The Etape du Tour breaks away from it’s usual home in the Alps or Pyrenees, and heads to the Cote d’Azur. Many regular ‘Etappers’ are well used to the Galibier, Tourmalet Izoard & Glandon. Although this region may be much less known, it is packed with cycling delights. It happens to be the favourite cycling spot of our Tour Director, Adam, he talks us through the region and route, to show what 2020 has in store for us.
There’s a reason that the pros flock to Nice. Ritchie Porte, Chris Froome and Phillipe Gilbert all call the Cote d’Azur home because the climate is perfect for riding and the roads, while busy in places, are super smooth with sublime views over the Mediterranean. This area boasts over 340 sunshine days a year and is a superb spot for the Grande Depart and the Etape.
The infamous Fresh Riviera is always buzzing but head inland into the beauty of the Alpes Maritimes and you’ll encounter famous climbs in the area including the Col de la Madone, Col de Braus and Madone d’Utelle. A spin up the Madone and Col d’Eze is the perfect warmup ride from Nice, both are a short spin from the city. it is also easy to pop over into Italy for a higher quality of espresso and gelato – San Remo is not far over the border with the Poggio and Cipressa climbs and just further north are longer Alpine routes. Nice is a fantastic location to ride, dine and relax.
When it comes to the Etape route itself it can be broken down into 3 sections.
The first section will be a fast and furious section. A lot of Etapes have a climb or rolling terrain near the start which breaks up the groups but in Nice you will likely be riding in a decent size peloton for 50km. In total, 400m will be gained over this section as the route charges inland but the gradient is very rarely above a false flat. This isn’t a place to get carried away and burn to many matched though as the first big test is just around the corner.
A sharp turn will signal the the start of the Col de la Colmiane. Also known as the Col St Martin this lesser known climb has not been used the Tour de France before, the early sections feature some tight hairpins but the gradient stays fairly steady with the odd short pitch of 8 or 9% into the higher sections of this 16.6km ascent. At an average of 6.4% this will be an important section to pace yourself and it is a really good climb to ride by heart rate / power as we get up to 1,500m.
What goes up must come down and 16km up means 16 down in this case to the base of the Col du Turini. The first few corners are sharp and should be taken with care but the views down the valley are spectacular.
This Turini is is much better known and has featured especially frequently in the Paris Nice race. Despite being a shorter 15km it packs more of a punch with a fairly steady 7% average. The start of the climb away from the vocally floor takes you through the picturesque town of La Bolléne-Vésubie, its hard to believe you’re a stones throw from the coastal buzz and bustle. Another stiff but steady climb the KOM is held by Jack Haig in a time of 40:50 and tops out at 1600m, the highest section of the route, before the descent to the finishing circuit begins!
The top of the Turini is a likely spot for a feedstop so could be a good spot to get that bar down or pop a layer on and then its back down to the sea. This rolling descent will be a lot of fun and takes your almost all the way back to the start in Nice before slotting in the much loved Col d’Eze, home to some of the best views in European cycling. This spectacular short final climb will be a massive highlight, one to be enjoyed through gritted teeth and sore legs. As with all things Etape, don’t expect anything easy. The Col d’Eze is 8km at 6% but with steep sections and comes in and almost 160km so legs will be tired. From the summit, it’s all downhill to the finish for what should be an amazing end to a great ride.