One year on from the start of the Tour de France in Corsica, a tour of this island was an obvious choice to add to our outstanding collection of road cycling holidays.
I recced the route just after the tour went through in 2013 and was so impressed by the newly laid smooth tarmac roads and 300 days of sunshine that I returned in May 2014 to lead our first 7 day Corsica Road Cycling holiday.
The group met at Bastia Airport, easy jet flights were all on time. We assembled our bikes and cycled for 20 kilometres along a quiet back road from the airport to Bastia for a late lunch overlooking the sea. The afternoons ride was very pleasant, 30 kilometres along the east coast of Cap Corse to reach our first night's accommodation in Corsica's most northerly town, Macinaggio.
The following morning, nice early start for a short ride to the most northerly point of the Island before turning south along the spectacular western side of Cap Corse. The wind was kind to us as we made our way along the coast for a lunch break at St. Florent before continuing over the beautiful Bocca di Petajoule to our overnight in L`Ile Rousse.
The next morning we headed in land away from the coast through several rustic villages for a taste of the Corsican mountain way of life. We descended back to the coast for a quick coffee in Calvi, before continuing south across the Capo Cavallo and the Col de Palmarelia into the stunning Gulf of Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The pinnacles of the famous red granite Calanques stood out of a beautiful blue sea, framing a number of jagged inland peaks, including Paglia Orba. There was a small sting in the tail as we climbed for 10km to our hotel in Piana but a memorable sunset made this all the more worthwhile.
Day four involved a fast descent back to Porto to begin the 30 kilometres climb through pine forests and rocky gorges to the Col de Vergio, the highest road pass in Corsica at 1478 metres. Following lunch at the top, we enjoyed a gentle 35 kilometres descent through the pine forests of the Valdit Niellu and the rocky gorges of the Scala di Santa Regina, to the busy market town of Corte, once the capital of Corsica. Once regrouped, we continued southwards for a further 20 kilometres to our overnight stop in Vivari. The next morning promised to be the best mountain day of the trip and it lived up to expectation as we crossed the Col de Sorba, the Col de Vizzavona (both 2013 Tour de France climbs) and finally the Col de la Vaccia to our overnight stop at Zonza.
Our last full days biking began with a 10km climb to the Col de Bavella, below the stunning craggy dominance of Monte Incudine. We descended for 30 kilometres to the east coast and the grape growing region of Solenza before turning north along the D16 for 60km and then inland for a gentle 40km climb into chestnut forests of Castagniccia, one of the least spoilt regions of Corsica. We stayed in the 17th century village of Piedicroce, a delightful quiet village overlooking the coast.
On the final day ride to Bastia we had a short easy climb to the Col de Pratto and then a beautiful descent to the town of Ponte Leccia where we turned right and followed the N193 back to bastia for a well earned beer. Total ride was 750km with 11,285 metres of ascent and descent.