Day Four: Digne les Bains – Nice

While it was good to leave the not-so-nice hotel, neither was it good to immediately cycle up a mountain called Col de Corobin, which took us rather steeply to 1,211 metres. Once again however we had great scenery, wonderful company, the occasional welcome sound of Nobby’s loudhailer and I was feeling reasonably strong and ready for the day ahead, our last one of this tour. My mental strategy was to arrive intact at around 60 miles, at which point we were promised undulations for around 20 miles and then what was described as an incredible 16 mile descent to the sea and then a 6/8 mile run along the promenade, into Nice and our hotel. Tres Bon!

Climb number two, though long, saw me feeling quite strong, with the pain in my knee not yet breaking through the painkillers I’d taken and already seeing the wow factor of the scenery kicking in to make me feel the luckiest guy alive.

That ‘up’ then became the fabulous ‘down’ to the village of Castellane over which towers the Roc de Notre Dame, 184 metres above the town. How on earth/why on earth did they do that? I think we’ve maybe had a bit of pain over the past couple of days, but how could that ever compare with lugging masonry up 184 metres without mechanical help? How many lives would have been lost on this project? However, the immediate problem was no cyclists to be seen & wondering how could they not be here and taking a coffee break. I cycled on into the busy town, to then get a welcome shout from a group who were tucked up in a shady alleyway with beers and coffee in abundance. Spirits were high, everyone happy and in truth how could you not be.

Coffee or no coffee fix, there was still a big climb ahead (a total of 2496 metres today I’m told) but I was often blessed with the company and music of Steve, scenery that defies description and the knowledge that post lunch was eminently doable and would take me to our end goal of Nice. I took photos and videos as I went along to help me re-live these great sights and I arrived for lunch in good spirits and showed off by riding the last few hundred yards with both hands in the air. I gratefully tucked in to our roadside lunch, grabbing a little shade which was oh so welcome, as we were now into 30 plus degrees of heat.

Next came the 20 odd miles of undulations to the top of the descent to the coast. I didn’t hang around after lunch & set off alone, through the lanes and villages and the wonderful countryside smells. My left knee was by now sending out a few distress signals so I tried to concentrate on just using my right one. This worked fine, but what became increasingly difficult, was standing on the pedals, which not only gives an occasional power boost for short climbs but also stops the bum muscles seizing up. Ah well, seize up they did and I just tried to ignore that and concentrate on my lovely surroundings.

The descent, when it came, was beyond amazing and simply the best downhill ride I have ever had. It was a good road surface, it twisted and turned in spectacular fashion, with views of the road and cars over a thousand metres below. There were tunnels, some simply great holes in the rocks. There were spectacular rock outcrops and at one point the best close up waterfall ever, the Cascade de Courmes which no motorist could appreciate as stopping a car on this narrow road was quite impossible. However, it attracted a whole group of cyclists who were busy taking videos and pictures, in raptures about the ride and quietly wondering if there was any way of getting under that water as by now, we were all cooking from the inside in our clammy Lycra.

The descent still went on and the speed was amazing, to the point where any thought of fatigue was forgotten. However, once at the bottom and suddenly surrounded by traffic, with stop lights every few hundred metres and tarmac that was hot enough to fry eggs on, life became tedious once more and it was a welcome relief to finally see the sea and a whole bunch of Macmillan Jerseys surrounded by beer, coffee, ice creams and excitement. Adrian was kind enough to buy me a pistachio double ice cream and despite the fact that we had over 6 miles of Promenade to go, congratulatory hand shakes and hugs were exchanged all around.

DA lead us onto the Promenade and we largely single filed our way slowly towards our seaside hotel, dodging pedestrians, dogs, others cyclists and all the chaos that was Nice in the unfolding. I was asked to lead us all to our finish line, where DA, Judith and Michelle plus a whole hosts of friends and visitors were present, with bubbles on offer and tears plentiful. All very emotional and it is so hard to describe the shedloads of aspirations that had been fulfilled at this single moment in time.

Hot, sticky, tired, emotional – there was only one solution for a few who simply ran down the beach & jumped into the sea. I managed to save that pleasure for a little while later and changed into swimming gear and braved the pebbles and the undertow to enjoy the ‘just right’ temperature and a gorgeous cool down, with many of the others.
Our hotel (the rather tired but still quite splendid ‘The Royal’) did have a lovely terrace where we had our final dinner. Lauren, our Macmillan CEO (on her first ever cycle challenge), gave a lovely speech on behalf of the charity. DA gave awards, most of which were comical but some so very well deserved and Trevor gave a very funny summing up. Not sure how I feel being compared, along with Tony and Ron, to the 3 characters in “Last of the Summer Wine’ but that’s Trevor’s humour for you and in fairness, I suppose not that far from the truth given our combined age of 211 years!

Stats for the day:

88.85 miles
2528 mts of climbing

Stats for the Trip:
331 miles
9109 mts of climbing

Total Raised:
Overall thus far £130K approx plus £20K of future funding

My personal fundraising £17K approx plus £20K of future funding