Sardinia

Sardinia
— Training for nothing before hibernation —

Grab a group of friends. Discover a new place. Ride your bike.
Taste the local product. Spend a bit of time doing what you love.
Live a little. Smile a lot. And train for nothing in Sardinia.
PHOTO: Graham Longford PHOTO: Graham Longford PHOTOS: Alain Rumpf x 2

Fraternité. PHOTO: Graham Longford

PHOTOS: Alain Rumpf x 3

It was November 2011 when it was apparent that a
holiday was needed. My good friends Dan and Janine
are mountain sports photographers and they had just
finished a long season of shooting in the Alps. I was
working for the UCI at the time and was back from China
where I had organised the first edition of the Tour of Beijing.
We needed a serious break: all we wanted was to go south,
ride bikes, eat well… and relax before the onset of winter.
We ended up spending a week in Tuscany, exploring the
Strade Bianche, eating wild boar with mushrooms and
drinking Chianti. We called this our “training for nothing” PHOTO: Alain Rumpf

camp: riding in a beautiful place – just for the sake of it, one
last time before going into cycling hibernation. I had never been and was looking for a new destination Here’s everything you always wanted to know about riding one occasion. As we were coming down a hill on the third
The opportunity came up again this year to repeat the to take guests for some late season riding. Somewhere off the in Sardinia. Not that you were afraid to ask; you just didn’t day, we found the road blocked. By a herd of sheep. Nobody
experience. I was at the Maratona dles Dolomites to guide a beaten paths. One Spritz later and the decision was made: know this place is indeed a cycling paradise. complained… and many pictures were taken.
group for Grand Tours Project, the cycling tour company I we would go to Sardinia for a training for nothing camp. I live in Switzerland. Here, most roads are as smooth as a As a matter of fact, we barely saw any car outside of the
manage. The idea came from Marcello, our driver, chef, At the end of October, we spent four days with Marcello baby’s bottom and I am often shocked by the bad quality of towns. “Our population is a bit more than a million and a
entertainer and troubleshooter, who comes from Sardinia. and his mate Simone on the west coast of Sardinia. We asphalt when I go abroad. Not in Sardinia: even the small half, and one third is concentrated around Cagliari,” says
After a big day in the mountains, we were relaxing at the started in Tresnuraghes and finished at Alghero, the town lanes in the countryside are well maintained, which makes Simone. “The island is about 300km long and 200km wide,
– By Alain Rumpf bar, sipping on some Aperol Spritz when he invited us to that will host the start of the 100th edition of the Giro in for an outstanding experience. so we’ve got space. It’s still possible to live in the outdoors,
discover his Mediterranean island. 2017. In these four short days I discovered an amazing place. Still, I have to say that we were caught in a traffic jam on feeling alone and at peace, and totally immersed in nature.” >>
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Sardinia

PHOTO: Graham Longford PHOTO: Alain Rumpf

>> Not only are the roads smooth and empty, they are also
gorgeous. In many different ways: with its cliffs and big
views, the road that winds along the sea between Bosa and
Alghero reminded me of the Pacific Coast Highway around
Big Sur in California. Repairing a puncture there under the
gaze of a three-metre wide griffon vulture circling above us
was a highlight of our trip. In Sardinia, even a negative part
of cycling is a positive attribute of the adventure.
But there’s more. The descent into Alghero from the top
of the steep climb of La Speranza is pure switchback porn.
However, my favourite roads are inland: tiny lanes that cut
through the countryside between beautifully preserved
villages. Tinnura is one of them; when we crossed it, it was
completely empty, save for the characters painted onto every
wall space. All of Sardinian history and myth is represented,
from local farmers and townspeople to a two-storey portrait
of Garibaldi… it’s an Instagram heaven.

The weather
At home in Switzerland, late October means wearing short
fingered gloves… at best. In Sardinia, the temperature was
between 22 and 28 degrees. We rode in short knicks most of
the time. It is possible to ride all year; winter may be a bit PHOTO: Graham Longford

cold, but mostly inland. “With long days, a blast of colours
and perfumes as well as marvellous light, spring is the best Every year, Ricardo goes on a big cycling trip. His next
season,” says Simone. “In summer, take a siesta between goal: Beijing. Oh, there’s an important detail: the guy is 70,
noon and 4.00pm.” That sounds like good advice. but he easily looks 10 years younger. Cycling, healthy food
and a simple life apparently perform wonders.
The food Sardinians are passionate people. We spent our first two
A good cycling tour is not just about the riding. Eating (not nights at Villa Asfodeli; we were hosted by Guglielmo, an
just fuelling) is also essential. On our first evening, we had architect by profession, and his wife Maria Cristina. In
dinner at Trattoria da Ricardo in Magomadas. There was no 2007, they bought this ancient villa in the small village of
menu as the owner, Ricardo, cooks the fresh food he finds Tresnuraghes near Bosa. They restored it carefully, turning
every day at the local market. Homemade bread, cheese, it into a hotel without losing the character of the building.
ravioli, tuna and swordfish accompanied by red wine: our This is the story Guglielmo will tell you when you return
experience of Sardinian cuisine started with a bang. from a big day out, as you eat the pasta he just cooked
For our second dinner in Bosa, Marcello and Simone had himself. Delicious food served any time of the day to hungry
prepared a surprise. Through winding cobbled streets, we cyclists is not the only service provided by this bike-friendly
were taken to the wine cellar of brothers Manuele and Luigi. hotel: you can also get your kit washed every day and store
They make Malvasia di Bosa, one of the Sardinian wines. your bike in a secure garage equipped with tools.
While we were tasting it, dishes were brought in and we
ended up having a full dinner in the cellar, with suckling pig *****
as the main course. We slept well that night.
But the food experience in Sardinia is not limited to the Great riding, beautiful scenery, amazing food and authentic
meals. With Simone and Marcello, there were no energy people: it did not take me long to understand that the
drinks or tasteless cereal bars for rides. They wait for you on organisers of the Giro d’Italia have unearthed a hidden gem
the roadside with a full buffet: shepherd’s bread with honey, for the start of the race next year. I hope that this spotlight
fresh fruit, torrone (the local nougat), pecorino cheese and on Sardinia will inspire many cyclists to take a break from
fregula, a dish halfway between couscous and pasta. After their busy life and discover this cycling heaven.
that, you’ll never look at your energy food the same way. I will be back. First in the spring to enjoy some early
warm weather; then for the Giro as part of the Grand Tours
The people Project holidays, where we will ride on the race course, just
In many holiday destinations, the hospitality tends to be hours before the pro peloton. And, of course, for another
standardised at best, fake at worst. In Sardinia, people are training for nothing camp in autumn. But I also have
real. You can feel that Simone and Marcello are in love with another reason to go back. Marcello promised me that he’ll
their island; they will tell you everything about the history get me pecorino cheese from his friend the shepherd next
and the culture of the places you’ll visit with them. They will time I am in Sardinia. I’m Swiss and I have a passion for
introduce you to their friends. Like Ricardo, who hosted us cheese, so I have to go back for the pecorino… n Alain Rumpf
in his trattoria for our first dinner. Not only is he a fantastic Join Alain in Sardinia next May when he goes for the
chef, but he’s also an adventurer and a storyteller. 100th Grand Partenza: grandtoursproject.com
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