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Cycling Tour :: PACA Peaks [6 days]

  • 6 days in 4 riding days / 2 rest days
  • 460 km
  • 11,700 m+
  • highest point: 1159 m, Col de la Sine
  • lowest point: 10 m, Promenade des Anglais, Nice.
This tour is best experienced from July to September.

About the Google Earth KMZ files

I have gathered valuable information for you on GoogleEarth for your tour: route, profile, food/drink stations, second start points . . .
download Download the GoogleEarth Sunseeker Express detailed route.
Please be aware that this material is copyrighted fabien-haddadi.info .  Do not copy for commercial reuse without my authorisation.  You could face prosecution.

Notes

The PACA Peaks Tour is a“star” tour.  This simply means that the tour is based in Nice, and riding stages commence and conclude in Nice.  You will have a chance to appreciate and explore this beautiful region of France and experience the Mediterranean climate, vegetation, housing style, and clear skies as the days go by.  This tour is a great way to combine cycling and a Mediterranean holiday in one! You can even recover on the beach on the French Riviera after each riding day, as Nice is the only large city located beachside in France.

PACA Peaks starts and ends in the historical city of Nice on the French Riviera.  Nice is also the fifth largest city in France.

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All stages except the last (Ironman) start from the main Nice Railway station.  Click the pink landmark on the left to locate it on Google Maps.

Day 1: Nice Peaks, or why Nice is said to be in the Maritime Alps! 75 km

Stage 1 stats:
start and end alt.  13 m; pos.  elevation: 2520 m+; max alt.  548 m (km 21).
Notes: This is the shortest yet the most concentrated in terms of elevation per kilometre.
A fork is available at point 39 km for those cyclists who do not wish to complete the full length on that first day.

This stage is a loop starting and ending at La Gare SNCF de Nice Ville and runs through Tourrettes-Levens, Falicon, La Trinité, and back to Nice.  This stage is relatively short in distance but is very tough due to the nearly constant positive profile.
Click on the GoogleMaps landmark on the left for more detail.

I suggest that you start at around 08:00am, so that we start off while the traffic is low and the sun is still climbing to it’s peak.  This means a relatively fluid ride through the city and into the local mountains.
For those of you who will ride for the first time in France, don’t be nervous, this is what to expect from riding in France.

Day 1 explores the North-East mountains of Nice by “escaping” in the North-Easterly direction through Boulevard de Cimiez, and down to a nearby valley called Saint-André-de-La-Roche.  Here you will see a very nice viaduct from the top of the hill when we go down the winding road.  This descent can be a bit fast and dangerous and can be quite bumpy at times.  There is no gravel or any other similar risk of skidding, but there are some hairpin bends you will encounter as we continue our descent into St André.  This is a hub location from where you can continue on and return to Nice, although it makes for a short ride.  You will therefore head to Tourrettes-Levens through the heights.  Here there is a road going all the way along the crest and heading to Tourrettes-Levens.  The ascent starts to be quite steep at this point.  Quite amazing as Nice is only approximately 15km behind you.

You continue along a series of back roads leading into the back country of Nice – be careful here to follow directions as these roads can be a bit confusing as we continue to the small village of Tourrettes-Levens.  Here will have a Ravito/Refuelling pause.

From here we will do another small peak at Falicon.  On the way down keep an eye out for the mine where we turn off to Falicon, which is a small little village on a hill.  Falicon is quite sunny due to its odd location at the top of a hill.  This village is very interesting as it is made up of a series of dead ends, and therefore a perfect opportunity to refuel.  From Falicon we head back to Saint-André-de-La-Roche.

Next we head to La Trinité.

Danger point: upon exiting La Trinité beware of vehicles travelling at high speed, you need to be extra vigilant here as this is a VERY dangerous corner for cyclists.  In this part of France, bikes come last.  They WILL NOT STOP FOR YOU.  Watch out !
The best way is to stick on the leftmost part of the road, so that vehicles who turn right will pass you on your right.

Surviving that dangerous exit your adrenaline will help you to climb the next hill - a 16% ascent . . . you will need your small chain ring and first gear.  If the bend didn’t kill you, this hill likely will! Now we head back to Nice.  Back at Nice-Ville SNCF station, the tour is not quite over, for those who want it; there’s an option to do an extra 6 km of mountain right in the city! This is where Fabien used to live; he would like to share the view at the top with you.  A job well done for everyone whether you do this extra bit or not!

