The man has the floor again. He and his friend have painted the streets of the Côte d’Azur red and on my request has written another article for all the other cycling enthusiasts out there. (This time I had to beg less…) Have fun reading – and cloning …
A Must-Ride at the Côte d`Azur
Or: History to read and write yourself.
With an average gradient of 7%, you climb up to the summit of Madone at 925 m.a.s.l. The official Strava KOM of Richie Porte is currently 35:52, which corresponds to an average of 22.3 km/h on the 13.3 km long route, while you conquer 904 m.a.s.l.!
So much for the facts of the first rise of today’s history lesson. But the Col de la Madonna is much more than that, it’s an uphill bustle, an epic climb, a big name in cycling, even though the Tour de France has never been here. But the countless professionals based in Nice and Monaco use it for training and testing their performance values. According to Lance Armstrong, he knew whether he would win the Tour or not before the start of the Tour de France from his performance at the Madone.
This mountain is also the inspiration for the legendary ‘Trek Madone‘, one of the racing bikes on which the most prestigious successes of the last two decades have been achieved.
The modern perils
But this day begins in a very unglamorous way: with climbing stairs. On the eve, we spontaneously planned this tour, loaded it onto the GPS and off we went. But we didn’t expect that the navigation device, despite the pre-set racing bike profile, would unnecessarily send us up a tiny road that merges into countless steps instead of using the parallel road.
Well, reverse. Turn on the head and watch for yourself where you are going. It’s actually quite simple: we just have to follow the D22 out of Menton, which leads us directly to the summit.
Second attempt and this time we are on the right track. It is a curvy climb with a wonderful view on the city and the coast, which become smaller with every meter below us. As soon as you pass under the motorway bridge on the D22 and almost leave the city area, the road begins to wind up meter by meter. After each bend, the normal world ‘down there’ falls further back. The legs get heavier while the head gets lighter.
Everything can, but nothing has to
Enjoy the view, compete with the times of the professionals, explore your personal limits – everything is possible at the Col de la Madone. But in the end, not the time we needed for the way up counts most for us, but how we spent it. 35:52 minutes with blinders on like Richie Port or 1:27:46 hours pleasure ride including photo stops, as we did – in the end, one arrives at the top anyway, along one of the probably most famous climbs of the Côte d’Azur.
done – and downwards again
A fresh breeze is blowing on the hilltop. So we take a summit photo, put on wind jackets and follow the road towards Peille. The descent as well as the ascent is technically demanding and not a high-speed track. In Peille you should, instead of simply rushing through, roll at walking speed along the small alleys and explore this beautiful little village. If you like, the local crêperie also offers refreshments at non-usual meal times.
The following second part of the descent to La Grave de Peille is a real poem. A hunt for curves par excellence. Serpentine follows Serpentine. A narrow road, hardly any traffic. We fly happily from peak to peak and listen to the hum of our free-wheeling.
The modern perils part 2
Arrived in La Grave de Peille my GPS starts to beep excitedly, I have to turn. Here? We already experienced that this morning… There is nothing but a straight road leading into the valley and on the right hand a driveway into a courtyard. The navigation system insists that we have to turn right into this courtyard. An elderly lady is working in the beautiful little garden behind and looks up to us. She immediately interrupts her gardening work and makes her way to us smiling and nodding knowingly. We don’t seem to be the first to be navigated directly into her living room.
‘Just straight ahead and shortly before the bridge sharp right. Then always along the Paillon.’ She shows us the way. We thank her, bow out and roll on. She calls a friendly ‘bonne route‘ after us.
Again one of these small roads, little traffic, wonderful landscape awaits us. And so we drive along the only slightly ascending road through the gorge that the Paillon has dug into the landscape throughout history until we reach L’Escarène. There, we decide to put the Col de Turini aside and continue directly to the Col de Braus. Time is running out and as we want to be back in Menton before nightfall, we save the Turini for another day.
Off to the Col de Braus
To the pass summit of the Col de Braus we still have to cover 626 m.a.s.l. spread over 10 km. First, we wind our way up a slightly curvy mountain road, later we turn even higher over wonderful serpentines.
Once we reach the top, we slowly roll out in front of the tomb of René Vietto. He was a cycling pro in the 1930s and 1940s and is the rider in the history of the Tour de France who wore the yellow jersey the longest without ever winning the Tour. Chapeau!
René and his wife Giselle Vietto were buried up here together. The final resting place for a Cannois and his beloved. Vietto won the mountain classification up here at his local mountain in 1934. We pause for a moment before lashing our helmets again and plunging into the last descent of the day. The remaining 22 km back to Menton are almost all downhill for us.
Saint-Jean and Castillon fly past us on our way back to the coast. One thing is for sure, we will come back and continue to follow the traces of cycling history. Here on the Côte d’Azur, they can be found everywhere and while following history we write our own.
Thank you, Ingo, for the tour on the bike and the beautiful pictures that were taken.
Many thanks to man and friend for the text and the pictures. What about you: are you already champing at the bit to retrace the tour? Or are you indulging in memories because you already did it? Share your experiences on the mountain!