An Interview with Viva Italia Tour Leader Özgür Karataş
Popular TDA Global Cycling Tour Leader Özgür Karataş recently finished scouting the route of the Viva Italia Cycling Tour which he will be leading later this year. We asked him for his impressions on the roads, the food, the wine and much more.
Özgür, Now that you had an opportunity to scout this latest TDA cycling adventure let us ask you a few questions. Italy is popular with cyclists from all over the world but this trip is different. Can you tell us why?
As you know, being from Turkey and the Mediterranean, my answers may be biased! For many days we will be riding along the stunning coastlines of Italy, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily where you can swim. In the middle of your ride you can just dive, cool off and then sun yourself on a warm, sandy beach. The only problem may be convincing your body to get back on the bike. There will also be quite a few rest days (Bonifacio, Calvi, Cala Gonone, Maratea) where the riders can explore the water by boat.
The tour starts in Rome and heads to the hills of Tuscany. Tell us more about what will the cyclists experience in Tuscany.
The gentle rolling hills of Tuscany will be a nice warm up for the more challenging climbs in Corsica! After leaving Rome we will pedal through a number of picturesque Tuscan towns – Orvieto, Bagnoregio, Ficulle, Pienza, Castelmuzio, Chisure, Mucigliani & Siena. The region features stunning landscapes, living history, incredible food and exquisite art.
Italy of course is famous for its wines. Tell us which were the vineyards that most impressed you and why?
The vineyards in Chianti are incredible. Surrounded by olive groves, ancient castles, stone farmhouses and lush forests, these grapes produce some of the world’s best and unrecognizable wines. Our route also follows parts of the famous Via Chiantigiana which follows the ridges between the Val d’Elsa and the Valdarno, wandering from one farmhouse and villa to another, passing through charming villages and historic towns.
In order to make this a circular tour the riders will be cycling in Corsica which is part of modern day France. Their culture, however, is more Italian then French. Belonging to France does has its advantages. In 2013 Corsica had the opportunity to host part of the 2013 Tour de France. Are the cyclists going to cycle any of the stages of that Tour?
Having been to different parts of France and Italy, I have to say that Corsica is really something different. Along the islands western coast from Calvi to Ajaccio we will be cycling the same route that the 2013 Tour took, just in reverse. This route is certainly one of hardest on the tour but also one of the most scenic. No worries. We divided the stage into two. That way the riders can enjoy the ride and, as a bonus, spend a night in beautiful Porto.
Can you tell us something about your favourite climbs and descents?
Wow. There were so many. Spinning up and down undulating hills in Tuscany. The marvellous climb out of Cala Gonone on Sardinia. Climbing through Sicily’s timeless landscape to the hilltop town of Enna. Speeding downhill in Corsica from Zonza past dramatic granite mountains. However, I think nothing on this tour compares to the day where the riders climb up 800m from the Amalfi Coast before coasting downhill to ill-fated Pompei, complete with a stunning view of with Mount Vesuvius off in the distance.
Another thing that one always thinks of about Italy is cycling the Amalfi Coast and visiting Pompeii. Are the cyclists going to cycle to Pompeii? What’s Amalfi coast like?
The riders will absolutely have the opportunity to cycle the Amalfi Coast, deemed an outstanding example of the Mediterranean landscape by UNESCO, on the their stage ride from Agropoli to Pompeii. The road along the water is rolling and windy, bracketed by plunging mountains and turquoise seas, and sprinkled with pastel-coloured houses seemingly hanging impossibly from the cliffs. They will also have a rest day to explore the haunting and well-preserved ruins of Pompeii, one of Europe’s most famous archeological sites.
Do you have any other recommendations for the riders taking part in the Viva Italia?
Well, be sure to bring granny gears with at least 36 teeth in the back and at least 34 teeth in the front. Pack 3 sets of brake pads. Oh, and before the tour, you may not want to eat pasta and pizza for about 3 months!