Day 2: Nice - Lantosque - Nice (loop), 98 km

Stage 1 stats:
start and end alt.  13 m; pos.  elevation: 2960 m+; max alt.  551 m (km 24).
Notes: A demanding route that totals up nearly 3000 meters of positive ascension.

This stage is a loop that runs through Aspremont, Duranus, and Lantosque.

As with Day 1, this stage kicks off at La Gare de Nice Ville, heading up to Corniche Bellevue again, since you liked it the day before you said, and onto Tourettes-Levens.  Today we head North-West from Nice towards Corniche Bellevue and turn onto a road called St Pierre de Féric.

The aim of this stage is to go to Aspremont then north to Lantosque via Duranus

To get to Aspremont, we take an alternate road to Stage 1: through Av du Dauphiné and St Pierre de Féric / Corniche des Oliviers, followed by a left at the D914/D14 fork : route de la Sirole.

Further North, keep right onto D1014: Corniche Paul Clermont, to join Aspremont through Route de Colomars (D1014, all the way North).  As you cross the Vale make sure to notice the view on your right! In Aspremont, go towards Tourrettes-Levens, but, just before getting into the village, turn left onto D19! This road presents a great climb into Duranus.  After passing Duranus you will undoubtedly note the shear 200m cliff on your left . . . impressive!

Once we reach Lantosque, you have the opportunity to refuel before the return to Nice.  The is also the option of going further afield before returning should the team agree and wish to extend the ride.

The return sees you following the D19 down to Nice, via Av Maréchal Lyautey down to Promenade des Anglais which marks the finish line to this stage.  Congratulate yourself and each other, you now have a rest day to enjoy on the Riviera!

Day 3: Rest Day

Rest day in Nice.  Obviously you keep your room, and benefit from brekky and dinner included in the package.
Ask me about what you can see and do in Nice and surrounds, or where you can go further afield.  I lived in Nice for a while and will be more than happy to give you suggestions.

Day 4: Nice - Ventimiglia - St Agnès - Nice (loop), 110 km

Stage 3 stats:
start alt.  14 m; end alt.  14 m; pos.  elevation : 4200 m+; max alt.  Col de la Madone de Gorbio, 934 m (km 79).
A second start point is available on this stage for cyclists who do not wish to complete the full length (km 41).

Today we will take you to Italy and back on the same stage.  In fact, you will cross the border twice in 45 minutes.  Have you ever crossed a border by bike anyway? Europe makes this easy to do in general, and France with no less than 6 neighbouring countries makes it particularly easy.

There are four more or less parallel routes to join Menton, the last French city before the Italian border.  One has heavy traffic and as such is quite polluted, and additionally is somewhat boring as it runs along at sea level; the other three traverse the mountain.  These three roads cross the mountain into Ventimiglia at different altitudes, we will ride the middle one.

See Blue

A 180° panorama on the Mediterranean sea opens on your right as you go up to La Turbie, the first suburb you will cross after leaving Nice.  Leaving La Turbie you will now head east, up high on the mountain, with the sea on your right.
As you ride you will see various sea-level towns pass by one by one at the base, you will certainly not require expert eyes to recognise the unique Palace on the Rock and the Marina of Monaco.  You will be one of the few to admire the Principality from this angle.  You can even stop in a bend to take a picture.  Driving by in a car you may not have the opportunity to do this.

When we finally get to Menton heights (Gorbio), we will plunge down to this sunny city, with her palm tree lined avenues leading to the busy sea front.

Exiting Menton is the old decommissioned border checkpoint.  No need to get your passport ready, there are no more checks these days, since the Schengen agreement has abolished borders within Europe.
The border is geographically materialised by a mountain, crossed by a double tunnel.

Danger point: the two tunnels you cross to enter Italy are nearly pitch black half-way through, and are a bit narrow.  Luckily the VC van carries flashing lamps.

Soon after the double tunnel you will start to get the feeling that you’re in Italy.  The infrastructure, housing style, quality of the road, are very different.  A few kilometres further on, Ventimiglia welcomes you.  You know the beach is getting closer as the palm trees get more frequent.
Just the time to take a refreshment at the refuelling point at the beach and you are already on your way back, on a gentle slope this time, and those dreaded two tunnels again!

