On the Col de Braus the sweat has started to flow as Touet-de-l’Escarene is left in the valley below and the famous lacets approach. The climbing effort masks the fact that, without snow or rain, the temperature can drop by almost 1ºC per hundred metres gained in elevation. This fact becomes readily apparent at the top of the Col, 1,000m above the Promenade des Anglais, where my bike can stand by itself in the still pure white snow banks at the side of the road. A glance towards the descent and the slush in the middle of the tarmac is a reminder that the north eastern side of the climb spends more of its time hiding from the Riviera sun than its southern brother. The contrast between the two is black and white.
Bike parked, arm-warmers and gilet are instinctively whipped out of the pockets to give my body that warm hug required to avoid hypothermia on the long descent in and out of the shadows to coffee in Sospel. Twenty minutes of down at 45kmph plus takes concentration so I can’t be distracted by shivering limbs.
After coffee, the road goes up again but as the forest approaches, the rain starts even though the other side of the valley is basking in spring sunlight. It’ll pass and the hope is my gilet will repel the water long enough to enable the summit to be crested before the short run home. Thankfully a combination of the natural umbrella of the over-hanging trees and the fine work of the cyclist’s waistcoat means that thoughts can soon turn to dinner or that sneaky beer in the brasserie beforehand.
It was a solo ride but in reality, it was a joint effort. Which raises a slight air of guilt as I toss my gilet back into the wardrobe unwashed - first out and first back in again. Madeleine was at the core of this one.
Our lightweight Madeleine is also available for women: