Sardinia, Giro 100, May 2017

I had seen Le Tour de France a couple of times, but the Giro, and on it’s 100th anniversary, how could I say no. It is also a chance to taste some of Sardinia.

I had been looking at taking a trip to Sardina, as both Neil and Gordon had ridden there and loved it. Then, just before I booked it, the option of seeing the Giro in Sardinia came up and sealed the deal.

I flew in to Cagliari airport and was met by head guide Naomi, and her two local guides, Giusseppe, an ex-professional racer and Alessandro.

We were transferred to the base for our first night, at Porticciolo, just North West of Alghero, the town where the Giro presentation would take place tomorrow.

The accommodation for the night was an agri-tourism location. Each of us were allocated a small house of our own, roomy and well appointed. Really smart.

Once we got sorted and met for our meal, we were taken through the programme for the week, which would involve rides to see the Giro, with van transfers, in order for us to get the best from both Sardinia and the Giro.

We were all given a ‘Giro 100’ musette and bidon, which would be a great reminder of this special trip. A nice touch, and an indication of the details considered when planning this trip.

The next morning I get up early and take a walk out to the bay behind our accommodation and catch it just as the sun starts to creep on to the cliffs.

I get back in time to grab some breakfast and get ready to ride. We don’t pack as we will be returning here tonight to get washed and changed, before we go back to Alghero to the Giro presentation.

We start the day with a climb out through Tamariglio, carrying on up to the the end of the peninsula. A nice little ramp with amazing views, and a great way to warm the legs up.

We drop down, take a right and start South towards Alghero, where we aim to get a coffee on the front, in the sun. On our way in to town we saw the Astana team out on the road for a leg stretch. Along the front at Alghero, preparation is on going for tonight and there is pink every where. It is a beautiful town with a historic area and a marina, full of exotic looking yachts.

The group get a coffee, while I wander around sight seeing, as it is a beautiful harbour and there is also a chance to have a look at the setup for the Giro presentation.

We leave town and start to climb for the next 16Km up to 500m on to the top of the cliffs, where we have a stunning view of the bay and the return road back in to Alghero.

We drop off the tops and down on to the shore line, 500m in just over five minutes, that brings a smile to the face. We ride along the shoreline for a small while, until we reach the van and experience out first picnic lunch in Sardinia. Its a perfect location and really nice local food.

The afternoon sees us wind our way back to the last nights accommodation, banging in to a head wind most of the way, but very scenic. Once back we wash, change, pack and load the bikes up ready to head back in to town. The presentation started at 19:30 and was really busy, but interesting to see the riders close up. The thing that strikes you is how young they look and how small, like jockeys.

After a nice meal in a restaurant in Alghero, we head off in the van/minibus to our hotel for the night in Castlesardo, on the coast, North East of where e were last night. We arrived at about 23:00 and as we enter the coastal town, the castle on the top of the cliff is beautifully illuminated.

When we wake in the morning we have two options, a 16Km ride around a local nature reserve, or stay at the hotel and start the main ride later. The short ride takes us West along the coast, then up and over the cliffs, back in to town. We all regroup an hour later and set off East then, inland for some time and take in several short climbs through some interesting little villages. The ride has been timed perfectly for us to reach Perfugas in time to get in a café with a TV to watch the start of the race.

We then skip around some of the road blocks that have already stopped motor vehicles and head for Badesi, where we sit at the side of the road until they peloton arrives. The atmosphere is electric, everyone is out in the streets, enjoying the atmosphere.

Once the excitement is over, we start the climb to Tempio, where we are due to spend the night. The route continues on the Giro route, so there are signs at the side of the road, Km to go, and in Valle della Luna, we pass under the GPM arch for that climb, 16Km later. It’s a further 20Km from here to base, so we press on.

Stage two contains the biggest climb of the Giro on Sardinia, and we are heading there today, Passo Genna Silana, at 1017m. We start the day at 650m and drop almost to sea level, over the Rio Sologo, before we start our upward journey.

The aim is to reach the town of Dorgali and see what the road situation is like, as we are seeing many closed due to the race. At Dorgali we take on some food, stash some in our pockets and decide on clothing as the top of the climb appears to be shrouded in cloud. We will not see the vans now until we have descended, as they will not be able to get through at the top. It’s Bikes only by the time we arrive.

We start the climb at a pace we know we can all maintain and we try to keep together all the way to the top. When we get to the top it is going to be busy, so this is the best way to make sure no one gets lost.

