In the modern day, it’s quite easy for cyclists to plan a trip to a popular location, and arrange a number of routes using a mapping tool (Strava Routes being very common, with it’s “popularity” based routing). I’ve just come back from a cycling trip to Nice (my stag-do, no less), and it’s made me realise and understand that Strava is not everything. Having some local knowledge with you is amazing, and really does make the trip. In this case, we were lucky enough to have Justin Lord of Azur Cycle Tours around to make a good trip absolutely fantastic. Justin is a member of GS Henley, and an all-round lovely bloke.
The trip didn’t start well, with British Airways deciding to lose my bike on the way out (the first time this has happened to me on a trip, and a very stressful experience). We had Justin doing our transfers from the airport to our accommodation just outside Nice, and he wsa able to, at extremely short notice, conjure up a bike for me to ride the next day. This was the first time I realised that having some local support is invaluable…without Justin, we’d have been stuck, as by the time we had gone through the hassle of reporting the missing bag and finally leaving the airport most shops were shutting, so sorting anything out would have been nigh impossible.
Justin rode with us for most of our rides, and his knowledge of the local roads was absolutley invaluable. I lost count of the number of times he said “what route did you have in mind?”, and I realised very quickly what he meant was “I have a better route to the same place”. Strava shows you the most popular route, Justin will show you the best…often swapping big, traffic heavy roads for picturesque, quiet lanes. Strava also won’t tell you where you can re-fill your bottles (for some reason in France water fountains are really well hidden…one was literally a tap sticking out of a roadside kerb, hard to spot even when you’re looking at it!), or which cafe stops are worth it. Having Justin along turned a good trip into a great one.
If you’ve not been to Nice and the surrounding area before, then you’re missing out. I’ve been out twice now…in March and September, and both times the weather has been perfect (20’C plus), and logistically it’s very simple…you can fly from Heathrow (very good for those living in the Thames Valley) with BA for low prices (we paid £120 return with bike boxes at 23kg hold luggage), and the transfer the other end is short, with the airport 5km outside the city. The climbing is on your doorstep, with famous roads like Col D’Eze starting in the city, with plenty of other climbs within easy reach (in 4 days of riding we ticked off Col de Vence, Col de la Madone, Col De Turini, Col De Castillion, Col de Braus and Col D’Eze ). You can also visit Monaco (to be honest…good to say you’ve done it, but it’s just a massive traffic jam!), and the border to Italy is not far away either, with San Remo in reach. It’s a great place for a shorter trip, as you can fly there quickly, and start riding immeditely (so long as your bike turns up!).
It’s also a great place for a bit of pro-spotting, as plenty of them live and train in the area. We saw Wout Pouls (Sky), Geraint Thomas (Sky), Phillipe Gilbery (Quickstep) and Joe Dombrowski (EF-Education First Drapac)…who we were able to chat with at the top of Col de Turini over a coke (before he went on upto the top of another climb with a Strava KOM!). RIchie Porte is also a regular spot out there…what better recommendation do you need than these guys living, riding and training there?
So, if you’re looking for some great cycling with easy access, I can strongly recommend Nice. I can also strongly recommend speaking to Justin at Azur Cycling , who can help with all aspects, from transfers and accommodation to route planning and ride guiding.