Saturday 8 September 2012

La Conquète de la Corse: Day 3

June 26, 2012

Porto to Santo Pietro di Venaco

Leaving behind our excellent hotel in Porto, our third day in Corsica saw us leaving the coast and heading inland.  Of course the road immediately began climbing (I guess when it is so hot you don’t need a normal warm-up) and we were soon ascending steadily through a dry but, in many places, shady region, with fine views out over the valleys we passed.  Once again we saw very little traffic but as we passed seldom through any villages en route that was perhaps not so surprising.

After 12 kms or so of climbing we came into a forested reserve, the Aïtone, and I began to feel the effects of the heat and the climb quite a bit.  I eased back and watched as Greg and Tom easily cruised by me and I eventually joined up with Terry and we came to a village where the van was waiting with water and food for those who needed it, an excellent opportunity for a break.  Terry and I then set out for the push to the top of the next climb, the Col de Vergio, which is the highest pass in Corsica at 1477 m ASL. 

We arrived at the top and found a big parking lot with a few cars in it and a large statue.  It was time for photos but this time we were assisted by some passing tourists who actually knew how to take pictures.  The group photo was not entirely complete as Steve had zoomed off on his own and Bill was vanning but we were soon together again for lunch, which we reached with a rapid descent from the col and enjoyed looking out above a big reservoir.

After lunch we were back on the road and enjoying a fast descent on good roads.  Our route now took us through the Spelunca Gorge, which was dramatic and very, very hot.  As is typical with gorges, a hard wind was blowing through it and as soon as I turned the corner to enter I could feel my eyeballs dry out behind my cycling glasses.  I was beginning to have some considerable pain with my feet and was forced to stop at a spring and take off my shoes for a while.  This seemed to reduce the swelling and I dragged myself up the next climb which, in normal circumstances, would have been pretty easy.  

Everyone was waiting at the top and cheered me on as I came up to the summit.  I felt terrible and had to massage my feet for a while but after some Coke, which I normally never drink, things did not seem so bad and we had a marvellous descent into Corte, a university town.  I did not pass up the chance to stick my feet into another cool fountain, to the great merriment of the other Lost Boys, and then we stopped in town for a beer.

Ruining the drinking water in Corte
All that was left on Day 3 was a final climb to Santo Pietro di Venaco.  Although it was only 6 kms it seemed to take forever as there were some steep sections, coupled with the fact that the road was the N193, a main highway with a lot of truck and bus traffic.  I did not really enjoy this so much and by the time we pulled into our very quirky old hotel, Le Torrent, I was finished for sure.  

Basile giving us the evening briefing
We all sat outside and had some cold drinks on the terrace to recover.  Dr. Chef had already occupied the very small twin room and had done his laundry, which he hung from the window to dry.  Bill expressed the group’s disgust at the sight of Dr. Chef’s cycling gear drying on the balcony, ruining the aesthetic of our hotel, and we all had a good laugh over dinner.

Steve had heard that chestnuts were a specialty of the island and he had been nagging Basile to see that we would have some on the menu at some point.  At Le Torrent we enjoyed some excellent food (I had a mountain of pasta with fresh vegetables) and there was even a kind of chestnut pudding for dessert.

Stevie Z, content with chestnuts
We had done four climbs for the day and enjoyed an amazing 35 km long descent and a scenic gorge so I was able to forget my sore feet and collapse into bed after our fine dinner and look forward to another day coming.

Today's totals: 94 kms, 2550 m vertical.

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