Monday 27 March 2017

France and Italy Trip: 20-30 March 2017

20th March 1917
Tom. John and Ivan  
Location: Base camp at Vallabona, Liguria. Italy
Day 1
We were flying out of UK via Liverpool on a wet Monday morning at 07:00 and arrived at Nice in 17c sunshine. 
A white van man had been arranged to collect our bikes and transport them to base for us and we collected a car and all was going well. We departed Nice on the E10 motorway with John as driver and were soon in the vicinity of our villa. We were half way up a mountain at 200 meters and unable to locate our address. We contacted our hosts who did not speak English, but text to say STOP. In no time, they arrived and we followed them back along the road and a very sharp left hand turn down a track led us to our villa. Our first thoughts were oh heck!!! Every morning we have a 20% climb to get out onto the road to start our day!!!!
The villa was very modern and comfortable and we soon made ourselves at home except we had no running water!! Works were in progress somewhere and no water until after 14:00 today. We decided to go for lunch in the nearby village of Bordereau and to get some shopping. We had lunch and set off looking for a big supermarket and ended up at San Remo 7K along the road and found a modern supermarket that sold everything we needed. 
Quickly sorted so back to the villa to assemble our bikes. Three hours later we are still driving on very narrow mountain lanes trying to get home. Tom with his eyes shut and John somehow managing to keep a big car on unfenced roads on the track. We descend into Ventamiglia on the Italian-French border and then retrace our drive back. We manage to arrive back at the villa as dusk in changing into darkness – Wow that was some shopping trip.
Delicious pizza and salad were prepared and we enjoyed our first meal was downed with a 2.39E red Malbec – great
Bikes were soon assembled and bed
Day 2
A gentle ride along the sea esplanade was agreed, a visit Nice and John’s favourite cycle wear boutique "Café du Cyclist" was proposed. After breakfast, we set of along our concrete track to the 20% grind to the main road. It was as hard as we expected but made it to the tarmac.The next 4k was downhill enjoying spectacular valley views and the coast line.We were soon on the sea front at Ventamiglia and passing border control who just waved us through.
The sunshine was now warming up (10:00) so we removed layers and enjoyed the coastal ride passing some fantastic locations stopping at Monte Carlo for coffee and a snack. A lot of new building work is in progress here for the Grand Prix so the town was in diversion meltdown.
After our lunch, we continued on to Nice and the "Café du Cycliste" shop. It was a very up market and quality cycle shop and they made us very welcome. Some very clever and smart cycle stands were available inside the shop and quality coffee was enjoyed while John expanded his ever-growing wardrobe of cycle gear.
The return trip back was mainly along the same coastal route and back to the villa was made easy with the Garmin.
Our day’s cycle ride was 67 miles and a flat ride of 3.999 ft. of ascent so not quite as flat as we thought. An average of 14mph did not reflect our ride. Clean bikes at the finish for the first time

Keeping Italian on the food menu, Tom was making Spag bol for dinner !!

Somewhere they have been in Italy?

Monte Carlo

Hallowed Ground for John!

John in "Cafe du Cycliste" Another top?

29th March :Awaiting update as the Boys have "broken the internet" in the apartment!!

A low calorie coffee break!

Updated April 6th

Wednesday 22/03/17 Day 3
Today the sun is shining and we have a 70-mile ride to Diano Marina. We set of prompt at 09:00 to ride the gauntlet to get out of the drive. Once out it is downhill into Bordighera and riding along the Italian corniche. A few miles along the route we head towards the beach as there is a cycle way shown on the road signs. This proves to be a very long cycle way 20+ miles including some amazing tunnels. This is a very popular cycleway with many cycle hire franchises set up. At Santo Stefo we stop for coffee and cake/garlic bread!! And enjoy the many yachts moored in the harbour. We ride the cycle way to the end.
On arrival at Diano it is only 11:30 so decision made to carry on to the next town or a further 10 miles whichever is first. Both are equal except it is uphill either way, we arrive at xx and select a café for lunch which was served quickly so that we could continue our ride.
It was up hill from Diano and now uphill from xxx but no problem.
We have deviated a little from our outward route but again join the cycleway which takes us towards our villa at Bordighera. Whatever the route we have completed on the day we have a 200 metre climb back up to the villa from sea level and for the second day out it feels like it is getting easier!!!
Tom was so excited at completing or second day of riding he left John and I half way up the hill whilst we stopped to take a photo and rode 4K upwards on his own and had made tea for us when we arrived (joke) home.
Second day out and still no need to clean bikes. Into the shower and get ready for dinner and a glass of wine.

