Distance - 87 km or 128 km (incl. Duranus & Levens extension)
Elevation gain - 1,487 m or 2,750 m
Difficulty-2/3 or 3/3
Col de Vence is this one-of-a-kind climb, known for being part of the Nice Ironman Triathlon course and often featured in Paris-Nice. Its exposed, barren landscapes are memorable and almost like a mini Ventoux. Organizer note #1 : due to its' exposure it does get pretty dry (see in the picture) and very sunny which is a 'nice touch' from Autumn through Winter and early Spring, but gets unbearably hot during the Summer.
Right after leaving Nice you should hop on a freshly renovated cycling path and follow the route until you reach a village of Cagnes-sur-Mer. Then if you feel like you need some more caffeine, a quick espresso in Copenhagen Coffee Lab or other local cafeteria. Remember to pick up a table in the sunshine!
Leave the coast and go North - follow the itinerary up. You will notice that the further away you are from the coast, the more peaceful it gets! When you reach the town of Vence, stop by the fountain and fill your watterbottle fully. If you feel like slightly low on energy - now's a good time to take a gel or eat a bar if you have one. Brace yourself for the climb!
The gradients never get too steep (6.5-7% average for most of the climb) and you can get into a nice rhythm. Just before the summit there is a viewpoint (marked) that look back down to the coast, with Nice to the left and Cannes to the right. Definitely worth the effort!
The col itself is at 963m
Organizer note#3 : there is special signage indicating how many m of climbs are left to reach the top, as well as average gradient on each segment.
Once you've reached the top this is where real fun begins. You will feel like you are all alone - only you, nature and the mountains and breathtaking panoramas all around. Pure bliss, silence and no civilization. Perfection!
Some 15-20 km past the climb (mostly descent) there is a village of Bouyon. A lunch stop there is VERY MUCH recommended - especially in a restaurant called "La Maison Barnoin". The owner and chef are passionate about typical "fait-maison" - home-made French cuisine. Organizer note#3 : please note it opens for lunch 11:00 - 14:30. If you decide to book a table, please do mention me and you will receive something special from the chef ;) ! Needless to say - the food there is delicieux!
Once you've filled your stomach with a hearty-meal & possibly best local "biere artisanale" (craft beer) you can continue the ride! Direction - le Broc and the descent to the Var river. Then, depending on the season (sun, temperature), your fatigue and of course timing - you can decide weather you feel like going for an extra loop of Duranus & Levens including beautiful rock formations on a way and even more natural wonders :) - the choice is yours! If you do, this is what you can expect on the way :
Organizer note#4: One you reach St. Jean-la-Riviere (if you decide on extension) - fill your water bottles to it's fullest! You enter an out-of-this world area!
If you decide on a shorter route - don't worry, the beautiful panoramas (and even more!) are featured in the other ride too - COFFEE RIDE#7 (unpublished yet)- where you only focus on climbing to the top of Madone d'Utelle (15 km-long climb, but totally worth it! - my cover page photo was taken during it!).
I strongly recommend a coffee stop in Levens at Boulangerie Alexis - they have some wonderful cakes too so don't forget to indluge yourself a bit ;). If you feel like having a crepe instead of a pastry - there is a really nice bistro in Levens - called L'Endroit. The owners are super cyclist-friendly, they serve excellent Cider that goes perfectly well with Crepe Bretagne! This is the last stop before heading back to Nice. There's another water fountain marked on the way just in case you need more hydration.