Sicily Cycling Club organized a cycling camp for 25 employees from the Danish company Energimidt. It was a fantastic trip through the different regions and Grand finale on Mount Etna.
SICILY - A BICYCLE EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME
By: Thomas Opstrup // Photo: Thomas Opstrup
Day 1 - Short test ride
After arriving by bus from the airport to the beautiful country house in Avola, it's time to unpack the bikes and get them tuned to the first small afternoon ride. As the bike ride first starts in the afternoon Energimidt will have a short ride of about 53 km. The tour goes past Noto which is known for its beautiful Baroque buildings. Some choose to stay at home the first day, and instead enjoy the private beach, which is one of Sicily's best. Not all is about cycling in a cycling camp.
Day 2 - Stunning nature in the south
After a light workout on the cfirst day of the cycling camp it's time to take hold a second day of 150 km. with 2794 meters of altitude. Energimidt is divided into three teams Gold - Silver - Bronze. Each running different distances within they capabilities, so everyone can participate. The ride goes up and down all day through magnificent nature scenery with ravines and rivers and picturesque baroque cities. The whole area in the south is known for its baroque cities. Today's highest point is approximately 800 meters.
Day 3 - Noto, Modica and Ragusa
Of the cycling camp featured 144 km., 2,549 height meters for gold team - 120 km. for silver team, and 94 km. for bronze team. Today's stage goes through Noto, Modica and Ragusa. These are some of the most beautiful cities in Sicily. All are on the Unesco World Heritage list. News of the day: Etna has started to erupt so there is a risk that the finals on Monday up to the crater, will be shortened - we'll see.
Day 4 - Siracusa - Giardini Naxos
We left the area in the south and rode north along the coast. On the way we did a quick visit to Siracusa. Here is a lot to see, and the part of the city which lies on an island called Ortigia is beautiful and with a rich history.
Archimedes is the most famous townsman here. After we have seen the square - Piazza Duomo - Is it time to move on towards Catania. Here we stop in the middle of the town for a quick lunch. The traffic is heavy in the city, so here we go gently. An incredibly intense city that never sleeps.
The cycling camp change hotel
The cycling camp moves after lunch on towards Acicastello, which is known for its Norman castle, which is impregnable on a lava rock half out in the water. yes, our ancestors have been here before us! From here there are circa 40 km. to the hotel in Naxos.
The last km. goes along the coast, and we pass and see Don Tommasino's house famous from the Godfather films. Good to arrive at the hotel and go to the private beach for a refreshing swim. Dinner tastes good after 163 km. in the saddle.
Day 5 - Alcantara
Today the cycling camp will tackle 131 km., 2,425 meters of altitude. From the coast we drive into the country. First we come through the beautiful national park Alcantara, located on the border between the north side of Mount Etna and the beautiful mountainous natural area in the north - Nebrodi.
Motta Camastra and Randazzo
After approximately 20km. we pass the small village of Motta Camastra which was one of the locations in the Godfather films. We go on and take a detour up the Nebrodi National Park. Here the road is serious uphill. Fortunately we have a long descent most of the way down towards Randazzo. Here it is time to taste a "Paste di Mandorla" as the place is known for.
After a stop in Randazzos historic center it on towards Bronte. The city is world famous for its Pistacio nuts. Here they produces the finest Pistacios in the world. It is quite different than those from China one usually finds in Danish supermarkets.
After Bronte we are heading back to the hotel. All the way we drive along Etna's north side. Nature is matchless in this area, with small beautiful fortress towns on every mountaintop. With half tired legs we reach the hotel. It's time for a little snack and a swim in the Mediterranean. Tomorrow waits the first of 2 stages to Etna for this cycling camp.
Day 6 - Two times Etna
Now we really need to concentrate; with 132 km. and 4.332 meters of altitude the cycling camp gets serious. Just to make matters worse, we will start with a ride up to the fortress city of Taormina. Quite incredibly beautiful city, which is also considered one of the most beautiful in Italy. There is no time to dwell too much on Taormina today in front of us is waiting two ascents of Mount Etna - first from the north and then from the east.
The first climb takes us up to Rifugio Citelli in 1750 meters altitude. Part of this climb was featured in the 2011 Giro d’Italia. After the descent, it quickly goes up. We ride from Zafferana to Rifugio Sapienza. With its 7.8% incline, it is counted as the most difficult climb of Etna. Another factor is that the road in some places is quite bumpy, so it feels like our tires are being sucked into the asphalt.
Puhh.. we arrive all at the top, where we enjoy the stunning views. From here it is downhill all the way to the hotel, and it is good, for all have very tired legs after todays 4.332 height meters.
Day 7 - Roadbike and MTB
15km. uphill from Zafferana to Rifugio Sapienza + 25 km. MTB to the top of Etna's crater at 3500 meters altitude is the days menu for the cycling camp. The trip from the hotel and up to Rifugio Sapienza, we know from yesterday, but the legs are tired, and the people riding conservatively because we know what to expect.
MTB to the crater
Upon arrival at Rifugio Sapienza 26 Mountain bikes are ready for us. We change shoes and is ready. We have Sicily Cycling clubs guide Giambattista with us. He leads the battle up the very steep gravel road that will lead us to the top. After 5-6 km. we arrived to where the Etna cable car stop. Giambattista draws and tells the whole story of Mount Etna in the lava sand in front of the cable car building.
Etna was created 500,000 years ago, before that there was a large ocean bay where Etna is. We must go towards the top now. It is extremely hard to ride in Etnas loose sand. You have to stay seated or you loose traction of the backwheel in the soft sand. When we are about 500 meters from the top, we are stopped by the police. Due to Etna is erupting they have set the security zone here. No one is allowed to go higher up.
It is good, for 5 minutes after we arrived Etna erupt an explosive cloud of smoke right in front of our eyes - CRAZY!! Had we been at the crater now we were all dead! The safety zone is a good thing. The impression of standing on Europe's highest active volcano is an experience of a lifetime.
Decent back for a cold beer
After half an hour we are beginning the descent back to the Sapienza. It is quite a challenge. Not only that it is steep but the paths are a combination of large stones, gravel, and loose sand. We have a number of crashes but no one gets hurt. Back in Sapienza is the time for a deserved cold beer and a snack at an outdoor restaurant. What is a cycling camp without a cold beer?
Tomorrow we head home to Denmark. It has been an absolutely amazing experience here in Sicily. Beautiful nature, great routes, great food, and nice weather.