Spot the pro!
There is a reason Chris Froome, Peter Sagan, Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte and many more of the world’s top professional cyclists live and train in the South of France (apart from a favourable tax regime in Monaco!): quite simply, this is the area that offers them the best terrain in Europe in which to train, year-round.
In 2013, Team Sky joined Astana in selecting the French Riviera as their base, and now virtually the whole team – both riders and coaching staff – live in Nice or Monaco and train on these roads and hills. And as with so many things, where Team Sky lead, others follow!
This part of the Riviera offers sunshine, sea, and a spectrum of spectacular roads to suit every conceivable training need: flat roads heading West to Antibes, Juan-Les-Pins and Cannes; undulating roads following the coastal contours West through Monaco to Menton, Ventimiglia and San Remo; long steady climbs e.g. the Col du Turini (25km, 1250m height gain, average 5%); shorter punchy climbs e.g. the Col de la Madone from Menton, or the steep ramps of Col d’Eze out of Nice.
Hard, easy, long, short…the choice is yours. And keep your eyes out for the pros!
Watching Froome, Porte and Dombrowski training on Col d’Eze, Feb 2013, from the Team Sky car…a day to remember!
It all adds up to a great combination of Côte d’Azur chic plus seriously good riding, with a sprinkling of WorldTour pro riders out on the roads too.
No wonder Team Sky base themselves there…James A
Cycling from Sea to Sky…
Turn inland from the coast and you are in the mountains in no time at all. The roads are quiet and blissfully free of traffic, beautifully paved and smooth.
This part of Provence, incorporating the Alpes-Maritimes and the Mercantour mountains, offers a veritable patchwork of roads from which to choose. You could ride here for a month on different roads every day.
The cycling in the region is stunning and every bit as challenging as the Alps.
Riding from the door of the apartment you are met with sensational views of the Mediterranean. Depending on your route the climb can begin within minutes of departing or you can ease yourself in along the beautiful coastal road.Simon J
20 degrees and climbing…
We still get the height gain of the high mountains (the Col du Turini for example is a 1250m climb, comparable to the Col du Galibier, and greater than the Col d’Izoard or Alpe d’Huez), but because we are starting from sea level, and because we are close to the moderating influence of the Mediterranean Sea, on most days we have sunshine and warmth.
Day or overnight trips in the van enable us to reach even further inland, including the Col de la Bonette (at 2800m the highest paved road in Europe, and a height gain of over 1600m!), and the giant of Provence, Mont Ventoux. Here we are weather-dependent, and these trips are generally possible May – October.
Justin knows the area like the back of his hand, he can give you a 50 mile route with some Cat 3 or 4 climbs, or for the more brave amongst us 100 miles with Cat 1’s or HC climbs!Paul H
What kind of cycling do you want to do?
Winter and early-season training
Quality miles on quality roads! With 300 days of sunshine per year, and a temperate climate, the Côte d’Azur is the perfect location for a winter or early-season cycling training camp.
Unlike the northern Alps, the roads are kept open all year. In January and February, we tend to stick to climbs nearer the coast and up to 1,200m altitude. Come March and warmer weather, we can extend the scope to include the higher climbs up to 1,600m altitude.
Whereas the High Alps and Pyrenees are still snow bound in March, it’s great to have so many great climbs that are so accessible at this time of year.Andy B
There are a number of great local sportives including:
- March – the Paris-Nice Challenge (Nice), and the GranFondo Nice Côte d’Azur
- April – the Granfondo Golfe de Saint Tropez, and the Provençale Sainte Victoire (Aix-en-Provence)
- May – the Ladies GranFondo (Nice), La Vençoise (Vence), and Les Boucles du Verdon (Castellane / Gorges du Verdon)
- June – the GranFondo Mont Ventoux x 2, the Mercan’Tour Turini (near Nice), and the Mercan’Tour Bonette (Valberg)
- July – Les Cimes des Mercantour (Breil-sur-Roya), La Fausto Coppi (Cuneo, Italy), and Risoul Queyras
- September – Le Cyclo Azur et Or (Hyrères), La Ventoux Sud (Mont Ventoux), Les Bosses de Provence (Marseille), the Mercan’Tour Madone Peille (near Nice)
Build your stay around the sportive event, and in addition to some great rides, we will transport you and your bike to the start on the morning of the event, provide support en route, and then collect you at the finish and take you back to your accommodation.
Amateur Road Racing
If you enjoy racing at home, you will love racing in France.
France offers the same range of races as elsewhere in the world: circuit races, criteriums on closed roads, road races, time trials. The most popular combine a “course en ligne” (road race) in the morning, with a “contre la montre” (time trial) in the afternoon after a leisurely lunch break…well, this is France we are talking about!
