from one quaint seaside town to the next, and around each turn was a seascape to stir the poet's soul.

After an ice-cream-and-water stop in Macinaggio -- motto: Sailboats Ahoy! -- the road turned west and headed a bit inland over the ridgeline, were it passed under a phalanx of wind turbines standing sentinel far above.

Feeling a need for more ice cream and refuge from the 90-degree sun, I took a detour from the rim road to wind down to the shore once again, where I found Barcaggio, a one-street hamlet with a harbor of boats and views to die for.

Refreshment achieved, it was back up to the main road once again, where I continued around to the northwest corner of the Cape, where I again turned south toward Farinole and Saint Florent.

I will say this: if there is a better road in the world than the 25-mile stretch down the west coast of Cap Corse, I have never seen it.  It is every bit as majestic as the stretch down the west coast toward Porto, but the pavement is perfect and traffic is lighter.  I don't have the words -- the pictures will speak for themselves.

Despite the massive heat, all I wanted to do was turn around and ride it again.  But that could wait for another day -- I climbed back up the Cat 3 to Farinole, took a shower headed to the balcony, and wondered why any cyclist lives someplace other than Corsica.

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