From the beautiful perched village of La Turbie, down to the contrasting modernism of the concrete based autoroute and its péage, back into nature and reversing through time to the ancient fort on top of the mountain.
Riviera Gravel #2 is in effect an extension of Riviera Gravel #1.
Past Col d'Eze and along the Grande Corniche is the town of La Turbie where Roman ruins sit beside medieval churches which sit beside baroque villas. The fountain in the middle of town is a honey pot for cyclists who have climbed the 658m from the bord de mer to this perched village.
Not many of them leave the fountain to climb the Chemin de Simboula up to the Fort de la Revère.
CHEMIN DE SIMBOULA
Initially the most remarkable feature of this gravel climb is that you start beside the A8 autoroute toll bridge. But it's a feelgood factor to turn your back on the cars and point your nose to the sky on the Chemin de Simboula.
It's named after the military battery that is built on and in the summit of the Cime de la Forna and it starts with relatively smooth double track gravel. However, before long the gradient kicks up for the middle part of the climb - nearly 2kms at 8% on gravel is a good challenge.
Look across the valley and you can see the Sanctuary of Laghet, where the spirit of the Virgin Mary is said to have manifested herself in the 15th Century in healing the sick, reforming prisoners and performing various other miracles. It is still a place of pilgrimage. But to see the light from the Chemin de Simboula you must reach the summit.
The double track at the top of the climb splits. Go right for a view of the Alpes-Maritimes behind and circle around the back of the Fort de la Revère. This is the over-ground obvious military installation that was last used as a prison during WW2. In front is a panoramic view of the Côte d'Azur, Italy to the left, the Esterel national park to the right.
As beautiful as that is, the best part of this ride is to the left. This may not be an independent assessment, but the two kilometers of old military road that awaits is one of the most spectacular bits of gravel you can find in Europe.
Follow the signs for 'PAI 9 La Fourna' and you commence the front side of the Chemin de Simboula which leads to the actual military construction hidden in the rocks. These are hard to notice because attention is split between the spectacular gravel balcony road that clings to the cliff, the tunnels through the rocks and the mediterranean view to the right.
Unfortunately this road is now a dead end. As La Turbie comes back into view over the rocky horizon, the way back down to the Grande Corniche is via a crumbling set of switchbacks which have been deemed unsafe for passage.
But that is perfectly acceptable as turning round and riding the chemin in the reverse direction gives another chance to appreciate its magnificence from a different angle.
Stop, take pictures, have a drink, have lunch. Whatever it is, take time to appreciate the view and the fact that a different discipline of cycling can give great gifts.