A beautiful loop in the mountains near the French Mediterranean coast.
Le Cycle magazine just published it’s list of the 70 most beautiful climbs in France – and included both these climbs – as well as the nearby Col de Turini.
It’s best to do this loop clockwise. This allows the climbing of the best side of Braus and the “famous” side of Madone.
Col de Braus is never too steep, but it’s a beautiful climb with nice contoured hairpins. Nearing the top is a little road that turns up and left and can be a “long-cut to Col de Turini via Col de l’Able.
At the top of Col de Braus is a monument to René Vietto – one of the greatest French riders to never win the Tour – more here.
Cycling from downtown Nice to these climbs is a minor traffic nightmare. If possible, drive to the route.
The descent leads to the village of Sospel – with a nice little fountain/square it’s a perfect place for a lunch break.
The route then climbs the easy side of Col de Castillon. THe fun part of this climb is the descent. Well surfaced in a tight rocky valley, it’s a fast ride straight towards the sea.
Col de la Madone was of course made famous by Lance Armstrong – it was his favorite training climb for several years. For purists, the start is in Menton by the sea. But getting there the roads can be complicated and busy and my mapped loop does a great job of skipping the traffic and joining the climb still near the start.
It’s a fun climb. The early stages give ever improving views of the Med. The final few kms head into barren, deserted mountains. Sadly, someone has stolen the Col sign!! The finish is a little anti-climatic – nothing much there and the best views are earlier. It’s a very technical descent – but much is freshly resurfaced.
Overall, a dream circuit.