Thursday 23/03/17 Day 4
Today is the Italian Riviera ride, again we have to endure the climb to the road but second time feels slighter easier!!
It’s great rolling down hill and we are riding through the morning traffic of our main town Bordighera and out onto SS1 route to our destination Diano Marina.
The Garmin route we are following was along the coastal road and when we arrive at Sanremo 4k out of town we join a fantastic cycle way that runs for the next 20+ miles to San Lorenzo Al Mare.
The track passes the start of the Italian road race and all the teams and cyclist photos and routes displayed
The very first tunnel going through the headland of Sanremo displays all the riders of Italian and other nationals who have made great in cycling world. Cavendish was the only Brit to get a mention that we noticed.
The cycleway passes through many little villages and a couple of larger towns and we stop for coffee at San Lorenzo when we leave the path
The coastal road is very undulating and a climb above Diano before a long sweeping pine tree lines descent. Passing through the town and we carried on Andora. No relative to the Pyrenees location or as pretty. We stopped for a snack and drink and returned along the same route to home.

Thursday 23/03/17 Day 4
Rain is forecast all day so we decide to take our bikes in the car to Diano Marina as John wants a Specialized dealer to have a look at a noise in his rear hub and Tom and I would explore further along the coast whilst the inspection takes place.
By the time, we arrive at our destination it is raining even heavier so we sit it out for a while hoping it goes off, a break and Tom and I are off, 10 minutes along the road and down it comes again but now were out we continue on. We pass a road accident and have to wait along all the stationary vehicles whilst the police brush the road but eventually they allow we two to pass along the pavement. Onwards and upwards passing Laigueglia we arrive at Alassio which was an Italian very period style Italian village with little cobbled streets and even in the pouring rain it was very scenic.
We decide to turn around and head back to meet up with John and it is now a reverse of the up and over hills but now with a tail wind.
Arriving at Diano John has had the bike fixed and is happy with the work carried out and it has now stopped raining so tom and I decide to cycle back along the coast to home.
It is a similar route to yesterday but somehow, we cover more of coastal roads before joining the cycleway back to Sanremo.
Once off the cycleway and onto the SS1 road it is up hill and in places +10% but the more often we do it is getting easier.
Today’s ride was a wet start but sunny PM and 47 miles covered.
Friday 24/03/17 Day 5
Another wet day is expected so we decide to do a recky of a proposed mountain route around our villa. John driving, we set off up the mountain and find it much easier than a bike. The route proves very successful and we arrive at a village at the top of our mountain – Perinaldo and are welcome into a lovely café and enjoy a beer and aperitifs’ and coffee.
Leaving the café, it is not downhill yet and a few tight roads and bends before descending down to Sanmarino but will leave the route explanation for the bike ride to come!!!
By the time, we arrive home the sun is out so we decide to spend our energy and hit the cycleway so we fly downhill to Bodeghera and Sanremo.
We enjoy a 28-mile ride along the sea route but the climb home gets us ready for dinner.

Saturday 25/03/17 Day 6
We are in the middle of a low-pressure squall on the Med and rain is forecast for PM with very heavy rain forecast.
We load the bikes into the car and drive to Nice and cycle the Cote a de Azur to Cannes. There is now a very good cycle way which covers the majority of our route passing the villages of Antibes whose harbour holds some very impressive yacht’s. We cycle around the town and the old castle and take in the headland port of Juan -Le-Pins and into Cannes. The rain has arrived before us and we seek out a warm restaurant for lunch. We would be happy to remain in the café as the rain is bouncing down and the roads look like a river but in good old stiff upper lip we done our jackets and reverse our route back through Cannes stopping at the Film Festival Hall so the Tom can place in hand in the print of Sophia Loren. A shorter route back to Nice as we are very wet and cold and not much fun but arrive back in what seemed double quick time cutting off a few corners of the outward route. Not many miles covered today 34, but glad that we enjoyed a dry outward as the scenery is spectacular on this coast line.