You now notice clearly that you are entering France as the style becomes bourgeois, and the quality of the road improves.

You could, but you won’t, go backtrack to Nice, nor will you ride though at sea level along the coast.  No, I have a better idea! There is a turn off to the right heading up to a small village called St Agnès.  It looks like nothing at first, but you will soon realise it is an intense, constantly positive climb that you may ever do apart from Mount Ventoux.  See that motorway viaduct up high at a distance? You will see it from quite far up in about 45 minutes . . .

A few bottles later, you get to Saint Agnès, the highest coastal village of Europe, 657 m.
A fountain is waiting for you in the middle of a lounge-sized square of this old, picturesque village, oddly stuck at the top of a mountain.  Get plenty of fresh water and some energy before climbing the last third of the elevation up to le Col de la Madone de Gorbio, 934 m.

Past this col, hone in to your best riding skills and watch for blind corners, as the long descent to La Turbie has a no-mercy cliff on the right.  From La Turbie, it will be a backtrack to Nice on the double two-lanes, at a speed that should exceed 60 km/h, but this road is safe.

Day 5: Ironman Tour, 172 km

Stage 4 stats:
start alt.  14 m; end alt.  14 m; pos.  elevation : 2100 m+; max alt.  1159 m (km 85).
Notes: This is the longest stage of this tour.
A second start point, located at 78km, is available on this stage for cyclists who do not wish to complete the full length.

Starts opposite Plage du Centenaire, at the official IM bike route start.

You couldn’t finish a tour in Nice without tasting the high-profile France Ironman official bike route.
Athletes from all four corners of the world come every year to meet their own limits; no doubt you will share that feeling.
172 km through Nice and the backcountry, passing over two cols of about the same altitude : Col de l’Ecre and Col de la Sine, and passing through some of the most beautiful villages of Nice backcountry, 17 villages in total will be crossed.  In the middle of your effort, the charm of these typically Provençal places will remind you that you are anyway on holidays, although more active than other holidays you may have been on before!

Note that despite the general announcement that the IM bike route is 180.2 km long, it is in fact only 172.4 km.  A good news for those of you who have been comparing their results on actual 180 km with the official results from IMs.

Highest points:

43.737337 6.946192
Col de l’Ecre, 1098 m, km 69

43.75972 6.861348
Col de la Sine, 1159 m, km 85

Thank me for not asking you to swim in open sea for 3.8 km beforehand and finish with a 42,195 m marathon after your ride.  The heat and humidity can make this tour a foretaste of hell.  I advise you to elect an early start, or a late start, but not a mid-morning start if you can.

Enjoy the 23km flat/fake flat start portion, as you will not see it again for another 135 km!

Just as you cross Le Var, the river that separates Nice from its international airport, a 270° turn will position you north, just like a plane gets lined up with the runway.  You are now in Cagnes-sur-Mer, heading towards the mountains.

At km 23, a serious turn off left will be the flagfall to the festivities . . . Short and sweet, 10% climb to impose early respect.
Soon after, you will see what may be one of the most memorable views of this stage : the Var shrinking down in its valley as you elevate.  More peaks come up, and a formidable view of the sea and Nice surrounds are now visible.  You now understand fully the qualification of“PACA Peaks” for this whole experience.

The road is now long, take your time.  The good news is that the hardest Col to climb will be the first one.  You shouldn’t find anything more difficult after this monster . . .

A specificity of this tour is the U-turn at km 118, designed to make this tour exactly 180 km.
The way back is a big relief : a long and fast descent onto Carros.  This town will offer you a magnificient view of the coast as you will directly face the bay.

Finally the last 20 km or so are a backtrack, with a slightly descending fake flat that you already know.  Overall, there is always a flat or a descending portion to make that lactic acid go before the next climb.

Getting on La Promenade des Anglais for the finish will give you that sensation of completion and great satisfaction, while the tourists around you are now becoming more numerous as we go in to the day, licking their ice-creams and far from your calf preoccupations.

Day 6: Rest Day

Rest day in Nice.  You still benefit from your hotel room for another night, a brekky and a dinner.

(1359 views)
created 28 September 2012
revised 10 February 2017 by
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