Nearby Nice and Monaco are home to many professional cyclists, and it’s easy to see what makes the region popular for cycling. Accessible year-round, the roads around the Cote d’Azur offer cyclists many options, all with breathtaking views of the azure coastline and the beautiful alpine foothills.

There are plenty of famous challenges, including the ascents of the Col de Vence, Col de la Madone and Col de Braus. (These three links are to routes recommended by Epic Rides, all starting from Nice. From Villa Rocamar, the Col de Vence route would be about 50km shorter than the recommended 128/160km, as you will start from, and return to, Vence. For the other two routes, we recommend driving to Nice or elsewhere along the route to start – or be prepared for a 50km addition to the approximately 100km routes.)

Or why not pitch yourself against some of the best cyclists in the world, by taking on one of the climbs featured in the famous Paris-Nice “Race to the Sun” over the last couple of years? (This race was of course won by both of our Irish heroes, Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche, in the past.) In 2019, the spectacular mountain pass of Col de Turini – which has also featured in the Tour de France several times – hosted a stage finish the day before the grand finale in Nice. It’s worth getting up early and driving down to the coast to take on this stunning climb. Meanwhile, in 2018, we watched stage 7 end in Vence, having come from Sisteron. Ascending the Col de Vence – less than a kilometre from our door – to Coursegoules and Greolieres, and taking the last 60km of that stage back to Vence makes for a super 100km loop.

There are any number of other not-so-famous but really great rides too. Using Vence as a base, it is very easy to find a small lap on quiet roads of 30km, and then to extend that on to 50, 80, 100km, or however long you like. The roads are quiet, the surfaces are very good, there’s plenty of climbing and the scenery is spectacular.

Within 25 minutes on the bike, you are threading your way through the Gorge du Loup, or only a few minutes after leaving Villa Rocamar, you can be tackling the infamous Col de Vence as a time trial (although we like to do a small loop to warm up first!) and enjoying the incredible sea views on the spin back down.

Some of our favourite spins from the front door of the villa:

  • Ironman France route (part of!)

From Vence, you head up the Gorge du Loup, passing Gourdon and summitting the Col de l’Ecre. This route is approximately 90km and has plenty of climbing, ending with a free-wheel down the Col de Vence for stunning coastal views. It can be extended easily either, to come back via Carros.

Cyclist selfie on road that goes through the gorge
Climbing through the stunning Gorges du Loup
  • Down to the coast, towards either the Esterel or Menton

Heading down to the Mediterranean via St Paul-de-Vence, you can head towards Antibes and on to Cannes and the red rocks of the Esterel; or you can take the other direction through Cagnes-sur-Mer and along the promenade through Nice and then ride one of the stunning Corniche roads beyond, as far as Villefranche, Monaco, or even Menton – home of the famous Col de la Madone.

  • Vallon Rouge

This route goes down towards La Colle-sur-Loup and then back up through the Vallon Rouge, Pont-du-Loup and home to Vence. It’s a short lap of approximately 35km with 450m elevation. A nice little evening spin to earn your dinner!

Tips for your day on the road!

  • Bring enough snacks. Villages here do not tend to have ‘corner shops’ – although most do have fountains with drinkable and delicious water.
  • Plan to stop for lunch between 12 and 1.30pm. You will be hard pushed to find anywhere serving food after that – generally only touristy places in big towns do.
  • Watch out for traffic coming from roads to your right. In France, there is ‘priorité à droite’ so drivers may pull out right in front of you.
  • Anticipate rain gullies, especially on cambered bends on steep roads. They can be dangerous if hit at the wrong angle, at speed.
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