If you ride the Route du Soleil in the South of France in July, the writing is on the road. You are going to get hot.
- LA MAISON
- LA VIE
Take Me To The River #4 : Col St Roch
Thankfully, freshness is never far away if you keep your eyes peeled and your ears open. Listen for the sound of tumbling water, look for the greens that get greener, spot a few randomly parked cars and, chances are, you're not far away from another Côte d'Azur swim hole.
The climb of Col St Roch is a testing 24km climb from Contes, but as we said in July’s Ride of the Month it's a game of two halves.
The first half of the Col St Roch is the more gentle one, but also the most exposed. This is where the heat builds, regardless of your lightweight cycling jersey built for the Fournaise, such as the Fleurette.
The swim hole comes after the roller-coaster of descents and short climbs after passing through Coaraze village and is accessible just after the bridge at the base of a tough climb to the Col itself.
In road cycling, it's often tempting to push on. Road bikes are fast and encourage speed. But as a wise man once said; 'you have the right to go slow'. Not only that, but you also have the right to stop and enjoy the mountain and all of its features, should the need or the desire arise. Sometimes it's good to leave the racing to the racers.
And whilst Col St Roch is a testing climb, it's also one of the quietest cols to cycle on from Nice. That means, most of the time the river should be the same. Follow the trail to a smaller lower bridge to find the pool of crystal-clear fresh water, the source of which is literally from the ridge-lines of the Alpes-Maritimes visible a few hundred metres above your head.
The Amandine shorts will fit in the middle pocket of your summer cycling jersey, just. On the Côte d'Azur you don't need anything else as the daytime sun will dry you on the rocks beside the water in no time.
But first you have to get wet. When river swimming, the temperature is always guaranteed to be fresh. How fresh is a question of how high you are and what the recent weather has been. Don't deliberate. The recommended technique for entry into the water is the shorter, sharper one.
Without scientifically testing it (maybe we should), experience has shown that a river swim enables at least another two hours of riding, regardless of what's gone before. Submerging yourself in the water, surrounded by the mountain, is like resetting the Garmin to zero.
So, by all means lounge like a lizard on the rocks just until dry but then it's time to kit up again and ride some more.
Back in the saddle the mind turns firstly to the incredible rejuvenating effect of the water and, secondly, to the thought that in the mountains, there must be more of these places everywhere, if you can just find those accessible from the cycling routes.