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Meeting with Axel Carion: organiser of BikingMan, designer of extraordinary adventures

Corsica: The land of ultracycling. BikingMan is an ultra-cycling race organised completely independently in different countries; six destinations are currently featured for the race: Oman (February), Corsica (April), Laos (May), Peru (August), Portugal (September) and Taiwan (November) - in short, a busy year.

© David Saintyves © David Saintyves

Why Corsica?

Corsica is like a mini Peru for cycling: a unique place due to its topography and its significant difference in altitude per 100 km. Much like Peru, which I first explored in 2015 while crossing the South American continent, the island provides a mystical cycling experience that is certainly demanding, yet full of unusual surprises.

This cycling experience has been like a dream ever since I first got on a bike, being able to go around Corsica and discover its 1000 faces. The welcome by bike is warm, and the cuisine is generous enough to satiate any craving. The stay is always too short, but once you explore a part of the area, you will always wish to come back.

The contact with the scents and colours of the maquis at the beginning of the season will surprise lovers of unspoilt wilderness with a vastness that sometimes makes you forget that you are on an island

Wildlife, at times roaming completely free on isolated mountain roads, contributes to the picturesque and timeless nature of these roads, which seem forgotten by tourists. Like a secret whispered among cyclists, the chance to ride off season on roads of an Olympian calm is a rare opportunity.

©

© BIKINGMAN - David Saintyves

© BIKINGMAN - Robert Palomba

What’s the objective of Corsica’s BikingMan?

To share the island's most beautiful roads, while offering a maximum variety to the cycling experience. The ultra-distance format makes it possible to allow access to areas where few cyclists go and to guarantee a complete surprise, even for islanders, who can take the opportunity to rediscover the many faces of their land. The variety of the landscapes crossed, the colours, the types of ascent from the coast to the mountains: all these make for a playground unique in Europe.

The objective of BikingMan is to bring together the world's craziest climatic and topographical conditions. Corsica is part of this race because of its topography as seen above, as well as because of this unpredictable side of the island, so beautiful and charming, which gives flavour to the event and makes the race engaging.

We cannot know in advance the conditions we will have, as we saw 2 different faces during the 2 editions already organised: in 2018, it was possible to believe you were in Ecuador due to the rain, while in 2019 the weather was very nice and very cold.

The topography requires sweat and patience to reach the mid-mountain villages in the regional natural park. The passes are numerous, the inclinations are bearable. Nevertheless, it never stops, much like in Peru! Sometimes you seem to be “trapped” in a never-ending pass. However, the view at the top erases all doubts, because it is astonishing with each ascent.

The Ajaccio Country and the Balagne mark a spectacular arrival to the Mediterranean Sea, with a breathtaking coastline and with sunrise and sunset colours that demand a stop to take photos and a break to breathe in the freedom that the island's shores offer. Don’t assume that the topography calms down on the coast. The Agriates desert and the tour of Cap Corse are a series of light climbs with a wind that can sometimes play tricks on you.

© BIKINGMAN - Magali Paulin

There are currently six destinations in the Championship, anything new for 2020?

Yes... but shh, it’s a secret.

And regarding the itinerary of BikingMan Corsica, will it remain the same?

I'm just checking with Clémence and Anthony who participated this year and they may want to increase the distance and the altitude difference...they’re crazy! 

We would like to include the GT20 route (Corsica’s long bike trail) in order to promote it and also to move further south in Corsica because the southernmost point on the current route was Aullène... We also want to go through the highest point, Col de Vergio. The GT20 is a crossing and BikingMan is a loop, therefore the distance necessarily increases and so does the difference in altitude, but more kilometres also means more landscapes and more enjoyment!

I’ll stop the spoilers now, I’ll say nothing more to you curious people!

© David Saintyves © David Saintyves

© BIKINGMAN - Robert Palomba

My experience:

I first participated in such a race with my father last April, you can participate solo or in a duo. 700 km and 13,000 m of altitude difference, a real challenge for the 2 of us, amateur cyclists without any ultra-distance experience. The time limit is 120 hours, that is, 5 days; we wanted to finish in 80 hours, and so we did. The fact that it is a completely autonomous “bike-packing” experience, without any external help, is also a major challenge especially in a destination like Corsica where you can have all the 4 seasons across 4 days; you have to plan everything...and we hadn't brought enough warm things! The descent of Col de Verde is a memorable one...(Even Jason Black, athlete and high-level adventurer who climbed K2 and Everest among others, was very, very cold - so that's an indication for you!)

It is an extraordinary experience, one that is difficult to express in words, you simply have to live it. I live in Corsica, but I went to beautiful places that I hadn’t known before and I saw things that are not featured on postcards or in magazines!

It is, above all, a human adventure of overcoming your limits, where you don’t have to be a professional, but rather to get out of your personal comfort zone.

See you next year...

 

© BIKINGMAN - Robert Palomba

© BIKINGMAN - David Saintyves

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