Explore Corsica, a wonderful journey through « l’Ile de Beauté »
The « Explore Corsica » experience is starting as soon as we get to Marseille. We can already see the ferry « Danielle Casanova » waiting for us for the adventure. As we reach the harbour, ASO staff guides us all the way to the parking area on the ferry, boarding is efficient and well organized for the 800 participants (around 500 riders and 300 staffs). Once on board, we get directions for bibs and accreditations. Mavic staff is already working, supporting riders to setup bikes that come out of the travel cases and helping others with all kind of mechanical adjustments. Then we move up to the 10th floor, receive a warm welcome from the staff, get our official Explore Corsica outfit and take some time to enjoy the beautiful view on Marseille to finally reach our rooms. It is 7pm, the ferry leaves the dock as we get a complete briefing on the journey and information on the first stage. We get our first dinner along with all the participants. Explore Corsica is on!
After a good night of sleep on the ferry, we disembark in Bastia for the 1st stage. Bikes are amazingly well organized within their own little spot including participant names and bib numbers. MAVIC staff is already there to fix last minute mechanical issues and check tire pressure. There are only 500 meters to reach the starting line. Everything is simple and well indicated. Some participants are enjoying a cup of coffee. 9 am : the 1st stage departure is given and the « peloton » goes for a beautiful ride throughout Cap Corse and its amazing landscape on the cliff and the sea below. Security is perfectly managed by a large amount of motorcyclists along with gendarmerie. At the edge of the roads the volunteers are perfect to manage traffic and put us in excellent condition for the ride.
During these four days of cycling in Corsica, we had only one thing to do and think about: riding our bikes and having some time. Indeed every morning, breakfast was waiting for us with everything you need to start the day: our bikes were always well arranged in the boat and easy to find, Mavic staff always here to help with mechanical issues, and starting lines within 500 meters from the boat exit. The four stages allowed us to discover Corsica and its breath-taking landscapes and villages thanks to a judicious route throughout 436 kilometres and 7000 meters of positive elevation. A profile totally adapted to the significant number of engaged riders. Regarding the landscape, it is difficult to choose a particular place, maybe « Aiguilles de Bavella » for the mountain parts and the downhill to Propriano for the Mediterranean parts. These were probably the most beautiful places of this Explore Corsica 2017.
One of the greatest idea was to assign Jean-Claude Bagot (ex-professional cyclist) as the « lanterne rouge »- in the old days it used to point the last rider of the Tour de France. His role was to accompany, advise and motivate the last stage riders in difficulty all the way to the finish line. In addition, some « capitaines de route » were also riding with the participants in different groups along with world class champions like Fränk Schleck, Cadel Evans, Antoine Dénériaz and Nathalie Simon. Ravito stops were a must with tables full of delicious « made in Corse » products like cheese, smoked ham, sausages… and energy products. Great treats provided by caring volunteers. We were then moving along and fighting against each other over the few timed sections, (4 per stage, flat and up hills were timed, ensuring better security in downhill portions). I really enjoyed this format as it gave riders - including myself - the opportunity to enjoy ravitos, talk to each-others, share experiences and spend a very good time on the road. Awesome!
At the end of each stage, we were going back to the ferry where a post-race meal was served. After a relaxing shower in the cabin, it was time to enjoy a great recovery massage included for all participants and then we were usually moving up to the 10th floor to enjoy a drink and the beautiful weather around the swimming pool, talking with friends and other riders about the day, the difficulties, the beauty of the landscape... Late afternoons were reserved to the stage award ceremony followed by the briefing for the next day. Logistic was very well organized, staff knowledgeable and always available to address any request.
It's a real luxury on a stage cyclosportive to arrive on a boat, unpack belongings and not to have anything to re-pack and worry during the four-day stages. We ate either on the boat in one of the restaurants or in town to enjoy the local atmosphere and food.
In short nothing to do but to enjoy riding and have a good time with friends and fellow riders.
Explore Corsica is a great and innovative concept that allows you to cycle in magnificent places with a huge logistics behind while being a cruise passenger around Corsica. We had wonderful cycling holidays and I am really looking forward to the next year edition! Thank you !!