Cycling Training in Nice, Col de la Madone

Posted on April 3rd, 2010 by Tim Bell in Cycling Training in Nice, The Road to Tourmalet

I spent some time before our group arrived in Nice playing around with routes on Bikely.com and uploading them to my Garmin Edge 705, so knew that we were likely to roll out of Nice then go gently uphill for a while before we approached the Col de la Madone, but I was unprepared for two things; the Col d’Eze has a deceptive name, and my Bikely route failed at the first waypoint. The route issue didn’t matter, because we had our superb local guide Claire Scutton (clairescrutton@hotmail.com) accompanying us, but we were all surprised by the gradient which rose up 600 metres fairly quickly. However the feeling of being on a bike going up a genuine French hill more than compensated, as did the views of the Cote d’Azur and Cap Ferrat which rewarded the early effort. Our group (now minus Roisin, whose rental bike had given her some insurmountable gear issues) spread out on this first hill then congregated for a noisette (cafe macchiato) at La Turbie, providing an unnecessary adrenaline shot ahead of the descent into Menton. I’m going to have to look into getting a helmet cam, because the last thing you want to do when riding up or down a mountain with amazing 360 views is get off the bike and take a photo. I can at least share my Garmin Edge 705 ride stats with you, thanks to Garmin Connect’s new widget which lets me embed ride details into web pages…

Turning out of Menton, we started the Col de la Madone as a group and agreed to meet at the top. It’s important to find your own rhythm and cadence on a climb and I soon found myself staring up at the 1,000-or-so metres alone, having attacked in the neutral zone (or so my fellow riders complained..). Madone has not been used in the Tour de France to my knowledge, but it does feel like a real cycling mountain, with countdown signs telling you how far to the summit in distance and altitude.

Looking down at Menton from near the top of Col de la Madone

Looking down at motorway, Menton and the Med from near the top of the Madone

There is a motorway looming on stilts above, which provides an intimidating perspective gauge as you gradually put it beneath you one hairpin at a time. The only town en route to the summit is Saint Agnes, at which point you need to stay on the D22 signed for Peille and La Turbie. I stopped here to make sure we were all on the right path, and enjoy some views of the Med. The rest of the group were not far behind, Andy and John first to arrive. We knew that Emma, Claire and Dan would be OK so decided to head on up to the summit before our legs got cold. The road quality deteriorated for the last few km and we hit a nasty headwind for the final stretch, but it felt good when we finally hit the top of our first proper climb. At least we thought we had; someone had stolen the sign, a fact not lost on Lance Armstrong when he got there a few days before we did; doesn’t he look a bit tired in this picture? http://twitpic.com/1agit

Andy approaches the summit of the Col de la Madone

Andy approaches the summit of the Col de la Madone

Annoyingly I had stopped my Garmin timer while waiting outside Saint Agnes, and didn’t start it again until after we had descended a while, but that couldn’t detract from the enjoyment. We took a few photos and regrouped in the lee of the summit (it turned out Emma had suffered a puncture and Dan had taken the wrong route), before dropping into the beautiful Peille and continuing our descent to La Grave.

At this point John, who admitted to visions of himself as Fabian Cancellara while showing the rest of us a clean pair of wheels, claimed to have seen the great Swiss cheese himself. I only looked in time to see a Specialized rear end, but John was convinced – I blame the cheese. Either way we then wound along some false flats on a valley floor up to saucisons for lunch at L’Escarene, then set off up the Col de Nice by way of a digestion aid. I felt like keeping my legs spinning quickly with a cadence over 80 most of the time, so made it to the top first and enjoyed a euphoric lone descent into our next rendezvous at Contes. I knew I would pay for this effort at some point, and felt my right calf tweaking as I finished the climb, but it seemed like I had timed my efforts well and spent all my energy on the last climb of the day. John and Andy regretted that we didn’t ride all the way to the top of that hill, but I was secretly happy the punishment was over for a while. Three decent climbs in the day, it was like a mini version of this year’s Etape route up to the Col du Tourmalet.

After Contes we had an uneventful roll together back into Nice before showers and dinner. One point to note about the hotel – it had windows between the shower and the bedroom with ineffectual blinds failing to protect any honour. Why? Dinner was more successful, another suggestion of Claire’s called L’Escalinada down a quiet side street near the front. I had a whitebait omelette starter before entering gnocchi heaven – they made their own stuff on site, this time swimming in Daube a l’Ancienne (sounds better than beef casserole I think). Nice creme brulee too, which would come in handy on day two

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2 Comments on “Cycling Training in Nice, Col de la Madone”

  1. Mountain Bike

    I was wondering.. Can you reccomend me a good start level mountainbike?

  2. l’Etape du Tour 2010 | Tour Climbs

    […] sheltered part of the bunch. A French guy who looked 50-plus mentioned my gilet, a memento from my trip to Nice, and I just had time to explain I was an English fraud who had only been to Nice once before he […]

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