Thanks to Marc Zeltner for writing this feature, it’s about a German competing in a French scooter event on an Italian scooter in Corsica. The Rallye Des 3 Massifs is a demanding navigational sportive event put on by the Vespa Club Dauphinois. Here’s how Marc got on…
What’s not to like about riding your scooter in a stunning landscape, experiencing foreign countries, good company and simply having a holiday away from the worn out routes of your daily life? No wonder the amount of organised scooter touring events has increased over the last few years. These events often guide you to the highlights of the organisers native countries landscape. This makes you enjoy running your beauty, focused on the simple pleasures of riding.
Three massive mountains
Of course riding to rallies, like the EuroLambretta or the Vespa World Days from far away is in a class of its own but these touristic shaped events are getting ever more popular. We participated a couple of times at the Tre Mari Event in southern Italy where we met the lads from the Vespa Club Dauphinois in Grenoble, who invited us to their own event: The Rally des 3 Massifs (3 Mountain Massif Rally).
For 2018, the 7th Edition, the organisers came up with something special. Starting point Grenoble, heading south and over to Corsica. Famous for its rough landscape and their patriotic population. Furthermore, Corsica is a legendary bike destination and thousands of two wheelers head to the island during the summer months. So this was promising a lot.
Prepare to fail
Attending the tour in 2016, we found out that the sportive nature of the event was no overstatement. Most of the 130 participants, mostly on geared scooters, took the continuity run seriously and prepared themselves by studying the road book, making notes of their route and riding like hell through the Alps. One guy from Luxembourg, who made the first place later, even grazed his elbow by riding too tight to a wall in a switchback, narrower than yoga pants. We totally underestimated that point and our scooter boy behaviour, by having drinks at lunch and neglecting to prepare ourselves by having a look in the road book, made us the gammy team.
2018 extreme training
Fast forward to 2018 and after two further years of aggressive and extremely reckless behaviour in public traffic I had completed my training for the event. At least, it made my ride home from work more bloodcurdling.
After receiving the detailed road book and the goodie bag we passed our baggage over, which would be brought to the hotel in Corsica later. This means you’re riding with almost no additional weight on your 10” mule. Teams of 4 Riders are the rule and your team number will be your starting time during the whole event. We have been put as the second team, meant to start at 09:02 every morning.
Break a leg
The first day was the trip from Grenoble to Toulon, where the overnight ferry to Corse casts off in the evening. The trip was well planned and included a good mix of Alpine passes and state routes. So it went very well and the progress on the 330km was fine.
Sadly, Mario from the Vespa Club Luxembourg missed a corner and crashed his nice ’64 Vespa GT into the ditch. Beside all the fun everybody surely had, passing an ambulance and a crashed Vespa reminds you that riding a classic scooter in a sportive way remains a challenge to both machine and rider.
Beyond that accident, everybody arrived at the harbour of Toulon safe, where we were welcomed by the Vespa Club of Toulon. They served some appetisers and drinks and we still had plenty of time left till boarding. Everybody could enjoy the free time and relax a little bit. Even Mario was brought there in a wheelchair after getting his leg set in the hospital. Good news.
If like me, living hundreds of miles away from the coast, ships have a kind of romantic notion of freedom and adventure. The reality is quite different. Hectic workers lead you to your parking space under the deck. These guys just talking three words, ‘hey, hey, hey’. Leaving a bad feeling after your beloved piece of Italian engineering is out of sight…
Anyway, everything went well and the organised corso ride through Bastia was impressive. Not an everyday look in the townscape, 130 scooters riding through town to the starting point for day two. The route was from Bastia in the North/East of the island over the land tongue Cap Corse to the village LÍle Rousse in the West. This meant 223km of scenic coast roads and endless curves.
The Variety of that route was impressive. From stunning beach views, azure blue bays to rough back country, everything was there. After almost every mountain you ride over or through, a different view opens up. The road condition was mostly good at the coast, but was in really bad shape in the back country. The cows on the road didn’t mind it. But they did mind Melis’ TS1. One cow went crazy on the road and our team mates Rui and Thomas had to do a little “Yehaw” and lead them back on their range land.
