Canistrelli corse

Three friends, one common goal: to discover new landscapes, get away from the city, return to simple pleasures. And cycling. Quentin, Jeremy and Ugo set off on a five-day expedition to discover Corsica.

Photography : @Jeremy Mouraud / Story : @Ugo Lebeau

Saturday, November 4, 2023 - Day 0

The bags are ready, securely attached to the bikes. The last night before departure.

The next day, leaving from Paris, the thermometer shows 10 degrees in a grey atmosphere. France has experienced successive storms in recent days.

The excitement of starting the adventure is palpable.

Our goal for this escapade: to unlock a new area of the map by crossing Corsica from north to south. A 5-day, 500 km road bike journey, with a positive elevation gain of 7,000 meters. Three friends, one common goal: to find a routine, savor the moment, return to simple pleasures, and cycle.

We board a train to Marseille after the traditional bike packing. There, we meet some friends for one last drink, the atmosphere is already festive. The small gathering quickly expands, we are many, the journey starts well.

We leave our panniers behind to head to the autonomous port. The bikes are carefully stowed in the hold and the moorings cast off! Cabin crew to doors, arming slides. Destination Bastia! The atmosphere on board evokes the Titanic, less romantic. Taking the ferry is a small change of scenery in itself. As there is sea, we stay cautious by ingesting Mercalm (even before the Pietra, nothing goes!). But the seven-course canteen-style dinner will get us in the mood.


We are woken at dawn by Corsican songs echoing in the cabin. The captain's announcement indicates an outside temperature of 14 degrees. The restaurant is open, today's menu: touring Cap Corse.

The kilometers pass quickly, carried by a favorable wind (cycling is easy). We haven't cycled much outdoors since the start of the school year, but we quickly find our rhythm by adjusting distances and slipstreaming.

After 60 km, we take a detour to cross to the other side of the cape, the ambient smell of fig trees and eucalyptus whets our appetite. We reach the small village of Pino, just in time for lunch. Already, the rhythm is found, our phones are only used to capture images, nothing more. Descending the cape on the west side is an experience in itself, like the slide, but more typical. The curves are smooth, designed for the exercise. The scents of the maquis, the Genoese towers, and the cliffside villages punctuate the kilometers. The alternating wind allows us to play with silence. Arriving in Saint Florent, the city goes to sleep as the sun sets. We experience Corsica off-season, discovering its most discreet face.

Heading to the local grocery store, a bit downhearted. The cashier (surely sensing despair in our eyes) suggests the gas station pizzeria. We abandon our groceries at the checkout to try our luck. At the Toi et Moi pizzeria, greetings fly, the intensity of the high season is behind us. We dare to dine outside, enjoying a Pietra, mortadella, buffala, and a baba for dessert. Back at the hotel, lulled by the sound of the waves, waiting for tomorrow.


The program is lighter, so the wakeup is later.

Breakfast at 9 am on the port. The hotelier sets up his tables, greeting each passing car. Several men walk around, surprisingly or not, in fatigues.

We are greeted in the Corsican way after lingering a bit following the previous night's debrief: "Hey, are you going to stay much longer?"

Departing by bike at the foot of the mountains. A great start. We allow ourselves to attack on the climb that takes us to the Agriates desert. After tipping over the other side, we plunge towards the sea. The great blue. The great wind.

Break in Île Rousse. Like everywhere, it's deserted off-season, what joy! We lunch on the beach, with a crazy desire to swim, but the weather is changing. We take the opportunity to test the full range of Mercier accessories. A bit lax on the itinerary, the second half consists of battling the wind on the island's only national road.

Approaching the destination. A detour through the mythical campground of the city to catch a glimpse of the bay of Calvi. We are alone, but we imagine the life there can be in summer. Laziness, rosé, and lively discussions. Arrival in Calvi. Whisky on the rocks. To recharge, we head to a well-named restaurant: l’île de beauté. PSG's defeat in the Champions League. >To bed.


Today is the most beautiful day. The weather says so.

