MY FIRST COL – COL DE TURINI
by Diane Vilarem
by Diane Vilarem
I started cycling in the spring of 2019, and I immediately fell in love with it! The feeling of freedom was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and I really felt that I found the perfect complement to my Yoga practice. After about a month of bambi-like riding along the coast of the French Riviera I felt like it was time to take the bull by the horn and try one of the Maritime Alp cols. I mean, cycling is all about attacking those mountains, right? I really had no idea of what it was like to ride up a mountain, or hill for that matter, haha, or even which one to start with. Col de la Madone? Col d’Eze? Madone d’Utelle?
In the end, I decided to tackle the South side of the locally famous Col de Turini. This climb can be done from three different sides and ends at 1604m. Last years’ Tour de France passed through the shorter and steeper West side ascent then descended the South side. We took off an early Sunday morning in June, had a coffee at Café Du Cycliste by the port in Nice, then started riding through the city, up the short Col de Nice climb and into the little village of L’escarene where a short coffee stop was scheduled. The actual climb is 24km long from the village, with an average slope of 4%.
The first 6k of the climb is quite pleasant, 3-4% gradient until you reach another picturesque little village called Luceram. Here you can choose from two different (but very similar) routes that end up in an intersection approx. 10km later. The switchbacks start almost immediately as you exit the village, and it’s just a little hint of what’s coming up ahead! I still felt great at this point, enjoying the amazing views and finally feeling like a “real” cyclist attacking the mountain.
After some 5k of pleasant riding partly though a forest, you reach another intersection where a turn to the right will take you over to Col de Braus (I’ll tell you more about this amazing climb in another article) and by continuing straight you finally get to experience the real Maritime alps….5k of steep zigzagging up the mountain and halfway up this part I wasn’t smiling anymore but kept going. By the end of the zig-zag section you reach a “somewhat” flatter part of the climb, taking you into the mountain village Peira Cava.
From here it is roughly 8k to go. The climb takes you through a very nice forest until you reach the top which is an intersection where all three roads up Turini come together. You only ascend 200m from the village which makes the last part quite easy, apart from some short steep sections. It’s also common to ride into sheep-blockages at this section. When I finally saw the Turini sign, I felt victorious, proud and most of all very happy that I had beaten this climb, only a month after I bought my first road bike. I never would have imagined myself being a cyclist, and especially not one climbing big mountains!
There are three nice hotel/restaurants on the top and we fueled up with an amazing blueberry pie at the Hotel Les Trois Vallées, before descending back down to Nice. This ended up being the start of my Col-chasing. This last summer I spent 10 days climbing as many famous French Cols as I could find, but that will be the subject for another article. For now, look at the map and download the gpx file, then take yourself up this magnificent route 🙂
Stay safe and keep attacking those mountains!