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Scott D

Cycling in Sardinia

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When I heard that Sardinia was being added to Ryan Air's low cost route map, I had a look on the web to find out if the cycling was any good. Sardinia is the largest island on the med, on the same latitude as the south of Spain (meaning the weather is mild and ideal for cycling). Weather for Jan-March is around 14-19'C, with little rainfall (4-7mm). Its an Italian island off the west coast of Italy, just south of Corsica. I found lots of information about cycling in Corsica, but nothing about Sardinia. I found this surprising -- Sardinia is used in 2 of the stages in the 2007 Giro d'Italia, suggesting the roads must be in good condition. I packed the bike for a few days and set off to investigate.

 

Basso in front of Giro 2007 route map. Sardinia route shown for stages 1 and 2

http://www.cyclingnews.com/photos/2007/ ... A_GIRO0683

 

Map of Sardinia

http://www.italymag.co.uk/travel-to-ita ... rdinia.pdf

 

Alghero is the main town in Sardinia, about 15 minutes drive from the airport. It has a Catalonian feel, very similar to Girona, with castle walls around the town, picturesque walkways around the marina leading onto narrow cobblestone streets, and old-fashioned Victorian style street lamps around the old-town continuing the traditional character.

 

The west coast route (heading south) is challenging with undulating terrain all the way to Bosa, joining the Giro prologue route once you leave Alghero. The coast is very pretty, with short climbs along the cliffs followed by sweeping descents, and the run to Bosa and back is 100km (or about 4hours). Bosa itself has many cafes and supermarkets, a Hard Rock Cafe, a marina, and a pretty old quarter (inland).

 

The hills increase as you head inland (rising to about 600m above sea level), and if you want a challenging circular route there is an inland option also from Alghero. Head along the coastal route as before, and just before J13 on the SP-109? you will see a road on the left marked Villanova Monteleone, heading into the mountains. This road does not seem to be marked on any map. Its only 2 miles long, but climbs 500m. This is like going up the Crow Road only twice as steep, or climbing half of Alpe D'Huez in a fifth of the distance. The road is in beautiful condition, with alpine corners, and as you approach the last section near the top at a right angle, the final climb cuts across your field of view from left to right. It looks particularly steep, and you imagine it must be deceptive. However when you see your speed dropping to 5mph you'll realise it really is that steep! After the corner about another 100m of climbing follows, along the superstrada to Villanova. The temperature feels markedly cooler at this altitude (you lose about 1'C every 100m ascent), and with windchill you might need another layer of clothing. The superstrada is the Sardinian equivalent of a motorway, but there are no restrictions on cyclists, and this route looks like just a normal road. Just along a few km you'll find a roadside tap, with a plague declaring it to be the "fountain of inspiration". A good place to refill water bottles. When you enter Villanova you'll notice its just a sleepy old village with a bar and a small piazza (generally closed between 12-2pm). After heading through you can follow signs south for Monte Cresta, which takes you on an inland route all the way to Bosa. After all the climbing the run into Bosa is very fast along long descents, with the occasional rise. Even unaccompanied you can average around 24mph. Eventually you will see the sea again in the distance, and the red rooftops of the Bosa houses indicate you've arrived. After lunch you could head back along the coast route again, which would mean a route of 75miles (120km), and 2300 metres of climbing. This will take about 4hours 45mins (ride time) unaccompanied.

 

A good easy route to cycle, 10miles, is North from Alghero then heading inland to the Cappaccio Caccia. This little outcropping has a wonderful tourist attraction called "Neptune's grotto". 654 steps have been carved into the cliff-face, at the bottom of which are underground caves with stalagmite and stalactite formations. These mineral deposits have eroded over hundreds of thousands of years to form all kinds of beautiful displays. Its very pretty with tours every hour with a multi-lingual guide (10euros). In the summer the venue has around 600 visitors an hour (although this is also a reflection on the fact there is little else to see in the North of the island). Bikes can be hired at a shop just north of the harbour in Alghero for about 8euros a day. These are either mountain bikes, traditional bikes, or hybrids, and would be ok for short distances like the visit to C. Caccia, or at a stretch the coastal route. If you were keen you could arrive with just pedals and saddle and hire a hybrid to do some training.

 

Food in Alghero is cheap and excellent quality (unless you go to a trendy tourist trap). On several nights I had a large pizza (around 5e, or £3.50), and you can watch as the chef spins the pizza dough in the air around his fingers until the base is extra thin. After dinner you can track down the "best homemade icecream" from a gelato shop near the church for 2euro (with a sign outside proclaiming the ice-cream is "the best in town" in 6 languages!)

 

Ryan Air fly there typically for £60 return (booked a few weeks in advance). Not currently running from Glasgow Prestwick, but you can fly there from Liverpool, East Midlands and London. For example, I looked on the web and you could fly there from Fri, 02 Mar 07, returning Mon, 05 Mar 07 for £20+ Tax (£40) from Liverpool. Add a charge for bike (20e each way). Accomodation is about £25 a night (based on 2 sharing) including buffet breakfast.

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There are also island hopping opportunities, from the north by ferry to Corsica, and from the south there are ferries to Sicily.

 

A few pics related to the report above

 

Bosa

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/170/3975 ... f5cc7d.jpg

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/165/3975 ... 3e01bb.jpg

 

Neptune's Grotto

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/127/3975 ... 8b7e45.jpg

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/145/3975 ... c756b7.jpg

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Guest Jim Daly

Scott

 

I'm most impressed with your reports.

 

The cycle path to Neptune's Grotto looks really tricky for 23mm tyres. There are a couple of access points to the Sustrans Track in Bridge of Weir that are even more difficult, though. :shock:

 

Jim

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The Giro of Sardinia is a weeklong event each year, which you can do in its entirety or pick and choose whether to do a long or shorter ride each day. I think its attractive as it offers the full Italian experience in a coastal region well served by low cost airlines.

 

This year's event was 19-26 April 2008.

 

Link to event summary and possible accomodation

http://www.peteranne.it/index_Page2656.htm

 

Training route options

http://www.peteranne.it/index_Page891.htm

 

A blog report on the cyclesport website from a rider who completed this year's event (login may be required to read fully)

http://www.cyclosport.org/members/myblo ... &size=9999

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