For departure, we wind through the mythical citadel

of Calvi (after buying about fifteen bars at the super U). Then, we progress on a small winding coastal road. Suddenly, we hear detonations. We pass near firing ranges, it's Wednesday, children's day.

The road deteriorates, but the landscape remains magnificent, maybe another Komoot fantasy? The handlebars vibrate, 100% Gravel, on 28 tires. We're having a blast!

Places to refuel are scarce. We cross the hills to reach the village of Galeria, where a restaurant welcomes us. Pietra, Orezza, Corsican bruschetta, Nutella panini. Local, but not only. Digestion mode activated.

We start the first real climb of the trip, the Col de Palmarella. The asphalt is smooth. The curves are perfect. It invites competition. A dream view of the Gulf of Girolata, after a good ten kilometers at 5%. In the descent, we meet a lone cyclist we encountered at the start of the trip. Mechanical failure. We help while the sun slips towards the horizon.

We leave happy, in Molière's golden hour. The ocher lights flood the landscape, revealing the village of Partinello. We want to capture every moment, with our eyes, under our feet, with the camera. The feeling of the perfect moment. The right timing in the right place. Now, the cold envelops us, the light fades, and humidity descends from the mountains. We arrive in the Gulf of Porto by headlamp. It's completely dark, we're grateful that certain mishaps allow us to see things differently. Today was clearly the most beautiful day, I'm telling you.

On the way to dinner, we try to imagine summer atmospheres. There, the night is dark and the city anesthetized, our only choice is to head towards the only lit place tonight. New chapter: tomorrow it rains. To maximize our chances, we'll leave early and with warm feet.


At dawn, through the curtain, we discover the golf course that charms this hamlet. Jumping into our cycling shorts, we head to the bakery, which also serves as a bar and a bookstore, the village's nerve center.

As we tackle the first bends, we see the extent of the damage caused by recent storms. A restaurant detached from the rock, boats litter the parking lot.

The climb continues. White van, pickup, white van. Then comes the gift of the Calanche de Piana. Indescribable, it could use a ray of sunlight, but we're alone, and that makes the moment unique.

Left, right, between the cliffs. The sky darkens. The contrasts are striking. Wind and a fine rain set in. After a strategic stop, we try to keep our quiches and fougasses dry. Then comes the reward, sheltered under a dilapidated porch to refuel and appreciate, despite the dampness. Yes, this is cycling too. We can't linger, the weather trend is not good. One last pass on the program: San Sebastian. The first ones head towards a chapel to take shelter. It's closed. Only the wind makes its way through. Mystical.

We approach the bay of Ajaccio. We have to cycle through the kilometers, it's a deluge. The equivalent of several months of rain in a few hours. The gear saves us from certain drowning, but water always finds a way, we're soaked. Phew, we arrive in town.

Dinner at 7 pm, no time to pretend. A bottle of red for form and carbs for reason, the recipe for a high-performance machine.


Each day brings fewer minutes of sleep. Today, we get up at 5 am to benefit from the good weather window. Express breakfast. We hit the road for the final stage. Leaving Ajaccio is complicated with cars, boats, planes. It's busy.

A few small valleys before reaching Propriano. So far, rather progressive, we encounter steep climbs. Real gradients that require effort with loaded bikes on 20% inclines.

After the first ascent, we take refuge in a small grocery store. We're kindly offered coffee, but especially conversation. We explain that we come from Paris, and it goes well. The owner spent 3 years in Corbeil-Essonnes. Lucky. Another coffee. He says he lives in the most beautiful place on earth. And it's true.

He offers us Canistrelli.

We learn that we just made it through, as the road will be closed the next day for a local rally. The rain has been intensifying for the past 30 minutes, and the water level is rising in our shoes. Place your bets, nothing goes right anymore. Heads down, the rain is just a piece of information. We finish soaked, except for the top, thanks to the rain jacket.

We see the end approaching and our batteries draining. We finish singing, with friends, before the final storm arrives over the bay of Propriano.

Happy to have checked off the trail. Happy to have done this together. We're already thinking about doing it again. When do we leave?