Biked2Life x MJPRO Tour 2021 - French Riviera Romantic Cycling Full Week Experience
In October 2021 we were lucky to get our very first hands-on work experience when it comes to handling a cycling group on French Riviera. Before that time, would only get the individual and rather unofficial visits- let’s call the things by its’ name - by friends (Tobias) or family (my dad). It has served us though very beautifully as a test group.
This col is the main gate to Col de Turini, the famous stage of the Monte Carlo Rally which is held on the tight road with its many hairpins turns - Source: dangerousroads.org
Let me present you a little bit our team - Pawel, Przemek (not in the picture), Karol, and Bartek.
So here they were, all avidly in need of some climbs, sun, and beautiful views. 5 participants (4 cyclists), from 4 different cities of Polan : Warsaw, Krakow, Kielce, and Limanowa (now Coburg)
As they came on Saturday evening, as the first itinerary I chose one of the Mythical Passes - Col de Braus, located northwest of Nice. The decision of doing it on Sunday was mainly motivated by the local, “mountain shelter-like” resto being open only during the weekend - Buvette du Col de Braus, where we gladly tried the traditional "salade Niçoise".
On that very day, we did almost 100 km with 1400 m of a climb with the return the same way - all that to admire the spectacular, less known switchbacks.
Of course, I wouldn’t be myself if we wouldn’t stop at local BOULANGE just before attacking the main climb and made the guys try the local specialty - Tourte de Blettes (traditional cake from Nice filled with swiss chard). You can usually get it under two versions - salty or sweet. I prefer salty if you ask me, but this one was not bad at all either !
I really loved the atmosphere - everyone was just freshly out there in the nature - everyone not fully confident yet about their ability to conquest the beast, but very much eager to face it. We finished up the day with some pizza and beers (or Apreols) in Nice in La Storia.
In the evening we’ve settled to go for a little local beers discovery walk in Antibes that guys appreciated a lot - we had a chance to taste some local delicacies from BlueCoast (where I organise Bike & Beer tasting tour - reach out to me directly to book yours) and Brasserie du Comté as well as admire the views of nocturn Antibois old-town.
It was a good day overall and gave me a lots of reasons to be proud of my new group and sure of the fact that the program is well-cut for them !
Stay tuned for some upcoming days & adventures... (6 cycling days!)
PS. If you liked the article- please don't hesitate to share or if you would like to have a similar experience yourself (group or privatized) - you know where to find me.
DAY 2 - The Red Rocks Ride - Welcome to the French Colorado !
Massif de l’Esterel & Rocher de St. Barthélemy - 120 km loop / 900 m of elevation
“If you have never visited the American Great West and the Colorado - this itinerary gives a fairly similar, almost tangible feel - Welcome to Our Wild Wild West”
The profile of our route :
But first things first ! We've started with a short tour of Cap d'Antibes and the Garoupe Lighthouse - a nice landmark stop with a local hills panorama with some very cool ceramic map, that is very common way to show the orientation (we will see some more of this kinds of signage on the 3rd day :
Afterwards we went on stright the cycling that lead us to Cannes ! First stop- of couse the Festival Palce - to see the famous hand prints of celebrities immortalised in cement.
We took a short coffee stop in a typical Snack Bar (this is where locals go, not the fancy restaurants & cafés on the promenade just before embarking on the French Colorado itinerary :
This kind of views will lead us stright to the top of St. Barthelemy rock a little bit from the backstage route of not perfect surface, but giving very rewarding views.
And then finally, very much earned lunch in my favourite local Bistrot - Cabane Chez Monique.
Just so we’re clear - the place looks like exactly the inverse what you could imagine when dining on the Côte d’Azur - and this is exactly why locals go there and how you recognise it’s THE spot. On the top it offers a very much correct price / quality relation. I wouldn’t be myself without recommending any food spot, huh?
