Distance: 114 kilometres (71 miles)
Time: Around 6-7 hours depending on your pace
Difficulty: Difficult – long with five climbs
Elevation: 1637 meters
Note: This is an account of a ride I did in the summer of 2010. Everything is still pretty much the same if you were to ride this route today.
What a difference a day makes! Today I set out to do the ride I had intended to do yesterday. The very cold weather, the rain, the wind, all contributed to my decision to cut that ride short. Today things couldn’t have been more different. The skies were blue, the sun was out, the weather was warm and wonderful. Altogether it was a picture perfect day and what turned out to be easily one of the ten best rides I’ve ever done.
[more info after the photo gallery]
Col de Vence
I left Vence around 8:00AM and headed up the Col de Vence on the M2, now for the second time in two days. It’s a very nice climb, not too long (about 10 kilometers) and not too steep (about 6-7% grade overall), enough to make you work, but not enough to wear you down too quickly. One very nice thing about this Col (which is French for mountain pass) is that is is very well marked. At each kilometer there is a sign with information about how far you have left to the summit, the average grade of the next kilometer and more. In truth, just about all the major climbs in France are marked in this way for cyclists. When I reached the peak yesterday the rain was coming down, the temperatures were in the mid 40s and behind me was thunder and lightning. Today it was clear, warm and absolutely gorgeous. I descended the other side quickly where the road turns into the D2, turned right on the D8, zipped right past Coursegoules and headed on to Bouyon. Now, yesterday I had continued on from Bouyon to le Broc, heading back towards Vence. Today, I headed north from Bouyon on the D1 to the village of les Ferres. It was a nice gentle climb along a wonderful mountain road running along the side of the mountain. I passed a few other cyclists along the way.
Les Ferres, Conségudes & Sigale
Stopping in les Ferres for some nourishment I put in a call to Carole. It’s absolutely amazing to me how well my French cell phone works over here. I’ve been able to place calls to the US from just about any place I’ve been, no matter how remote. As we were talking I saw a group of about ten riders coming up the road the way I had just come. I quickly hung up, jumped on my bike and headed after them. They didn’t seem to be moving too quickly, so I was pretty sure I could catch them before too long. Turned out to be a cycling club from Nimes who were here on holiday. They weren’t moving too fast, so I moved on ahead of them.
I stopped briefly in the next village, Conségudes for water and then headed off towards Roquesteron, still on the D1. It was mostly down hill from Conségudes to Roquesteron and the road passed through some beautiful, heavily forested woods. A really nice descent.
Roquesteron sits right at the bottom of this valley, just to the side of the l’Estéron river. At this point you can turn east on the D17 and head towards Gilette and Vence, but I decided to make one more little climb up to Sigale, about 5 kilometers, so I turned left (west) on the D17. A great little village with a huge, majestic clock tower. I stopped here for some Orangina and then headed back down. Zipped through Roquesteron and set off on the road to Gilette, still on the D17. Pretty much up and down the side of the valley, climbing some then descending some. A nice ride indeed, very scenic and very charming.
When Gilette came into view I was quite impressed. A very, very cool little village situated at a break in the cliffs. I pulled into town, found a patisserie and bought some Organia and a piece of flan. The flan in France is quite good, I end up eating a lot of it (and it’s very different from the flan served in most Mexican restaurants in the US). From Gilette it was all downhill on the M17 (Route de Gilette), a steep winding route, to the Le Var river, a big river that runs from way up in the Alpes down to the sea. Here I turned right (south) on the M901 and I followed the river for a short spell and then turned right on the M2209 towards Carros Village. About halfway up this climb you have the option to turn right and take the M101 into Le Broc, but I opted to continue on the M2209 straight into Carros. A great climb, a passing glance at Carros and then still on the M2209 down the road to Gattières. From there it’s a short ride on the M2210 (Route de Vence) into Saint-Jeannet and back into Vence.
All in all, an absolutely wonderful day. The weather was perfect, the route was beautiful and I visited three more new stops on my list of mountain villages (Les Ferres, Sigale, Gilette).
Important Notes: This is a long ride with several climbs including the Col de Vence, a category 1 climb. If there is any sign of rain I would suggest leaving the ride for another day as you don’t want to be caught in the rain here. As always you’ll want to make sure you have a good bike and plenty of water. The best time to make this ride in the summer is early in the morning when it’s the coolest, the best time in the winter is early in the afternoon when things have warmed up a bit. You’ll want a helmet and sunscreen no matter what time of the year you go. You’ll pass through several villages, all of which have fountains, so stocking up on water should not be a problem. Several also small grocery stores and restaurants, but they may or may not be open depending of the day and time you ride. If you are riding alone make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you should be back. I always wear an identification bracelet that I got from Road ID.