Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Departs - Keeping it Fun in the Mediterranean

Getting started on a new journey is always an exciting undertaking, but it is not always easy.  People need movement to stay healthy and refreshed, yet it seems that our very nature is, at the same time, very sedentary.  We like the known - the comfortable.  It is ironic then, that we are often at our best when we are out of the comfort zone.

Liam on the midnight ferry to Corsica
Both Liam and I had been looking forward to exploring Corsica all year.  The island, located in the Mediterranean sea would be the venue for the first three days of the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France.  Corsica seemed like a world apart.  I don't know why.  It was a relatively easy trip to get there.  Overnight ferry boats leave for the island from the Port of Toulon located only about 45 minutes from our house.  We planned the trip several times, but something always seemed to come up and the trip was put off.

The rugged Cap Corse
Finally, last week we made the leap.  We loaded up the bikes and the training gear in the van, and hit the midnight ferry to Bastia.  Bastia is a beautiful city in the northeast corner of Corsica.  We arrived at 7 am and our first stop was a boulangerie for some fresh baguettes- we were still technically in France after all.  Then we headed out to the northern most tip of the island called Cap Corse. This is a remote cape, but as soon as we arrived we realized the cycling was fantastic.  It was a lot like riding the West Maui mountains of Hawaii.  The only difference being that Corsica is not a volcanic Island.  The topography, however, was very similar.  Green lush seaside cliffs running down to a deep blue sea.  Our apprehension of the unknown soon turned to a wonder-lust of exploring what other great finds lay ahead.

The watch tower at Nonza - one of many on the island
We spent four days biking, swimming and running our way around the island and down to Porto-Vecchio.  Corsica is a very large island with 2000 meter mountains and a diverse and varied landscape.  We rode through subtropical jungle, desert swept plains, and high cool mountains.  Since it has been a very long winter in Europe we decided to concentrate, for the most part, on the coastal roads, beaches, and coves.  Liam came up with the idea of the "Corsica Triathlon." We would locate a beach that looked promising on a map. Then we would bike to the beach with swim suits and goggles in our pockets.  When we arrived at the beach we would run the beach and then we would swim the length of the beach.  It was a great workout, but it was also a ton of fun. We took a page from our playbook from our Hawaii days to come up with a strength and conditioning workout shaka style. You find a heavy rock and a nice stretch of water with a sandy bottom.  We would take a few deep breaths and the run the rock along the bottom of the sea. It's a blast!

Hitting the Corsican coast on the bike

Corsica Triathlon
We made it to Porto Vecchio on Wednesday evening in time for the Tour team presentation the following day.  Porto Vecchio is a beautiful city located on a small hill just above its port.  There are several  restaurants overlooking the port, and all those that we tried serve excellent local cuisine.  From seafood to wild boar the Corsicans sure know how to prepare a meal.

Trying out the local brew- (Bill)
The depart ville was a perfect choice.  Porto Vecchio captures some of the best that Corsica has to offer.  A friendly small town feel with a relaxed atmosphere.  The town is very manageable on foot or by bike. Beautiful white sandy beaches are located to the south, and just inland are some very challenging mountain roads for more advanced cyclists and mountain bikers.

Evening view of the Porto-Vecchio Port
We had an excellent time watching the team presentation.  Although the atmosphere was relaxed there was still a lot of excitement in the air.  This was, after all, the eve of the Tour de France - the greatest bike race on earth.  The following day we rode the first 40k or so of the first stage of the Tour.  Several teams were out on the road as well.  At one point Liam and I were cruising along at about 40k an hour.  A BMC car past us going about 55k/hour.  Just behind Cadel Evans, Brent Bookwalter and another rider were motor pacing.  They all said hello and encouraged us along. We managed to hang in there for a couple of minutes.  Wow, these guys can really move!  It was pretty amazing. Here we were in Corsica, on the eve of the Tour de France, motor pacing with a champion. I had to get it on film.  I pulled the GoPro out of my pocket, filmed Liam, and then the riders in front, and just like that we lost the draft and they were gone.  Unfortunately, we couldn't stay in Corsica for the first three stages because Liam and the boys had one of their biggest races of the year over the weekend near Marseille.

Back in the fold of the Tour de France
Although we couldn't stay for the official depart, it was nevertheless an excellent start to our 5th Father Son Tour.  One that left little doubt about why we have so much passion for the sport of cycling.  We also have discovered a wonderful island with a rich and deep culture and beautiful landscape right in our backyard.  We will be back for more for sure.

Live Strong, Train Safe, and Live Well!!

This is Bill and Liam Signing out.


  1. Great blog. I wanna join in if you ever go back. I love this crazy underwater coverage. Lifting rocks underneath sea level is really something
    Thomas big T

  2. Great fun! ,great presentation !.Corsica looks beautiful . Running the rock is good for the lungs and the soul : ) See you guys SOON in Paris .. Pablo .