Welcome to Sardinia
The Mediterranean island played host to the opening Giro Donne stages
Imagine the Mediterranean coastline.
How many crystal-clear shades of turquoise do you picture? Can you see the waves crashing against the rocks, limestone cliffs towering high above? Feel the breeze, warm and salty, a gentle respite from the endless sun. The fine grain sand invites you to spread a towel and make yourself comfortable.
Welcome to Sardinia.
Whether you arrive on the island by ferry or by plane, you can’t miss the stunning 1,800 kilometer coastline. It’s no wonder then that fishing has played such an important role in local life for centuries. In the village of Carloforte, residents continue to use traditional tuna fishing techniques as practiced by their forefathers.
After training along the coast ahead of the prologue, Abi Smith was smitten. “It was really nice being by the sea. It was so blue. It makes you just want to jump in. I didn’t actually go in which I’m a little disappointed about. It was really cool, especially the prologue being by the beach and seeing so much of the coastline as well when I was on the airplane.”
In contrast to Sardinia’s countless beaches, the interior of the island is rugged and mountainous with the tallest peak, Punta La Marmora, reaching 1,834 meters. The mountains transition to plateaus, forests, and valleys, making the island a superb off-the-beaten-path destination for mountain biking — just be sure to keep an eye out for grazing cows and donkeys.
Meals tend to be leisurely and social affairs. Expect plates to be passed around the table with fresh greens, traditional bread, local cheese, and of course fish. Conversation will be lively and boisterous and there is likely to be multiple generations gathered together.
Pane carasau is the traditional bread in Sardinia. Hand-made, the dough is rolled out in thin circles before cooking in a stone oven. The heat causes the dough to balloon, at which point it is removed from the oven and sliced in half before returning to the oven to cook one last time. The result is an exceptionally thin bread that yields a satisfying crunch.
“To be honest, I absolutely loved Sardinia,” says EF Education-TIBCO-SVB sports director Tim Harris. “I loved the fact that it was nearly 40 degrees. For me it can be 40 degrees every day. I loved the fact that there was beautiful scenery. I loved the fact that the food was absolutely fantastic. I thought it was a beautiful place.”
After a week on the island, Tim does lament a lost opportunity. “I was disappointed in the fact that I didn’t drink any Sardinian wine because I was here with the team,” he laughs.
While the Sardinian stages of the Giro Donne were mostly flat, stage 3 started with a 7-kilometer climb in the neutral section. Kathrin Hammes noticed this and hopes the race features some of the mountains in the future. “It was my first time in Sardinia and it was really quite an experience,” she says. “It’s really nice for riding, it's just that our stages could have had more adventurous routes and more climbing. It’s super nice to be so close to the sea and also the food is good. And the coffee!”
Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, is a lively town populated with shops, restaurants, and museums spread across the labyrinth of streets and alleys you’d expect to find in a medieval city. Just beyond the city, you’ll find hiking trails, Roman ruins, and even a flamingo reserve.
Given Sardinia’s geographical location, focus on fresh foods, and valuing social and familial relationships, it’s no surprise that the island is one of five so-called “blue zones” around the world. The island boasts an average of 33 centenarians per 100,000 residents and each village has its own traditions to honor those who reach their 100th birthday.
Sardinia has a rich culture, history, and traditions. Once you experience it for yourself, you’ll feel it.