On the return, we’ve attaqued the Old Town area of Cannes, called „Le Suquet” Hill. FYI, this is where all the classy, nightlight life is happening (Jazz concerts, fireworks spotting in the summer etc.) with a facade of Church of Notre Dame d'Esperance beautifully highlighted in the evening.
Of course we couldn't say no to the last rays of the sun on our way back - there's no better way than salute it with a bottle of light Corona beer in hand ! Life on the South is so simple when you embrace it !
DAY 3 - The Route of Azure Balconies - The High-Perched Villages Collection!
Valbonne - Grasse - Gourdon - Tourettes S. Loup- Vence
93 km loop / 1500 m of elevation
This itinerary boils down to the simple equation : The Heritage + The Hills = High-Perched Gem of the Villages. Further from the Coast - Closer to the Heart - Discover the French Riviera Like a Local.
This route I was very much looking forward to and I consider it my personal favourite. Last time I did it with my dad on e-bikes and it came to be a great success.
1st ... Biot
First stop - the Biot village, 15 km away from our the coast. We were lucky to have a village market, but unlucky to have just ate our breakfasts - no one was yet in the mood of tasting anything that early.
These are some typical postcard-like views, that we will get many more on that day. Biot, a village of artistic heritage, is famous for glass-blowing (same as Valbonne - here you can tell even after the couleurs of the facades that they are of a fairly similar heritage).
We’ve continued our cycling sightseeing with the visit of the perfumes capital - Grasse. FYI the flower of Jasmin collected over there serves as a base to the famous scents of Coco Chanel and Chanel N5.
The city is also a home to three historical perfumeries - Fragonard, Galimard and Molinard - each of one offering a free guided tour, all-year long and open to all public. What else I can say about Grass apart from the fact that almost every single time I am there the weather is super-humid and unwelcoming in general - this visit was only the exception confirming the rule ! We've tried some fried Courgette Flowers - apparently a must-try when visiting the city, but to be honest we didn't love the experience.
4th stop - Gourdon !
High-perched, eagle-nest village listed as one of "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" located on 760 m of alititude. Quite challenging, but perfectly doable climb. Gets slightly harder to conquer when done right after lunch, but well ! The pictures capture its' ambiance.
My dream team - couldn't miss a chance to catch a group picture
5th...Tourrettes-sur-Loup & Vence
All those climbing only for the sake of descending it and then starting to climb again !!! At least we could grab a coffee - last picture shows pretty accurately who was "team coffee stop" and who was more "too many stops, (and too much beauty around) can't take it anymore"... ;)
DAY 4 - La Dolce Vita Italiano Vero aka. Pizzaiolo Ride
In the footsteps of Milan - San Remo
95 km - 1500 m of elevation
Mais quel kif ! (The Awesomeness)
But let's start from the beginning.
8:15, Wednesday, we've met at the agreed location (of course, the boulangerie)
8:30 we've got to our train that has gladly taken us to the Italian-French border (with obligatory photo-stop)
10:30, quick coffee at the station, and off we go !
It was not a hard of a ride - pleasant, rolling hills, moving slowly, but steadily forward through ups and downs made us however quite hungry - so the lunch time imposed itself (even though we were planning it a bit later). The trick is that you have to carefully watch the clock - the only lunching hours are 12-15h and (they sometimes close the kitchen as soon as 14h) and then again from 19h. If you happen to be hungry outside these hours, worst case scenario you will just eat a snack somewhere (in a bigger town). But if you run out of the energy somewhere in the mountains (where it's sometimes even hard to find a water fountain)- then well, you're in a serious trouble !
Pizzeria Fra Diavolo - godess gracious. What A great place it IS ! And on the top we've found it completely by chance. If I say they do the most instagrammable pizzas in the entire San Remo I would not lie ! You have a choice of 3 different pizza crust - traditional, whole-grain and carbon. It can easily be reached through the cycling path starting in Ospedaletti. But if you prefer (recommended!) to pass by me to book a table - don't hesitate to drop me a message.
