Col de Braus and Col de la Madone


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.

Vietto monument

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.

Col de Braus

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.

The Med sea


About Author

Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. tu vas sur la Côte d’Azur en pleine période Festival de Cannes, GP de Monaco !!
    et pourtant il n’y a aucune voiture sur les images de ces superbes routes…

  2. Ah, is the east side of Madone the traditional (or “Armstrong”) route? Because I noticed regular “metres to go” markers on the freshly paved west side from Peille and I assumed those were for Armstrong’s benefit. I think his base is Cap Ferat; that would make the western ascent more logical to me but I guess it doesn’t make any difference to a professional bike racer. The eastern road surface was horrible to descend.

    Good job finding that little backroad through Cabrolles, that was a lovely alternative to descending all the way to the coast.

  3. Ted, thanks.

    Without your GPS help I would have been hopelessly lost as I approached Menton. That was a great little road-link you found,


  4. Sure! Glad you could put it to such good use. We found it the old fashioned way, using Michelin maps 🙂 Planning the route the night before over dinner, map folded up in the backpocket on the day.

  5. Hi Will,

    I’m heading out this way for my summer holiday with the family. I have limited time to explore as it is a ‘family holiday’ 😉 So wondered if it were possible to get a GPX of this route to save time exploring?



  6. Hi Scott,

    On the map above, click the Map number link. Then you’ll see a link for downloading a gpx file. Have a good trip,


  7. Hi.
    It is a great tour by bike. I suggest to start in menton, after take to the col de la madone, peille, escarene, col de braus, castillon and the last descent to menton. In this way you are sure you are not in trafic cost in the middle of the morning.

  8. An exceptional ride! Thanks so much for providing this valuable resource on-line. I used it extensively for my recent three week trip to Europe and was never let down. Even caught up with Caleb Ewen and Luke Rowe on the Col de Braus!

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