Luke GJ visited Nice in December, he reports back from the Col de la Madone, Poggio de San Remo and Mario Balotelli.


I had the choice of many locations, I was going to book Tenerife. Juan Carlos, my Canary Island Colleague, gave me the sell. Two things were changed my mind. There were no HappyCow listings for the touristy south side of the island and Cycling Weekly uploaded an “Ollie Weekly” VLOG. It was about why “Why your next cycling holiday should be Nice” I later discovered that the HappyCow listings for Nice were basically garbage.

I corrected many of the problems that plagued my Los Angeles trip. I ensured that I loaded the OpenStreetMaps onto my Garmin. I got to bring my own bike. I was closer to restaurants and would have better breakfasts. There wouldn’t be outrageous heat either. Quite the opposite, it would be very chilly.


Nice Day One: Stress

After my late arrival, I was up until one AM, pumping my tires up hard with a mini-pump. The morning after my arrival, I had some tasks to complete. First, was to buy CO2 canisters in case of punctures (I didn’t want to risk them by bringing my own on the aeroplane). Secondly, it's was hard to find a shop to buy water (turns out that “Casino” is a supermarket chain). Thirdly, the bananas were both green and black. According to Banana Weekly Magazine, to which I am a contributing author, “Green and Black Bananas are a Dreadful Combo, everything that is wrong in this world, truly the Roger Ver of Bananas.”

I accomplished these tasks on a breakfast of Bread and Jam. I would eat my weight in Baguettes this week.

Upon pressing Start on the Garmin, it was full gas from the outset. Cars were flying around and the streets were narrow. I had a new road rival to contend with, lads on scooters. The Garmin was very hard to read and interpret into directions. But I was not in a rush. After three of the most stressful kilometres, I got out of the city centre.

Today’s climbs were short and easy. I seen five pro riders, two from Astana, then a Bahrain-Merida, a CCC and a Quick-Step rider.

The big statues of I Love Nice and Santa got a bit of attention from tourists. The next climb was again stressful as it was full of hairpins and narrow. There was a surprisingly large number of cars on this road to rural Cote d’Azur.

Getting dinner was hard for someone who doesn’t want to contribute to superbug growth by financially supporting the overuse of antibiotics in Animal Agriculture. All the restaurants are basically Kebab and Pizza takeaways. They don't open until seven PM. I had to search lots of restaurant’s terrible Google listings and their shitty websites, with PDF menus. The one that I settled on was no longer in business.

Being hungry, I had a pizza from a takeaway. I watched some sort of French National FIFA18 Championships on the TV. One table over, putting away a Paella, the four auld lads didn’t understand the growing world of esports. I was so hungry, that I ate Olives for the first time in my life.

One thing I had not improved on my trip to LA, I had not pre-planned the routes, I had only a rough idea of what I wanted to achieve; Madone, San Remo, Mario Balotelli and Cannes. So I spent the evening researching a route out to the Col de la Madone.


Photos du Jour:
Strava: Nice Day 1: Alban, Boron and Madeline. Seen 5 Pros.


Nice Day Two: Madone

I had a big breakfast that took ages to eat. With my weather research, I knew not to be mislead by the warm hotel and bright sun. It was going to be bitterly cold. Leg warmers and winter jacket were deployed. The only thing I forgot to pack was a buff for coming down the Madone. Sniffles and slight facial windburn would proceed the bike ride.

As I came out of Nice, much easier than yesterday, I was passed by another cyclist. He was dropping me in the steeper ramps of the coastal climb, but he wasn't able to keep up the tempo on the easier gradients. Looking at my power meter, I could see there was no point chasing this guy on the steeper ramps, as I didn't want to blow up. I was able to sit on him for a good fifteen minutes, until he ran the road work traffic lights.

The next climb was the Mont d'Eze, I met my colour-blind friend at the top putting on his jacket, but I was turning off to continue to climb, up the Col de Turbie. From the Turbie to Menton, the descent was long and I caught a few glimpses of Monaco (Turbie is just on top of the principality). I stopped at a clearing to take a proper picture of Monaco. It was full of high rise apartment buildings. Who knew the 1% were so numerous?