After reaching the wonderful hotel in LÍle Rousse late afternoon, it becomes apparent that everybody shared that same happy smile after discovering those wonderful roads and impressive views on the island. Even the two guys that slipped on the gravel in the back country said it was worth every mile and the effort.
The afternoon passed by, people having drinks at the pool or just relaxing. The gala dinner was held in the evening with a Corse pork stew, a few good glasses of wine and much Chartreuse. In fact, too much Chartreuse (a Grenoble herb booze). These Dauphinois guys not only ride sportive, they also know how to drink.
Day 3: Bringing my headache to Ajaccio
It started as the stage before ended. Unbelievable coast roads. Stunning rough canyon passes and curvy back country routes. 220km to enjoy, heading to the birth city of Napoleon, Ajaccio. The multitude of different scenery on that Island is the point that makes riding there such a pleasure. Again, the organisers found a pretty good mixture of roads to reach our destination but also to give us all a nice impression of what makes people swarm to Corse.
The Lambretta Club of Ajaccio welcomed us in their club house and served some beverages. The teams arrived one after another, many in their specified time. Most of the teams took it very seriously and this highlights again the sportive character of this event.
He, hey, hey, part 2
The ferry took everybody safely over to Toulon again, where the last stage began. A well planned route like on day one, so the progress was good.
We missed the first checkpoint and headed 40km in the wrong direction. At least at this point we had to face the truth: Even a specially printed road book in German cannot equal our easy going attitude. Aside that the 1.5h lunch break, having a good beef steak in the middle of the Provence made our target time even worse, but our mood much better.
The Arrival in Grenoble was exhausting. Not only was it sweltering, but after 3 days riding on stunning roads, the traffic and many traffic lights makes it a kind of cultural shock. All teams arrived safely and in acceptable time schedules, so the award ceremony could be held. You can see the results and more info at Vespa Club Dauphinois. Respect to the winners. You have to be well organised, have to have a real good orientation and have to be able to ride well in changing conditions.
Most non-local scooterists headed afterwards to the proposed hotel in Grenoble. Some loaded their scooters on to trailers/vans in the evening. Other parked them on the parking lot. When we came out to breakfast the next morning, scooterists and police could be seen looking anxiously around the place. Three scooters had been stolen off the trailer on the “attended parking lot” in the early morning hours. These scumbags cut the fence and lifted the scooters from the trailers. On the CCTV a minimum of 10 people could be seen walking around at about 5am but sadly the camera position didn’t cover the place where the trailer was parked.
Luckily most other scooters were parked at the front door, near the reception. So nothing happened to them. Also luckily, social media spread the news in the community and one Grenoble police officer who also participated in the rally pulled a few strings and highlighted the situation to the local authorities. After less than 12 hours, the three scooters were found and could be given back to the more than happy fellows. A happy ending.
Anyway, locking your beauties is getting more important, no matter where you ride. This was a good warning for me to take it more seriously. This little detail, parking the scooters in the area around the reception, maybe made the difference.
Are you up to the challenge?
Generally speaking you can say, beside all the nice memories, you have to ride for four days from morning till you reach the end of the stage. You have a time schedule to fulfil, at least to reach the ferry. The different conditions of road makes riding a challenge and it can be a pain on bad roads. But if you enjoy riding, feel comfortable in your saddle and like to discover new places this could be one for you to do next year.
At the end I only can agree with writer Lucy Foley, which also makes me look smarter to people if repeating an internet found quote in my article:
“It was then I thought of Corsica, the place we had discovered together. I craved the wind, the sun and salt, the simplicity of the island.”
Thank you VC Dauphinois for the organisation of that wonderful event and your efforts. Thank you to all participants for the good spirit and company. Thank you to the Corsican cow for not killing me on the road.
Words: Marc Zeltner
Pictures: Meli & Marc Zeltner and some by Marc Gosparini
Contact: VC Dauphinois
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