Lunchtime: GPS shows 1250 m. altitude and the Cime de la Bonette is 2802 m. altitude so I still have more than a vertical kilometre still to climb since breakfast café & croissant at the Carnolès beach (Menton). Weather now ideal: blue sky and no wind.
Bike riding fantastic. This is the first full week this route has been open since the winter so it’s not yet got a lot of traffic. Indeed hardly any.... Sweeping curves and open straights. Lots of opportunities for low-gear high-rev riding except that the blue sky, jagged cliffs, cascades and thrusting mountain peaks are so attractive and distracting... Nice problem to have.Quiche Lorraine, Myrtille tart and can of Zéro finished so onwards and upwards.
Had a chat after dinner with French rider of an R1. His bike was parked outside the kitchen where he is the main chef. We were talking about why the Cime de la Bonette is special. It’s both the extreme height, which gives so much variety in the one route. The long rolling curves of the ascent up from Nice; gaining altitude with the curves becoming progressively more challenging. It’s a long while before the first stack of hairpin bends and by then it’s not a shock. The summit is reached by a crazy loop road that branches off from the Col de la Bonnette (2715 m.). It’s steep but progressive, yesterday it was still lined with snow; the views are spectacular: the whole of the Mercantor, dominated by the tetrahedral Monte Visio (3841 m.) and its little brother, the accessible Pain de Sucre (3208 m.) that I got to the top of once. And views up to the Écrins, the southern faces still gleaming white but the glaciers are smaller each year I see them.
The route down from 2802 m. is the most challenging part of the ride. I’ve previously spent afternoons here practicing my riding skills, there’s as much to learn on these roads as any track day. Tight downhill turns, open curves and just a few hairpins. Impossible to do them all optimally but very satisfying to try.
I stopped off for some marmotte spotting (the furry creatures do a good act of showing themselves just enough to stop the traffic and then disappearing). Then a coffee at the chalet at 2000 m., The group running it are in to mountain ecology so it’s all renewable stuff. It’s a cliché but they did an excellent chocolate tart!
Still nearly a kilometre vertically down to Barcelonnette where the temperature was still 32°C at 5:30pm.