The descent took me all the way into Menton, where I would be starting the famous climb. Lance Armstrong gave the Col de la Madone it's notoriety. Michelle Ferrari would be waiting at the top to take Lactic Acid readings in his camper van. Starting from sea level, I would climb 928 meters in fourteen kilometres.



After navigating the roundabouts, I was on the climb alone. I heard a hissing sound, did I have a puncture? Panic set in, flashbacks of LA Day Three. No, it was a leaf caught in my brake calliper. The next human I saw was an Astana Pro descending the Madone. He waved and said "Bonjour". I reciprocated the gesture although, I was munching a Banana at the time. The next people I encountered was either 3T themselves, or a cycling magazine, making an advert, or review, for the new 3T Strada bike.

The climb was mostly easy, nothing too steep, I was in the 32t cog tapping out a nice rhythm and switching into the 28t if I seen other people, so they'd think I was cool.

The next rider I seen was a Dutch guy, who flew past me. Just 500m before the top. The road had a sheet of ice on top. I took some photos. Then a rider for Axeon came up. We bonded over Eddie Dunbar and Mario Balotelli. There was a Castelli van at the top too. I had planned to go up to the Aerials, but that road was full of ice. The two lads took off ahead of me. I took my time navigating the ice.

My thighs froze on the descent, but I got a coffee in Eze village to warm myself up before battling the nutjobs on scooters for supremacy on the Nice streets.

My Garmin defacated itself, turned off and lost all the ride data. No Strava KOMs for me. I had a nice Indian for dinner, including a Halwa for desert.


Photos du Jour:
Strava: Nice Day 2: Col d'Eze, Turbie and Col de la Madone. Garmin file recovered.


Nice Day Three: Je Chasse le Soleil

I couldn't sleep the night before, despite having everything ready to go. I awoke a little late. Ate breakfast and got on the road by 10:45.

I had no stress getting out of Nice this morning. Along the coast to Monaco. I was brought along through underground tunnels. There's was three roundabouts in the underground tunnels. The tunnels were remarkably clean. It's was scary enough. I seen an opportunity to get out of the tunnels and took it. The Garmin plip-plopped itself again, and froze. I looked up and see that the kerbs had red and white paint. I was on the F1 track. I cycled up the hill and got to the hairpin on the circuit. I seen a very skinny Lotto-Soudal rider as I left Monaco.

I reset the Garmin and rejoined the course. But it pooed itself again. My main concern was that I would lose the Strava data again today. I wanted proof that I cycled up the Poggio. The route was straight forward. I deviated to avoid the traffic light series in Menton and took the seafront road. The Italian border was up ahead.

No sooner had I crossed into Italy than I noticed that the roads were filthy. It's like when you cycle along the Liffey and know that you're no longer in Dublin 2. Their tunnels did have dodgy bike lanes though. Italian drivers were passing much closer than their French counterparts. I seen another Quick-Step pro and a bunch of Italian Pro-Contis out training.

Vallecrosia and Bordighera were very annoying towns, as there wasn't a way around the traffic light system. They were four kilometre long town main streets. I seen a man being confronted by the police for parking his scooter in a disabled space. I passed too fast to experience Italians remonstrating with hand gestures.

I got to San Remo, to cycle the Poggio. A very famous end to the One-Day Race, Milano-San Remo. I had trouble finding the secret steps from the bike path to the main street. But I eventually found them. The Poggio was only 4% grade, easy enough, but not for the Pros who would have 290km in the legs. The descent was twisty and fun. There was lots of paintings for John Degenkolb. I wondered to myself, in the melancholy of my solitude, if ze Germans have long lasting paint, of there’s a local man who lost a few fingers that shows solidarity by repainting “DEGE”.

I flipped back to my Garmin's Course Details screen, ETA at Destination was 17:45, "Sacré Bleu, it will be dark, I'll be killed on the roads". I had 65km to do and daylight was burning. I checked my watch, it was MC Hammer O’Clock, AKA Hammer Time. I was halted by the four kilometre long traffic jam in the Italian border towns.

My internal soundtrack was Placebo’s Battle for the Sun. Perhaps, it would’ve been better, had I been humming The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun.

