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The road bike trip “French Maritime Alps” started. Finally a real trip with bike and plane again. One year had already passed since my last trip. In addition, it took me five attempts to finally cycle in Nice. Finally this time the trip was not cancelled again.
Nevertheless, also this trip started with a rebooking. I forgot to register the bike with Lufthansa right after booking. When I finally got through the hotline, I was told that there was no more room for my bike on the small plane from Dresden. Therefore, I had to rebook. But it was fine, I liked the new flight times better anyway. Friday evening to Zurich and Saturday morning on to Nice. Relaxed with an overnight stay without getting up extremely early. In addition I was already early in the morning in Nice.
7:25 a.m. was departure in Zurich. Only one hour later I already landed in Nice. Shortly after nine I was at the hotel. I could mount the bike without hurry in the hotel room. Then I took the streetcar into the city. Spectacular was the entrance from the tunnel into the old port. My first destination was the store of “Café du Cycliste” at the port. Unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing for me to buy there.
Only now I noticed that I actually had come to Nice with my bike and I strolled through the city on foot. With my bike I could discovery the city much more relaxed. So back to the hotel. Already in the streetcar I planned my trip to Mont Alban. And it was worth it. The short tour was great. I cycled first along the entire boardwalk to the old harbor. Then I continued up the hill on surprisingly quiet and small roads. From the top I could enjoy wonderful views of the coast in both directions.
The travel group gathered late, just before dinner in the lobby. Finally, we were about to start. The weather forecast for the week also looked good. The road bike trip “French Maritime Alps” could begin.
Stage 1: From Nice to Col de Turini
Breakfast was at seven, departure to the French Maritime Alps at nine in sunshine and perfect road bike temperatures. First we rode on the same route which I already took the day before. We cycled along the whole promenade towards the city. It was already quite busy for a Sunday morning.
But we didn’t go up the first hill like I did the day before. We skipped it and we took the second one instead. This was the climb to the Col de Eze. The entire route, first passing Monte Carlo then back down to Menton, we had fantastic views of the coast and the sea from the high road. A dream road in fact.
From sea level, the second climb led to the Col de Castillon. There we had our lunch break. Almost directly after a descent the climb to the Col de Turini begun: 24.2 kilometers with mostly 6-7 percent gradient. Not very steep but 24 kilometers drag on. Overnight stay was directly on the pass in two somewhat outdated hotels. I had no idea that we had arrived at one of the hotspots of Rally Monte Carlo. The hotel showed an extensive collection over the years of the event.
Stage 2: From Col de Turini to Cuneo
In the morning the 2nd stage started with quite a long descent from Col de Turini. Fortunately, it was not as fresh as we had expected. After quite a brisk ride on the flat, we reached the place of the lunch brake to quickly. We bridged the time with a coffee. After the lunch break, directly the climb to the Col de Lombarde began: again a very long 24 kilometers. For a while I struggled because of a lack of motivation. My roommate Markus rode with me. That helped a lot. The climb was boring and without varying much.
At the summit we crossed the border to Italy. The following descent was challenging. But on this narrow road, the climb would have been much nicer. When we finally reached the flatlands, we cycled in a as a small group of three the remaining almost 40 kilometers to the stage finish in Cuneo.
Stage 3: From Cuneo to Guillestre
From Cuneo we first had to cycle more than 20 kilometers back to the mountains. Only straight ahead, but at high speed. Nevertheless very boring. The food stop of the day at kilometer 55 was quickly reached. It was already at 1300 m altitude. It was quite fresh. Fortunately, the sun came through from time to time, which you always noticed immediately.
Immediately after the lunch break, we started the 12-kilometer climb up the Col d’Agnel, or Colle dell’Agnello in Italian. Finally a beautiful mountain again, just as it should be. After pleasant gradients at the beginning, it continued in double digits for long stretches. Exactly on the pass was the border between Italy and France. We had arrived in the clouds. It was very fresh. The French side showed completely different weather. One could see the sun not far away.
The descent was great, not difficult and with long straight passages. The bike could roll and we quickly reached more comfortable temperatures. At a nice coffee stop, the group gradually found itself together again. On we went at a fast pace to the hotel. On the way we passed another wonderful valley and the gigantic Guil Gorge with insane views.
Stage 4: From Guillestre to Annot
The day began with a short descent to the village. There already began the first climb of the day. It went up to the Col de Vars. This climb was very nice to ride. Not too long, not too steep and a lot to look at. The descent was also very nice. We had a coffee stop in the valley.
