This beautiful event will NOT be held in 2016 but will be back in June 2017.
With stages still averaging 200kms, but with climbing limited to a ‘mere’ 3800m average per stage, this is a perfect CCC for those whose knees shy away from incessant steep gradient. Most of the climbs are long but steady, which does not mean that they feel easy! We will meet far more animals than cars on the roads; villages are frequent, but shops are rare (modern life has yet to even scrape at the surface of tradition in most of them); roads surfaces vary as much as local economies, with pristine new tarmac making mysterious, but sometimes brief, occasional appearances. Changing hotels every other night will take much of the off-bike stress out of a CCC, but the temptation of a day on the beach rather than another day in the saddle might prove too much for the weak-minded.
Thanks to the attention the pro peloton has granted it in recent years, Corsica is now gaining the popularity it has always deserved as one of the best ways to enjoy cycling in the Mediterranean. These ten days leave little of the island unexplored.
Stage One : Bastia to Corte
Stats: 220kms, 4200m climbing
Main climbs: Cols de Terghine, San Stefano, Bigorno, San Gavino, Casardo, San Cervone
Description: Following a brief but grand view of the western coast from the Col de Terghine, the route takes us due south across wooded hills, remote villages and over eight main climbs. We almost come back to sea-level after a 26km downhill section , near San Guiliano, before an even longer climb due west up to the Col de Casardo. From here it is a bumpy ride further inland to the busy town of Corte.
Stage Two : Corte to Corte
Stats: 190kms, 4380m climbing
Main climbs: Cols de Vergio, Sevi, Vizzavona, Serra, Bellagranajo
Description: A stage of contrasts, this one. The opening climb, the Col de Vergio, requires upward cycling for almost 50kms and is rightly considered the most beautiful and challenging on the island. Narrow roads with jaw-dropping views keep the mind busy. An equally entrancing road awaits on the downward side towards Porto. Then another of Corsica’s wildly remote roads tackles rocky hillsides taking us south-east, eventually finding the N193. It is a long slog to the top of the Vizzavona, but at least the 'old road' is still there for us to battle the climb away from traffic. Another smaller up spoils an otherwise perfect descent section to the stages' end.
Stage Three : Corte to Propriano
Stats: 195km , 4,250m climbing
Main climbs: Cols de San Quilico, Erbajo, Morello, Sorba, Verde, Vaccia, Ste Eustache
Description: After the exceptionally beautiful climb to the Col de Sorba, the greater part of this stage follows the green spine of Corsica : a fabulous mixed forest through which the D69 struggles to find its way. Most of the tarmac on this stage seems brand new; some isn’t…. The Verde tops the stage, leaving three climbs and some fabulous descents before we see the sea!
Stage Four : Propriano to Propriano
Stats: 197km, 3,900m climbing
Main climbs: Cols de Bilia, Bacinu, Bocca d'Illarata, Siu.
Description: This stage takes us from the west coast across to the eastern coast, via the impressive Col de Bacinu. Evergreen oak forests on the way over; a brief bit of FLAT before arriving in Porto vecchio, then a BIG climb back up, through pine and boulders. True unique Corsica landscape as we head back to the western shore.
Stage Five : Propriano to Porticcio
Stats: 165km, 3,500m climbing
Main climbs: Cols de Bavella, Vaccia,Granaccia, Bellevalle
Description: From one port to another, our route goes inland first, heading towards the curious rock formation of the “Aiguilles de Bavella”, which can be admired from the Col of teh same name. Back down through the charming village of Zonza, we then head north-east along more twisting roads, taking on the Col de Vaccia from its southern side this time, before rolling along a bumpy section that includes several Cols, but never any major climbs. A very pleasant 28km of “overall downhill” finishes the stage.
Stats: At our hotel in Porticcio (the second of three nights in this fabulous resort).
Description: A day on a big white beach...?
Stage Six : Porticcio to Porticcio
Stats: 195km, 3,900m climbing
Main climbs: Cols de Cortone, Chenova, Crichetto, Val d'Eze, Scalella
Description: A southern swoop along the coast opens the stage before some sharp climbing inland towards the Col de Cortone which dominates the forest of Chiavari. The profile from here until the 1200m Col de Scalella is particularly jagged. More narrow roads (few back lanes are left unexplored by the end of our trip) eventually take us to the 20 km section to the top of the Scalella. Another long descent down to sea level closes the stage perfectly.
Stage Seven : Porticcio to Porto
Stats: 188km, 4,000m climbing
Main climbs: Cols de San Bastiano, Bocca di Sarcoggio, Ambiegna, Sevi
Description: This bumpy ride takes us first of all along the west coast along a gently rising (and falling) road before veering off again onto the ‘lost’ roads of the island. Harsher climbs are to be found along the way but the stage really comes alive in the last 60kms. This contains a section of truly spectacularly wild and apparently forgotten tarmac , followed by the severe climb up to the Col de Sevi –with its’ 12% final kms. The 22km descent down into Porto is one of the best pieces of road you could ever wish to cycle on…
Stage Eight : Porto to Porto
Stats: 170km, 3,500m climbing
Main climbs: Cols de Vergio, Sevi, St Antoine, San Martino, Osini
Description: A second shorter stage, but this one starts with the longest climb of the event: from sea-level to 1400m in 36kms. Descents-galore follow before a beautiful ridge section with distant sea views. Finally we plunge down to sea level for a roller-coaster ride taking us to the Grand Finale of this stage : part1 is the road to the beach via Col d'Osini; part 2 is the descent through the famous red-rock Calanches of Porto. Quite exceptional.
Stage Nine : Porto to Ile Rousse
Stats: 209km, 3,300m climbing
Main climbs: Cols de la Croix, Salvi, Bocca di a Battaglia, San Colombano
Description: The first of the two-stage tour of the north of the island. An 80km coastal stretch is a real treat to open the stage, taking us to Calvi. From here we turn inland for some higher view points of the azur blue Meditteranean. This stage includes the toughest climb of the Challenge, with a few quite steep bits! After this battle the rest of the stage seems gentle but always 'entertaining' !
Stage Ten : Ile Rousse to Bastia
Stats: 162 kms 3,100m climbing
Main climbs: Bocca di Vezzu, Ste Lucie, Serra, San Martino di Lota
Description: Across the 'Desert des Agriates' to begin the Tour of Capi Corsu from St Florent up along the rocky coast on perfect roads to Abro, from where we take the High Road to Pino : a very dramatic piece of tarmac! Cutting east here across the Cap via the impressive Bocca di Ste Lucia we then descend to the much tamer east coast to enjoy a fast 20kms on a sweeping smooth road. But then we head up to San Martino for some more infinity views of the azur blue sea. This stage is less predictable then might be expected and makes a perfect curtain call to this very special series of rides.