I inhaled an Americano and a Cheese-less Pizza slice. I waved at an FDJ pro. I got to the border and had to decide what to do when I got back to Monaco. Would I risk the the now uphill tunnels with Supercars passing me, or would I take the 12km Col de Turbie?

I hammered it up the 12km long Turbie and flew down the other side. It was already dusk in Nice, I had lost the battle with the sun. In Nice, I was in no mood to let the scoundrels on scooters bully me for road position, as I needed to make one key turn on the way back to the hotel.

There's a certain buzz that I get after completing an epic challenge. It was probably the second time this year that I had such a rush. The other was the second day of the TKAS Weekend Away, the wet run home. On this epic ride, I could not rely on sitting behind Richard McSherry or Helen Horan. I had extracted every drop of residual glycogen from my biscuit binges.

I took a very long hot shower to heat back up, as it was very cold outside. Then I hobbled to the big pizza restaurant that I seen on my trip to get water the first morning, La Rossini. I groaned as I sat down, as my knee was flaring up after 130km of hard riding. My undercarriage was raw too. I had to be careful with the pizza, as it had Olives with the pitts still in them.

Upon getting back to the hotel, I plugged in the Garmin to stitch the files back together using FitFileTools. I had strategically saved after climbing and descending the Poggio. I noticed that it had saved the previous day's ride in the file system, but it was not showing up on the Garmin device's Ride History. To quote the Philosopher Borat “Great Success”. So I uploaded all the data, good times.


Photos du Jour:
Strava: Nice Day 3 Monte Carlo San Remo, Racing the Sunset.


Nice Day Four: Cote d’AssSore

My legs were heavy and I had some saddle sores, knee was not 100%. So I took the day off the bike. A pigeon was stalking my Veggie pastry at the coffee shop. He now fears ginger people. My hotel was one block from the city centre's shop street. I went down for a galk. The only thing that separates it from Galway or Grafton St. is the amount of kebab shops.

The main square was getting ready for the Christmas festival. The area was surrounded by lots of crowd control barriers and metal detectors. The terror attack happened here last year. I picked up a scarf from the OGC Nice club shop and watched some murders in boats killing fish. I had a Falafel and Chip kebab. The shopping centre is the exact same as Dundrum, same shops. Nice has a few Luas trams and the Transdev office is here too.

I had an Indian for dinner, the food didn't look like much quantity-wise, but I was tubbed up. It was raining.

I asked the guy at reception about how to get to the Allianz Riviera for the match. He is a season ticket holder and says he cries every time he has to go out there, as it’s so far from the city. The official club shuttle was full up, so I would end up taking the 95 bus, the matchday special.


Photos du Jour:


Nice Day Five: Mario

The news was full of stories about Marseille struggling with snow, Nice escaped all of the snow, but the mountains were snowcapped. I cycled to Menton to discover the vegan restaurant, I had planned to eat at, was closed. As was everything else at twelve noon. Apparently brunch is not a thing in France.

The sea was wild, and I was trying to time a picture of my bike with the sea spray in the background. It took three freezing cold minutes.

I seen Fabio Feline, Stefan Kruswijk and four Astana riders in Menton. I tried to take a good picture of the Astana lads, but it came out super blurry.

I next cycled back through Monte Carlo. I got to cycle some of the F1 track, around the hairpin, through the tunnel and into the Swimming Pool and Marina section. I can neither confirm or deny that I made F1 car sounds as I sped through the tunnel.

To escape Monaco, I didn't want to use the tunnels. So I took my time and found the route that the delivery lorries take into and out of the city. On my way back to Nice I seen Caleb Ewan (he’s good at waving) and Roscommon's Daire Feeley, riding for AC Monaco (who didn't wave back). I made my way to Cafe du Cycliste for a quick coffee.

Cafe du Cycliste has an expensive clothing range. It also has routes listed on its website. It has one badass route listed, that I could not try, due to snow at 1000 meters. It's the Col du Braus and Col de Turini combo. Turini is a stage of the Monte Carlo Rally. It's unique as it is an uphill race with many, many hairpins. Europe's answer to Pikes Peak (Colorado Spings).

