Distance: 56 kilometers
Time: About 3 hours depending on your pace
Difficulty: Moderate (big climb to start, then mostly downhill)
This is one of my favorite rides from Vence. I’ve been making this loop for almost ten years and honestly, I never get tired of it. I start in Vence, head over the Col de Vence and ride through seven villages before I arrive back in Vence, completing a big circle that has a little bit of everything: climbs, downhills, villages, beautiful valleys, stunning mountains and more. It’s a regular ride that I try to do at least once every two weeks.
[more info after photo gallery]
The ride begins in the middle of Vence. One block up from the large roundabout at the center of town is a small intersection where five roads come together. One of these roads heads uphill towards the Col de Vence. This climb has been featured several times in the famous Paris-Nice cycling race as well as the Nice Ironman race. It’s almost 10 kilometers and while it’s not the kind of climb you’ll find in the high Alpes, it is a formidable workout. It’s rated as a Category 1 climb which is the second most difficult category. The climb begins immediately from the intersection, there’s no warm up. The first kilometer is the steepest, around 8 to 10 percent but then things ease off a bit. There are usually a fair amount of riders on the road, especially in the summer. It is well marked with large road signs every kilometer that tell you the grade for the next kilometer, how much farther you have to go and your current altitude.
The first village on the north side of the Col de Vence is Coursegoules which is about eight kilometers down from the top. It’s not really much a descent. The first one and a half kilometers are fairly steep but then things ease off and it’s really pretty level until you come to the turn to Coursegoules. Then it’s uphill again for just over a kilometer. Coursegoules is a nice little village with a small grocery story and a couple of restaurants. You’ll have to ride a bit off the main road to get to the center of the village, but it’s worth it.
Once you leave Coursegoules you still have to do a bit of climbing, but after a kilometer or two it’s all down hill for a long time. Bézaudun-les-Alpes is the next stop, a very pretty little village, just over 6 kilometers from Coursegoules. You wont’ find a lot going on here and it requires a detour of just over a kilometer to get into the village. But again, if this is your first time through, it’s worth the extra time and mileage. I often get off my bike and walk through a portion of the village.
From Bézaudun-les-Alpes to Bouyon is about 6 kilometer, still downhill the entire way. It’s a fast little portion of the ride. When you arrive in Bouyon, if you take the fork to the right you’ll pass right through the heart of the village. There is a nice fountain for water and a little pâtisserie for treats if you make a hard right as soon as you enter the village.
After Bouyon you have a steep descent into the valley and then a little bit of climbing, about three or four kilometers before coming to Le Broc, which looks out over the Var River valley. Another 4 kilometers downhill and you’ll arrive at the foot of Carros.
From Carros it’s all downhill again for 6 kilometers until you get to Gattières. You’ll arrive at a large roundabout and take the first right which will take you into Saint-Jeannet. From Gattières into Vence it’s a slight uphill. Nothing too hard, just a slight little climb. It’s about 5 kilometers into Saint-Jeannet and then another 8 into Vence.
You can get water and/or food in almost all of these villages.