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Taking place on the Saturday, the day before the professionals conclude on the Sunday the first week-long WorldTour event of the year to be held in Europe, Paris-Nice, amateurs can ride or race the stage for themselves. The Paris-Nice Challenge is to Paris-Nice what L’Etape du Tour is to the Tour de France, and it’s organised by Tour de France owners ASO.
This makes for a great weekend of cycling. Compete in the Paris-Nice Challenge on the Saturday; on Sunday, go to the start of the final pro stage, and see the riders at close quarters warming up on the turbos in front of the team buses on the iconic Promenade des Anglais in Nice and signing on for the race; then we can do our own ride from Nice, with the choice of watching the pro peloton on the often-decisive climb of Col d’Eze (there is a vantage point where we can see the peloton pass three times in the space of about an hour!), or watching the finish on the seafront in Nice. Add another day or two to your trip, and it’s a perfect early season tour.
The Paris-Nice Challenge itself is not too arduous. It follows mostly the route of Sunday’s pro-stage, taking in 5 climbs, the toughest of which is the Côte de Peille, a 6.6km climb with 450m of height gain; three of the other climbs are similar in length but an easier gradient. The first climb to Levens delivers great views of the mountains to the North-West; the second climb to Châteauneuf Villevieille offers stunning views back over the coast. There is a superbly fast run back towards Nice from Peille, but at Eze Village the Challenge route diverges from the pro stage: instead of descending all the way into Nice and then climbing Col d’Eze, the Challenge route turns right out of Eze Village for a short (1km) but steep (8%+) pull to Col d’Eze; then the fast descent into Nice.
It’s a great early-season tester, with a wonderful atmosphere.