When we reach the top, we ride through the GPM for the climb and finds a restaurant and more remarkably, a table. We grab some food, drinks and an ice cream keeping an eye on the time. With a short while to go we find the spots that we want to view from and arrange to meet on the flip side of the climb, once the riders have passed though. While I am waiting Matt Stevens from Eurosport rocks up, practices his lines, does a bit to camera then heads off again.

After the race passes through, we regroup just down the road and are given instructions to regroup once we hit the town of Baunei.

We start to roll and realise there is a really strong wind blowing from the right, so we take it careful, especially when gaps appear as we get pushed across the road. After about 10Km the road swings left and this suddenly it becomes a huge tail wind and combined with the descent the average speed goes up to 40Km all the way to our regroup. We re-join the descent, which will now take us down to sea level in Santa Maria Naverrese.

As we get closer to the coastal town, there appears to have been some celebrations going on. There is lots of shouting and sirens going off, then suddenly a bicycle appears in front of us with two people on it. The one on the back is carrying an air horn, which he is blasting as they continue to weave their way down the steep descent and through the town. It is all looking a bit dangerous to me, so we shoot past, reaching 60kph plus in order to do so. That is not going to end well.

When we get to the coast we meet the guys with the vans, reload and head to our hotel in Biddeputzi.

It was a long and twisty journey down to the hotel, which was really nice, with views down the valley. The food is brilliant, but it was quite funny, because we sat down and they started to bring out course after course, until slowly one-by-one we each of us surrendered and could not eat any more food. Its not often cyclist turn food away.

Today is the last stage of the Giro in Sardinia and the sprint stage in Cagliari. The plan is to ride South along the West coast until we pick up the Giro route. We need to make sure we keep a pace up to ensure we get to the finish early enough to get some lunch and see the sprint.

The view along the coast was truly stunning and just kept rolling up and down all the way. Then we turned right along the South coast we could feel a strong headwind, so we took it in turns to sit on the front. As we entered town we picked up the cycle path along the coast that would take us through to the town centre and we knew we were in the full teeth of the wind. The cycle path ran parallel to the road where Quick-Step made their attack, which broke the peloton apart and helped Gaveria to his first of many victories in the Giro.

When we hit the edge of town we picked up a bunch of cyclists, so we jump on the wheel and head in. We then reached a junction, which appears to have a temporary fence across it, guarded by two uniformed chaps. We follow the cyclists through, and find ourselves riding along the final kilometre of the stage heading for the finish line. It is at this point we realise that we have got entangled in a special sportive and politely get ejected, back on to the streets.

We route round and arrive in the centre of town and try a few restaurants, but most had closed after lunch, but the Alessandro found one were he knew the owner, persuaded him to stay open to serve us, then helped by taking the orders, setting the tables and bringing out the food. A truly resourceful bunch. This was all managed in time for us to make our way in to town to see the finish.

I sadly made the mistake of taking a route through the covered archways along the street alongside the finish straight. It was so rammed with people that you started to just get carried along with the wave and I was unable to stop. That is until the riders came in to view, at which point I was trapped in a doorway, unable to see anything,but could hear the cheering. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

After the finish we regrouped and headed to the large parking area where the team coaches and many of the riders were.

We jumped back in our vans and headed to our hotel in Pula. We would spend two nights here and what a nice hotel and a great location. That night we walked in to town and had our meal in a restaurant over looking the square. The table was on the first floor and open to the warm evening air. Very pleasant.

This was our last day and we have no Giro to get to, so it’s nice and relaxed, and chance to see a part of Sardinia that the team wanted us to see. We stay on the coast for about 15Km to Pinus Village, then take a right and head inland and start to climb. It is the only real climb of the day at 10Km and taking us up to 350m. The views from here are really stunning and a great place to wait and regroup. We drop down the other side to Teulada, where we get a snack and a coffee.

There is a choice after coffee, to either take the relaxed route, or the longer route, and for once I plump for the easy route, with a chance to stop for photos and relax.

We wrap around to the left and head back along the coast towards the junction at Pinus Village.  Before we get to the junction we stop in Chia and head to the beach, where we have a picnic lunch and wait for the others to arrive for lunch. It is just nice to sit in the sun and soak it up. Once fed we roll back to the hotel, the same way we rolled out this morning.

That night, we walked back in to Pula to a really lovely restaurant for our farewell meal.

This was a very well planned and executed trip, with guides who really knew what would be required logistically to get us around the road blocks and also bring out the best of the island.

It has given me a real taster for Sardinia and I will need to get back there at some point to ride the mountains.

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