Assembling in the early morning sunshine for the start of the Trophée des Grimpeurs (Trophy of the Climbers)
We can organise entry for you and your team-mates into some of the best local races. Just bring your racing licence with you (check with us for dates and eligibility) and we’ll do the rest, including providing transport to and from the event.
Get a flavour of what road racing in the South of France is like here >>
In the UK after a race, it’s back to the village hall for a cup of tea and a cheese and tomato bap.
Here, at the finish of the race on the top of the Col St Martin, I sat on the wall in the sunshine, looking around at the Mercantour mountain peaks, eating watermelon and enjoying a glass of wine (no extra charge – all included in my 5 Euro entry fee!), reflecting on what had been…a great experience.
Nice is host to the Nice Ironman in June, and the Nice Ironman 70.3 in September. The bike courses for both distances are considered to be amongst the most beautiful and challenging on the calendar.
The full Ironman course climbs 2,000m and includes the 20km climb of the Col de l’Ecre which has to be one of the nicest climbs in the region starting with a climb up a narrow gorge past a stunning waterfall, while the 70.3 tackles the Col de Vence.
Your accommodation is just a few minutes jog to the beach for some open water swimming training, and a 10km “warm-up” on the bike to the start of the Ironman bike circuit.
Conditions [in February] were great and I managed to ride the entire Ironman Nice route (vital for my preparations to race there later in the summer) including even the higher cols which had some snow at the sides of the road but roads still clear and amazing tarmac as ever!Rob G
Watching The Pros Race
The first of the European WorldTour races is the 7-day Paris-Nice “Race to the Sun”, and it takes place in March. Saturday (day 6) plays host to the Paris-Nice Challenge – this is the equivalent of L’Etape du Tour, i.e. it’s a cyclosportive and the opportunity for us to ride / race Sunday’s stage. Then on the Sunday, we can watch the pros do what we did the previous day. Watching the riders warm up before the stage and going to sign on builds anticipation. We can head out on our own ride, timing it to be back in time either for the finish into Nice, or to reach a particular spot from which we can watch a descent into Nice, the climb of Col d’Eze and then the second and final descent into Nice. Yes, we get to see them come past 3 times, in the space of about 90 minutes!
In 2013 one of my guests and I had the privilege of riding in one of the Team Sky cars behind Konstantin Sitsou, and then heading back to the Team Sky bus to watch Richie Porte warming up before his victory in the stage and the overall.
Paris-Nice is one of the key early season tests of form, and many of the world’s top professionals take part. Although a major WorldTour race, the crowds are nothing like the Tour de France, giving us unprecedented access and unrivalled views of the pros and the action.
La Primavera, the spring classic Milan – San Remo, takes place the following Sunday. It is the longest single-day professional bike race at 298km, and known as the “sprinters’ classic”, although there have been many famous escapes on the Poggio (150m of height gain over its 4km length) which have spoiled the day for the sprinters.
We ride to San Remo to watch the climax of a long day in the saddle.
The highlight of the trip was undoubtedly catching the end of Paris-Nice. Cheering Wiggins on as he claimed victory in the TT was special and something I won’t forget for a while!Andy B, 2012
Richie Porte warms up in front of the Team Sky bus before his winning TT effort in Paris-Nice
We stayed with Justin while the Paris-Nice race was taking place, which was great as we could ride the Col d’Eze time trial stage, then watch the pros put us to shame, and Justin’s contacts at Team Sky added extra interest.Matthew G, 2013
Choose between guided and self-guided riding
Your hosts and guides are Justin and Lewis. We know these roads like the back of our hands, and can recommend the best places to stop for coffee or lunch, and where to fill bidons. Every ride of your trip is crafted to match the ability and objectives of your group, we start each day with a briefing on the route in store, then compare notes over a beer or coffee after the ride. We provide a map and GPS download of the day’s ride, so it is easy for your group to ride without a guide if you prefer, or mix it up and ride some days with a guide and some days without.
Van-supported riding: We can offer a fully-supported service with our minivan. The van will carry water and nutrition, as well as any spare kit you may wish to have with you for the day. The van will leap-frog you and stop at strategic locations en route. You can either ride from the apartment as normal, or we can load the bikes onto the van and drive further afield. The van also provides a bail-out option for anyone who wants one.
Your “Tour d’Azur”
At the heart of all our trips is the “Tour d’Azur”. This is not a fixed itinerary, but a number of days riding crafted bespoke for each individual group based on the number of days in your trip, and the mileage and climbing your group wishes to do.
Whether you are here for a long weekend, or a week or more, we will shape your Tour d’Azur to capture the key cols and descents, and build in any events in which you are participating.
Justin was a fantastic host both on and off the bike, with excellent knowledge of the area and also, crucially, a great ability to tailor rides depending on how everyone in the group is feeling.Matthew G
But most importantly you could not find a more friendly and helpful guide, brilliant company for the whole trip and also great cycling knowledge both in terms of route advice and guidance.Rob G