Haz click aquí para cambiar a Español

Touch and Go: Corsica

The second edition of our Touch and Go event took place last weekend (March 3-5) and, even though the logistics were not easy to deal with, the good feeling we came back with made this adventure totally worth it and proved its feasibility. Like in the first edition in Mallorca, the territory to be conquered was an island in the Mediterranean, but this time switching to France to cross the island of Corsica from east to west in less than twelve hours.

The idea behind Touch and Go is to make the most of a weekend. While professional cyclists travel to distant places looking for good weather to go to training camps, amateur cyclists find it more difficult given their work responsibilities. With Touch and Go we intend to optimize the traveling part to the destination by sleeping over and making the most of a weekend.

The choice of the route

With all possible ports of departure and arrival on the table, an exhaustive compilation of ferry crossing times led us to the conclusion that the Toulon-Bastia and Ajaccio-Toulon combination was the only one that allowed us enough time to cross a large part of Corsica in a single day. Thus, on Friday we would sleep on the ferry to wake up in Bastia and return on Saturday night to the continent.

When planning the route in a quest to find the less-traveled roads and more spectacular climbs, we always had to consider the departure time of the ferry back to the mainland. Therefore, we set a 192-kilometer route with almost 4,000 meters of elevation gain for which we would have less than 12 hours to complete. One way or another we had to make the most of our limited time on the island, always being aware of all the mishaps that could occur along the way.

All this was decided well in advance, but during the weeks before the planned date, we spent hours and hours watching the evolution of the weather on the island. One might think that on a Mediterranean island, logically, the temperature will never be particularly cold, but Corsica is an island that has all climates, with its highest peak being Monte Cinto at 2,706 m. Given that, when a few days before the event the snow covered a large part of the roads through which we intended to ride, and many doubts lurked in our heads.

Finally, the weather was on our side and the 16 cyclists were able to enjoy a great day on the bike. Even so, the main conversation topic minutes before the start of the route was how many clothes to put on and how to store all the food we intended to take with us.

From sunrise on a ferry to snowy peaks

There were several jaw-dropping moments along the route when we discovered the landscape that appeared in front of us. We still remember the exact point at which, along a section of rolling and winding terrain just after reaching the first pass Col de Bigorno (885 m), we saw the highest peaks of the island from a distance totally covered with snow. If we had not known we were on an island, we would have sworn we were in the middle of the Alps.

We knew that a couple of hours later we were going to be up there, and the desire to roll through the snow clashed with the concern of not knowing what would be the state of the roads there. We had already gone through sections in which the snowmelt had created proper rivers that crossed the roads, so it was logical to think that the conditions would worsen as we continued ascending.

The first organized stop occurred in the flat section between the first and second ascent of the day when we had already covered a third of the route. We stocked up at a supermarket and tried to get rid of the only stretch of the main road as soon as possible.

After 10 km we turned right on Francardo and both the road and the landscape changed completely once again. The first part of the Col de Vergio (1,477m) took us through a canyon (Scala di Santa Regina) with views of the high mountains in front of us. One could hear things like “wow!” or “how beautiful!” every time we took a turn and found something new on the other side.

Given the length of the main climb and the time of day at that moment, we decided to take a break for lunch at an intermediate point of the ascent in Calacuccia, taking the opportunity to regroup and gain some strength for the second part. The slopes ahead of us were not very steep so we could afford to fill our stomachs with a good plate of pasta and homemade cookies.

This second part was characterized by the excellent condition of the roads through tall pine forests. With more than 10 kilometers to reach the top, we gradually entered an increasingly snowy landscape on both sides of the road. If at the beginning of the route, we saw the sea, a few kilometers from the top of Vergio we went through real snow walls.

In the same way that on a tropical island there is a risk of a coconut falling on your head, here we almost had an accident with the blocks of snow that fell from the treetops. At that point silence surrounded us, and only those snowslides stood out from our accelerated breathing.

It seemed incredible that we were at such altitude and surrounded by snow on an island. The temperature was relatively good, with a minimum of 3°C, but the sun was warming us enough and allowed the first to reach the top to wait without any hurry for the group to gather.

Descent into the sea sunset

For the descent we covered ourselves with all the clothes we had, knowing what it means to ride downhill in winter. A curious fact, the cattle in Corsica are completely free, so you have to take turns as you descend with special attention since it is easy to find pigs, horses, or cows in the middle of the road. They are at home and they walk freely.

The descent towards the beach was split by a small hill in the middle part that many of us were not expecting. However, we took it at an easy pace and followed the sunrays that led the way. Already riding through a flat part along the coast, we were once again stunned to see the color palette of the sunset lights mixed with the waves of the sea, the sand of the beach, and the ever-present mountains.

Already running out of energy, we reached the summit of the last mountain pass of Bocca San Bastiano (411 m) and we regrouped watching the sun fall into the sea to calmly descend to Ajaccio. We had made it. With a challenging route and no possible shortcuts to take, we had crossed the island from east to west in a single day, getting the most out of the weekend. In addition, before getting on the ferry again, we had time to allow ourselves some well-deserved pizzas.

Friends had told us about the possibilities Corsica offers, and about the wildness and still unexploited areas it has but, without any doubt, reality has far exceeded the expectations we had of this island. It was a very rare feeling to know that we were on an island, cycling, and sightseeing at the same time, and just for a very limited time. All kinds of emotions were floating in the air as we merged with nature and we forged a sense of companionship with the whole group.

A precious memory was created as well as immediate connections with everyone. So, there is only one question left to ask; where will the next Touch and Go take us?