Well, yes. I’ll get to those yet (promises, promises) but felt that having returned so recently from another exciting Lost Boys trip I would put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and report in a more timely fashion. So let’s strike while the iron is hot!
After the usual trans-oceanic on-line discussions, we decided that the Tour would find itself back in France but on the island of Corsica, known as “l’Ile de la Beauté.” Although the idea was originally that of Stevie Z., none of us had ever been to the Isle of Beauty so were not sure what to expect but had heard of great climbs, fine beaches, high prices, considerable heat and home-grown terrorists. We all knew that it was the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte and that for the first time in its long history the Tour de France would be there in 2013, but that was about all.
We quickly learned that even getting to Corsica requires some planning, patience and money. People flying to our jump-off point of the port city of Bastia from the United States made their way from the Charles de Gaulle Airport to Orly (with mixed success) and then flew on to the island. It was there that we were to meet Basile, our guide from the commercial tour operator, Europe-Active, with which we had been working since October to get our plans all together.
Lost Boys Tour Minus Two
Three of us (Tom, Rudiger and myself) representing the Rhine-Ruhr component, drove down in Tom’s Ford Fiesta, leaving on Friday, June 22 from Düsseldorf with three bikes on the roof rack and a trunk packed with gear. We drove south past the Black Forest (scene of the first Lost Boys Tour in 2006 and part of another in 2007) and into Switzerland at Basel. Passing through the impressive Gotthard Tunnel (I had ridden over the Gotthard’s old cobbled pass road years ago) and seeing the work on the amazing AlpTransit tunnel, we soon left Heidiland and crossed into Italy.
Tom had worked out an excellent plan to reduce our driving and add another cycling adventure. We drove through Como and then onto small busy roads to our small hotel in Civenna. The hotel was located around 300 m below the summit of the climb that takes the Giro di Lombardia to the famed Madonna del Ghisallo chapel and we were there to ride it. As the chapel was on our way, we stopped briefly and I showed Tom and Rudiger around a bit. I rode to the chapel in 2003 while staying in Bellagio, and an account of this wonderful trip was an early posting in 2007 here at Tin Donkey.
One of Fausto Coppi's Bianchis in the chapel
Lost Boys Tour Minus One
Riding through the lakeside town of Oliveto Lario we stopped for lots of photos of the breathtaking scenery, startling a grazing brown goat. The views are dramatic as you look across the Lecco arm of the lake towards Mandello del Lario and the great massif behind it. The weather was ideal, comfortably warm and although some showers had been forecast there was nothing threatening our plans in the early morning Italian sky.
We rolled into sleepy Bellagio, where very little was happening and rode into the harbour looking for some kind of breakfast and eventually found a very charming old-style café, where we enjoyed Italian coffee and some wonderful pastries to gather strength for the coming climb.
Now the fun really began. Leaving the harbour, the 8 km climb begins pretty much immediately, although it is a while until you come to a line marked “Start” where you can time yourself if you want.
Soon enough we entered the set of serpentines below our hotel and rather than pull back into the parking lot to end the circuit we continued again up the last 300 m to the top of the climb. I photographed Tom as he cleared the marked finish line, and he was followed soon by other cyclists riding the famous hill.
The confusion over the opening hours aside, the museum is an impressive piece of work, modern and airy. The last stone (blessed by the Pope!) was put in place in May 2006 and in addition to the impressive collection of historic racing bicycles it is also the home to revolving exhibitions. When we visited, there was an interesting display devoted to the history of the Giro d’Italia (which was supposed to have ended two weeks before we were there). There were framed maps of Italy showing the different courses taken by the race over the years and a very fine collection of Maglie Rosa, from 1933 to the present day and worn by cycling’s greatest champions.
Plenty to look at and enjoy, and I had the chance to compare an actual Giuseppe Saronni Colnago Mexico with my own same-era Colnago Super in the identical colour. All of the famous brands were there, from ancient Bianchis to a Cervelo Giro centennial model and historic bikes, such as the Moser and Rominger hour record bikes. There was a series of display cases devoted to the memory of Franco Ballerini, a popular two-time winner of Paris-Roubaix and manager of the successful Italian national cycling team, who died in a rally car accident in 2010.
With a wonderful morning of riding and sated with bike racing history, we had a quick lunch at the café next to the museum and then began the long drive to Savona, where our midnight ferry trip would bring us to Corsica and the other Lost Boys...