Then it was still further downhill until we reached the next climb. Before that, the lunch break was planned. On the intended place we were first scolded by the owner. But then we were allowed to stay.
After the break, we had the climb to the Col de Allos the program. Again a very nice climb and a very nice descent. After the last coffee stop of the day, everyone rushed up the last hill with blood filled with fresh sugar. Overnight stay was in the beautiful town of Annot.
Stage 5: From Annot to Barcelonnette
The 5th stage was a half day of rest because the stage was the shortest and easiest of the whole tour. After breakfast, we first had to digest the sight of a serious accident right after leaving the village. A truck choked in the guardrail, a little further stood a smashed car.
After a short downhill we turned into the Gorges de Daluis with red rocks. It went down very deep chasms. Photo stop at the women’s head. We passed many small tunnels where each tunnel had a bypass road. I wonder how people once got around here without the bypasses.
Luch break was in Entraunes after only 46 kilometers. It was hard for the bus to catch up with us after such a short distance. He must also shop beforehand. Therefore, we first went to a bakery. After our coffee brake there was still time for a small piece of baguette at our bus. But that little peace was heavy in my stomach until we reached the summit. The mountains are high in the French Maritime Alps and therefore it was again quite fresh on the summit of the Col de la Cayolle.
A few quick photos and off we went into the long descent. It was again easy to ride. Only the hands were numb again and again because the descent took no end. Again we cycled through a great gorge on small roads. We quickly reached the small, beautiful Hotel Azteca in Barcelonnette. Because of the short tour we had time for a stroll in the city center. For the next day, however, rain was announced.
Stage 6: From Barcelonnette to Puget-Théniers
Because of the predicted rain, we left half an hour earlier. After a short cool approach, we went into the climb to the Col de la Bonnette. Again a long climb with about 20 km length and endless meters of elevation up to the Cime de la Bonette at 2,802 meters. It was fresh at the top. Fortunately, the rain stayed away.
The descent was long again. A few times I stopped and took photos. So I could also move the hands so that I got back feeling in my fingers. It went downhill for a long time until I finally saw the bus for the lunch break.
After the break we continued with the whole group in the valley. After a short ride, we already made another coffee stop. Only three kilometers further, the day’s option began for four of us: a climb with about 850 meters of elevation to the Col de la Sinne. It turned out to be a wonderfully quiet little road. Everyone should have cycled here. On the climb we saw only two cars and a group of four motorcyclists. On the descent there was another car. All passes should be like this. This detour was worth it.
In the evening we had already the last dinner together. Too bad.
Stage 7: From Puget-Théniers back to Nice
After only five kilometers, we had a flat tire in the group. So far, we had been largely spared from punctures. The climbs of the last day were smaller and shorter than on the days before. But my legs were heavy for the first time. The second climb was really steep. 11% on average over three kilometers. Cycling slowly helped. After another hill, the lunch stop was reached. It was about time. It had been difficult for me to keep up with the group.
After the break we had a short downhill. Most of the group went fast and was gone. The remnants found each other as a groop after a while. Uphill my legs were still heavy even after the break. I was struggling to keep up. At the famous mountain village of Gourdon, the group reunited. I cycled alone downhill towards Nice and skipped the coffee break. It became again an eternally long descent of over 1,000 meters down to sea level.
A flat tire close to the end
At the end of the descent, the bike lanes started. I stayed on the road and took the bike path once the traffic stopped. Poof, the front tire was flat. My group came and had a pump. That helped. I continued with my group the last 10 kilometers to the hotel. We cycled back to the starting hotel on dangerous bike paths with adventurous lane crossings. I would have loved to jump into the ocean but no one wanted to join me. Too bad. The road bike trip “French Maritime Alps” was done and dusted.
An astonishing number stayed over night and met in the evening in town for dinner. Two of us were early and had fought for a table for the whole group. Great! We had pizza at a quite good price and quite expensive beer right on the promenade. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the sea because of some temporary tents. We were amazed at the hustle and bustle in the center. Quickly everyone got tired and we took the streetcar back to the hotel.
Alarm clock at half past six, breakfast at seven. We were not the first at breakfast. At eight, our shuttle left for the airport. My roommate Markus and I had the same flight to Frankfurt. My onward flight was delayed. Annoying that Lufthansa noticed only after boarding should have started already.
It was again a beautiful trip. It is always fascinating how well a group of strangers find each other after only one week.
23. September 2021 — 13:05
Olaf, nice trip and nice description. You certainly enjoyed it. Take care.