Col d’Èze: Nos montagnes à la carte #4

The Chateau d’Èze, which sits atop the picture perfect village of Èze, was built over 400 years ago, and from its windows lucky guests – it is now a luxury hotel – can look out over the Italianate medieval village of Èze itself, and up to the mountains or down to the sparkling blue sea below.

But King Kelly isn’t here

High above Èze amid the pines is the Fort de la Revère, which was built in the 19th century to guard against an Italian invasion. From this ridge there is a commanding view of the Mediterranean and, behind, the snowy peaks of the Alpes-Maritimes.

But King Kelly isn’t here either.

Between Èze village and the fort runs the Route de la Grande Corniche, the highest of the three corniche roads that lead from Nice towards Monaco and Italy. Starting almost at the Café, it takes you steeply out of town, past villas and under palm trees, winding up through the hills to a height of 507m.

And it’s here, in a dusty car park opposite an hostelry at the Col d’Èze that you can find King Kelly – in spirit at least. Sean Kelly won the Paris-Nice race seven years in a row, from 1982 to 1988; each year it finished with a time trial from Nice up to the Col; and in five of those seven years, King Kelly won the time trial, and the race, at the finish line just on a level with this car park.

These days several riders have gone faster than him: his course record of 19’45” was beaten by Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and later by Richie Porte too. But the climb is still Kelly’s. And when you climb, escaping the noise and the bustle of central Nice, think of Kelly, the Irishman who ruled the Côte d’Azur – and aim for a time of under half an hour.

Read more about where we ride and our local climbs in our Montagnes à la Carte series. Or visit us in Nice and experience them for yourself.

Photographer : Greg Annandale
Words : Max Leonard