Sunday 26/03/17
Sunday morning and the sun is shining. Today we are riding a local mountain route near our villa to a hillside village called Perinaldo.
We set off and for the next 4 miles an uphill gradient of 7-9%. Today this normal quiet road is busy with other cyclists and we continue to climb steadily. There are many little villages built into the side of the valley and some well-designed homes. At the end of the valley at a small town called Fumi-Negi we can enjoy a little flattish route before an undulating decent on very narrow roads. We pass a scene of a car which has run over the side of the road above and it is left there rusting in the tree. Is this to warn other drivers to take care?
We join the main road from Bordighera to Perinaldo and it is a long 6 miles uphill again but with fantastic views of the valley down to the Med.
The sun is now at 20c and we are glad to arrive at the town and our lunch stop. My memories of Sunday cycling hols are having a nice lunch stop and our stop today ranks high. We have enjoyed the welcome here previous and are again welcomed into the restaurant to enjoy pasta meals and chocolate puddings and some very nice vino!!
After lunch, we cycle through the town and unfortunately still have some uphill riding to do.
We reach the top and join a main road!! SP61 running down to San Remo. We do not need to touch the pedals for many miles now but Tom has his brakes firmly on and keeps well into the side where possible.
Our route takes us off the main road which only had two cars on today but many cyclists!! And veer off through a village. We are attempting to ride through a very narrow street when a car approaches from the opposite direction, you would consider these streets as walkways only but we hastily get out of the way.
This route takes us down some 25+% and you feel you’re going over the handlebars!
Eventually we arrive at sea level in Bodeghera and have to climb again the last 4k home to our villa.
A great day up the mountain and enjoyed some spectacular views which photo’s do not credit to but will keep memories alive.
No need to clean the bikes today.
Only 33 miles covered but our first taste of what’s to come going up mountains. 4.593 feet elevation gained today and from sea level
Monday 27th March
Col du Madone 995 metres
Today we have car assist to Ventimiglia for our start. Bikes out and ready in sunshine we set off through this very busy town, many years ago, the home of the biggest outdoor market and follow the coastal roads to Menton. Last town of the Cote de Azure we cycle through and join the route to take us up the Col du Madone. Lance Armstrong and Chris Froome held the record for climbing this col but not sure where the timing is taken from as it is a long slog before the village of Ste-Agnes where you veer off onto the col summit road which achieves the height of 995 metres.
Again, it is a long downhill drop into Nice with not many opportunities for lunch stops,
We follow the overflow gorge for the snow to run out to sea from a town called Chateauvieux before we are able to enjoy a French burgher – rather raw for John’s taste buds.
From Nice we take the coast road passing through Menton and the passport control who always pass you through and back to our start.
A great day up the mountain and our first Col of the holiday in the bag.
63 miles and 5.420 ft. of elevation.
Tuesday 28th March
Getting lazy and not too keen to ride the drive it is car assist along the Italian coast to the end of the cycleway to our start for today’s ride at Poggi.
This is a coastal town with harbour and many sea café’s and our intention is 30 miles out and back flat ride.
We have ridden along the coast passing Diano Marina to Andora so beyond is unknown. The coastal road is not flat and the road is either up or down but passing many cultural towns and villages and fantastic harbours and yacht’s.
Our ride takes us to Borgio Verezzi and disappointingly we arrive at a location with no attractive coastal café so we back track to Loano where we had spotted several tasty cafe stops and selected a table under the trees with sea views and enjoyed a pasta lunch.
Back on the bike we retrace our route to enjoy the sunshine first and the hilly road second.
We arrive back at the car and bikes packed we decide to drive back along the SS1 road, could have cycled faster!!
No bike cleaning required again!!
Evening dinner out up the mountain to our café at Perinaldo,

Wednesday 29th March
Today we are heading in car to Ventimiglia car assist to explore the mountains between Italy and France.
We set of from the town and we follow the SS20 main road out of Ventimiglia starting the uphill 7-9% drag upwards. It is a long ride upwards and the route is one I had loaded from the blog of Café-du-cyclists in Nice and we arrive at a juncture with a leg up a mountain side, so as keen uppers we decide to go up thinking it may lead to our destination. After many hairpin bends we arrive at the little (French)village of Libre. Although a nice small village and a helpful local (old man and his dog) there is no coffee to be had here or any way out except down again.
Re-joining the D6204 road we continue along this main route and pass a huge Hydro Electric station making use of all the flow of water from the Alps.
Arriving at the first big town of Breil-sur- Roya we stop for a coffee but unable to find anywhere to eat so energy bars have to make do.
We now seriously start to climb out of this town and are upwards to Col de Brouis at 879m.
After photo calls and views of the surrounding snow-capped Alps mountains we have a downhill to enjoy on very good wide roads. No guessing who was fast and who was slow with someone in the middle!!
We get stopped by the Gardia at the bottom of the Col, road blocked to allow school children enjoying mountain bike trekking. After they have passed we are allowed through and continue dropping down the mountain, then looking forward in the distance we can see the road is going up and up again.
The Gardia are on my tail so I pull over on a hairpin as John is bending his bike around the them.
They chase John and I chase them but they are both soon in the distance and as I start to go upwards I meet John and we wait for Tom to bring up the rear. Together we climb our second Col and eventually arrive at the summit of Col de Vescavo at 477m.
We ride on and re-join the SS20 in Italy and into Ventimiglia.
Unfortunately, my Garmin stopped working, probably due to the many hairpins which confused it as it was pointing forwards, backwards, off course continually!!!
62 miles ridden in blue sunshine and 4531+ feet of elevation.

Thursday 30th March
Our final riding day has arrived and we have decided to ride the cycleway to Diano Marina at a leisurely pace and enjoy the many views we have missed to date.
The ride out of the villa is the dreaded 20+ climb but a laugh today the downhill to Bordighera and San Remo before joining our cycleway. It really is a fantastic ride along here and very friendly with the walkers and other cyclist even though some are riding very hard. It is clearly marked directionally and walkers path, perhaps something that our greenway could benefit from.
We arrive at Diano Marina and enjoy our last Italian lunch before heading back to our villa.
Again, a super blue sky day and 61 miles ridden and a moderate 2.034m of elevation. 1000m is the ride home from sea level at Bordighera to our Villa.
Arriving home, we drive into town for take away pizza then prepare to pack our bikes away and pack ready to leave Friday morning
Chow Italia and Vallabona, very enjoyable holiday with two good friends.