After cycling, it was Match prep time. There's a website called FootballTripper, that is like a Wikipedia for matchdays. Nice put on a special bus route for getting out to the stadium, number 95. The stadium is really nice. The game ended 3-1, with Mario scoring a free kick. I knew he was going to score, so I was videoing the build up and goal.

He is a very poor player, but he has the "je ne sais quoi". Number 11 was coming on during an injury break, Mario went over to talk to him and ended up spraying him with water. Le Banter!

I got the bus back and debriefed the guy at reception who game me the advice on the stadium.


Videos et Photos du Jour:
Strava: Nice Day 5: Vegan Restaurant Closed, Wild Sea, Lost in Monte Carlo.


Nice Day Six: Crash de la Madone

I headed up the Madone to try to set a good time, I only took four minutes off my photo tour from day two, although I rode eleven watts more. Four minutes over fourteen kilometers, I was kinda hoping for a ten minute improvement, but forty-five seconds saved per kilometre was unrealistic.

I got to the top and got some good karma by allowing a man to throw a snowball at me, he was messing with his family, it was all good. I gave a dog a quarter of my FlapJack. Good karma.

What did I get for doing nice things? Sliding out on melt water that was covering ice. Knee bruised and swelling, elbow cut annoyingly, neck inflamed, helmet needed to be replaced, damaged rear mech and torn clothes. Helmet did its job very well, I only had a headache for a few hours. I blamed it all on seeing Steven Kruijswijk yesterday.

I let the car coming opposite me do past the melt water. Crossed it where it was narrowest. Carbon bikes don't sound nice when they hit the ground, neither do helmets. I went down so fast, that my body didn't have time to compensate by sticking it's hand out, risking my collarbone snapping.

After letting the adrenaline wear off, I could only think of the Action Bronson line “Shit, if I crash it, leave it there as a token, that your boy could’ve died right there, no joking.”

The mech cage was not feeding the chain through the lower jockey wheel. I tiptoed down the rest of the melt water sections. Only twenty kilometers home with a battered knee, most of it was downhill.

When I got back to Eze, two Team Sky lads passed me at the T-junction, then Geraint Thomas turned around and rode towards me. I waved, he didn't. Someone called him a prick... Might've been me.

Freezing descent, crash, scrubbing the wound in the shower and to top it off applying antiseptic. I only groaned a little bit.


Strava: Nice Day 6 Crashed on the Madone. Stupid Melt water being Ice.


Nice Day Seven: Crafty Collins

I started packing, my flight was at nine pm, I selected the late checkout option in the hotel, so I had until five pm to get everything sorted. I went for a walk around town to get some non-airport food into me.

I picked up a litre of Brandy for the boss. "Rest up from the crash... Don't forget the duty-free." Mother's magically know how to use whatsapp, with perfect grammar when they need to.

I met Diarmuid Collins on the same flight, he's a pro at Nice airport Ryanair. Last in the priority boarding, last onto the shuttle bus... First off and he wasn't waiting outside the plane like a chump while idiots played Gridlock with bags.


Photos du Jour:

Nice Day Three Hundred…?

I’d definitely go back. Some trips are better the second time around, where things are not as stressful, due to your accumulated knowledge. In the Cycling Weekly Video about Nice, Ollie says that he has been to Nice six times. I wanted to go to Cannes and to find the mega-croissant that Ollie cautioned against eating. I’d go back earlier in the Autumn, for warmer weather and longer daylight hours. The taxi driver told me, through Google Translate, that September and early-October would be the best time to cycle in Nice.

I feel like I have unfinished business. I’ve played enough JRPGs to know when you’ve defeated the mini-boss. The Madone was the mini-boss. The Café du Cycliste ride for the Braus and Turini is the true final-form boss fight. I’ll have to grind, and level up, on Zwift to accumulate the form needed to crack the top two thousand positions on Strava.

I had plenty of time to, like Robert Frost, regret the roads not taken, as I limped around on a knee that was too scabbed over to bend. Score one for leg shaving. I had even more time to dream of conquering Cols and consuming Croissants, as I slept my way through a virus, that the doctor heavily implied would’ve killed a normal man.



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