The bike path, leaving the center of San Remo along the seaside promenade of the so called Corso Imperatrice leads through the long tunnel of Capo Nero (ca. 1,7 km) re-opened in 2014 and quite interesting to pass as it was all painted with frases and tweets reminiscing about famous moments of the cycling race “Milano-Sanremo”(source: pistaciclabile.com).
The hardest part was done. Even though not very high, this climb gives a gentle smack to the legs so they shut up and just keep on pedalling. Luckily, on down there was my very favourite town of Dolcecaqua (described previously here) where we could stop and reward ourselves with some 'best-of' italian booze (of course, beer & Apérol, what else?)
As you can imagine, we covered the last part of the route at the speed of light :-) and caught the afternoon train from Menton. God bless SNCF and their bike compartment !
It was also the "Socca Soirée" I organised spontaneously the very same evening for my group - I find it essential every time so the people that come to visit the region have the opportunity to not only experience with their eyes, but other senses as well. Obviously, as being huge cycling foodie myself, I chose a tasting of local specialties over a visit in a perfume museum in Grasse (that btw, can be arranged as well - all depends on schedule and of course on the weather).
The unsure weather of the following day made us split - some of my participants decided to stay and chill, while the other two went on to discover the 007 Route with my partner - Chris - stay tuned to read about this one in the next chapter...
DAY 5 - Who let the bisons out ?! Greetings from the wild, wild east…
112 km - 1900 m of elevation
On this day I took a REST. Literally - you know why ? Because it was not me that was that was guiding. It is truly essential to have a support on a week-long guided cycling stays. The group also split naturally, meaning that 2 guys chose it to be their rest day and the other two went for a tour with Chris.
Let me just leave it here and I let pictures speak for themselves. Especially, that I cannot put any more personal touch as I was not present on this one. It features some least known climbs like Col de l'Ecre, Col de Castellaras to finally get you on one of the best local routes in the region, one where 007 films were turned, with some neat and brand new tarmac.
PS. The true highlight of this route are the Bisons - apparently, they have been brought straight from Poland !
Stay tuned for the last and most solid day of riding...
DAY 6th - GO HARD OR GO HOME - col d’Eze / Col de la Madone / Monaco 105 km - 1674 m of elevation
This is was truly a Jour J.
A cherry on the top.
From dusk to dawn.
Just as it should be.
I left this ride on the very end for a reason. First because it requires some preparation - even though it's technically doable on the very first days and second - if we started with breathtaking panoramas on the very beginning - just imagine the level of disappointment experienced within the following days (just kidding, but just have a look....:)
We can actually call it fully coffee ride - as we would start with one cycling café (Café du Cycliste - the same that did the promo video you have up there) and then finish up at another - Golden Cycles. Both places are very different and have slightly different clientele. Both equally cool and great idea for a cycling stop-over.
While Golden Cycles is more bike shop itself offering, uniquely in the region, the Stajvelo bikes - high-end e-bikes, Cafe du Cycliste is more about cycling apparel and accessoires. Both of the shops manage to keep up the life-style welcoming, friendly vibe that doesn't intimidate you even if you are just a curious passerby and have nothing to do with bikes (but maybe one day you will). They propose weekly Social Cycling Rides- in a form of purely free of charge, friendly coffee rides; both in no-drop formula - usually on Saturdays. (but sometimes also Sunday - at least it's the case for Golden Cycles). If you are new in the region - this might be a true game changer - especially if you are looking forward to meeting some like-minded cyclists and want to discover new local loops.
Here as well as it was the case in the previous days - I let a bit of photos speak for themselves. It's not that my memories have faded. It was just one of those itineraries that everything you see and absorb leaves you speechless (and tired & hungry - thus so much food in the pics ;-). We concluded this route with the beautiful sunset of Nice from the top-secret spot at Mt.Boron. Return at dawn, on a wonderful warm night, with almost 600 km in the legs after this full week. Perfection.
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