Great ride today! I slept in later than I usually do, but I got a good night’s sleep and I’m now on France time I think. I finished putting my bike together (really just needed to tighten everything up and tweak a few things), got organized and was on the road around 9:30. It’s mostly downhill from Vence to Nice, about seven miles to the coast (Cagnes-Sur-Mer) and then another three miles or so to the Nice airport. It was so wonderful to be riding in France again. I cruised along the Promenade des Anglais which runs for about five miles along the coast of Nice. Around the Nice port, up a short hill and before you knew it I was in Villefrance-sur-Mer the next town over. It’s just a mile or two of our Villefranche-sur-Mer that you turn up into the hills and head for Eze and a nice little climb it is. I’ve written about Eze (and La Turbie) before and it sure was nice to see it again. Then on to La Turbie, only a few kilometers away.
The weather was great, mostly sunny, warm but not hot. I was considering heading on up to Peille, but it looked like it might be raining up in the mountains that way, it was very dark and grey. I stopped and got an Orangina, called Carole and rested in a little park. A man and woman turned into the park off a steep side street, riding on hybrid bikes, clearly tired but in a good mood. I asked them where they had climbed up from and they said Monaco. It’s a nice climb (Les and I did it once years ago) and they were quite proud of themselves. The guy was German, living in Monaco and the woman was Italian, living in Beaulieu. We talked for a little while and then I was ready to head back out. By now the weather in the mountains looked better, so I decided to head on up to Peille.
The road up to Peille is not that long, about nine kilometers. At about eight is the turn off for the Col de la Madone, famous as one of Lance Armstrong’s training rides. I’ve ridden up it three times from the other side, but never from this side, so I turned off and headed up. It’s not a long climb at that point, only about three miles and not real steep. During the ride up from La Turbie and on the Madone I kept seeing a lot of cyclists with little paper numbers on their handlebars. Clearly there was some kind of organized ride or race going on. I passed several riders on the climb, including two women. At the top I stopped to put on my light jacket before heading back down the way I came. It was significantly colder up here and there was even some fog. One of the women I had passed reachd the summit and I spoke with her. It turns out a club in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin had a big organized ride today, 100 kilometers over a lot of the same climbs I was doing. She and her friend were participating. They gave me a copy of the route and I’ll plan on doing this ride one day, maybe next year. The descent down Madone was great. Years ago Les and I had done this same descent for the first time, coming in from the St. Agnes side, and the road was a mess. It’s been repaved since then and is in great shape. From the bottom of the climb it’s a short two kilometer ride over to Peille. A quick stop there and then off to Nice. All downhill at this point.
I stopped in Old Town at Nice and had some lunch, a typical French pizza, at one of my favorite restaurants there. Then I took a quick trip over to La Roue Libre, the great little bike store we discovered years ago in Nice. Turns out the one thing I forgot this year was my ride drink. I’d left the bag of powder on the hutch after my last ride in Nashville on Wednesday and forgot to pack it. They didn’t have the brand I use (of course), but I bought a can of some French stuff, poured it all into a big plastic bag, tucked it into my jersey and headed back towards Vence. It’s all uphill now. The climb to Vence isn’t that steep, up until the last two or three kilometers where it does get a bit steep. It’s a nice little kick at the end of a long ride. I got back to the hotel very happy with my first ride of the trip.