The Col Collective


I'm currently staying in Nice and was looking at doing and out and back from Nice to the Col de la Bonette while I was here. It's the start of May now, do you think this will be manageable with the temperature at the moment? If so, what clothing would you recommend as a minimum? Rob

Hi Rob,

Thanks for getting in touch.

It will be a good ride out of Nice towards the Bonette, one of my personal favourite climbs. It is very early season so first things first double check that the pass is now open, the local tourist office where you are should be able to tell you and there will be signs in St Etienne de Tinee, you may be able to ride part of the way up if the summit itself is still closed.

The weather changes hour by hour in the mountains and of course the temperature drops considerably at higher altitudes so before you leave check the weather in the morning, we use the and Michelin, check the forecast both in St Etienne de Tinee at the base of the climb and at the summit, just type in Col de la Bonnette and it will give you the weather at the top, this way you can best prepare your kit in advance also be mindful of wind speed and direction as this can add to the perceived temperature on the mountain.

Kit to take as a minimum:

- Good base layer

- Long sleeved jersey or short with arm warmers

- Leg/knee warmers (if you’re not wearing tights)

- Gilet or lightweight packable shell if conditions are good. Heavier weight waterproof jacket if weather is poor.

- Gloves, beanie or ear warmers under your helmet for descending or even as you approach the higher altitudes on the way up

- Shoe or toe covers

Keep warmth in mind rather than saving weight, more is more in this case.

I hope this helps, have a great ride, and thanks for your support.


Topic: Alps, Climbs, Travel

Hi Mike, Loving The Col Collective! Heard your interview with Rich Roll, very interesting and inspiring story you have, keep up the good work! I'm planning a trip to Italy in the summer to take in some of the Tyrol and Dolomites, but also Monte Grappa. Have you any thoughts on the best route? Thank, Ian

Hi Ian,

Great to hear about your plans! If you fly into Venice you could drive over to Bormio to ride things like the Stelvio and Gavia, then head due east via Bolzano to play in the Dolomites. Monte Grappa is about an hour from Venice so you could spend some time there at the end which would put you right back at the airport. As there are several ways up the Grappa here are a couple of suggestions (such a cool climb!)

Option 1: Cismon del Grappa - this is the name of the village from which you climb the Monte Grappa. It was originally a dirt track which was there solely for access for the fire department. It was tarmacked a couple of years back. It’s a really special road with almost no traffic.

Option 2: Start from Alano di Piave - follow signs for Monte Tomba. Climb the steep gradients. The road will plateau and come to a T junction - turn right - you’re on the Monte Grappa. Switch backs, tunnels, singletrack roads. Stunning roads to ride on. Climb all the way up to the refugio at the top for a cold coke and some incredible vistas

Super happy to hear you enjoyed the podcast. Stay tuned for more videos too!

All the best,


Topic: Climbs, Travel

Love the series and the way the site is put together, really top notch! This summer (late August/early September ish) a friend and I are planning to go over to do a few climbs over a few days...we're thinking of 3 climbs in 3 or 4 days. I'm really keen on one of these being Alp d'Huez or Mont Ventoux. I was wondering if you knew where might be a good place to base ourselves to be able to easily reach 3 climbs, with as little travelling as possible between the days. Ideally staying in the same place, if this is at all possible? Any guidance would be much appreciated! Keep up the good work. Doug

Hi Doug,

Super happy to hear you’re enjoying the The Col Collective series!

I reckon a good place to check out would be Bourg d’Oisans (literally the town at the base of Alpe d’Huez) If you stay there you have some great options very close by. Obviously you have Alpe d’Huez itself (leave early to miss the traffic) then you also have the Col de la Croix de Fer (amazing climb… coming soon!), Glandon and Galibier, Les Deux Alpes and Madeleine all within close proximity.

To bag Mont Ventoux you’d have to do some driving. If that’s essential you could stay in Bedoin and ride all three sides in a 3 days but to be honest staying close to Alpe d’Huez will give you more options and variety. Hope that helps!

Stay well, ride safe and enjoy!


Topic: Climbs, Travel

Hi Mike and crew, I would like to add my congratulations to you on the fantastic videos on The Col Collective. They are both beautiful and inspiring and give a real sense of what draws cyclists to the mountains. I'm hoping to go on holidays in the future around Lac d'Annecy and if I was to do one or two epic climbing days in the area what would you advise? I was thinking along the lines of this years Etape route as one option. I have no previous experience of climbing or descending cols and I am looking for the best all round experience. Thank you, Vincent

Hi Vincent,

Thanks for the message, we’re very happy to hear you are enjoying The Col Collective!

For a loop you could look at the 2013 Etape du Tour route which actually started in Annecy. Some details can be found here.

Other climbs close by that may be worth checking out are the Col de la Colombière, Col des Aravis, Col des Saisies and Col de la Forclaz.

I hope that helps give you some ideas. Ride safe and enjoy!


Topic: Alps, Climbs

My wife comes from Nice so I'm fortunate to visit there regularly. I've done most of the cols close to the coast such as Col de la Madone, Eze and Col de Vence but what other climbs are within driving distance that can be tackled and return to nice in a day? Many thanks.

Hi Nick,

You could check out the Col de Turini, Col de Castellon, Col de Braus (there are some super nice roads around Sospel).

Venturing slightly further you could head to the base of the Col de la Bonette (it’s a bit further so you’d certainly need the car). If you leave early you could drive over the Bonette to Jausiers and then you are in close proximity to the Allos, Cayolle, Vars and pretty close to the Col Agnel and Izoard.

Hope that gives a little food for thought.

Ride safe and enjoy!


Topic: Alps, Climbs

Mike, Thank you for your fantastic Col Collective series! I am an older rider (63) who is coming back after a long layoff from serious cycling. I would like to tackle some big climbs, but do not yet feel ready for climbs line the Galibier or Stelvio, for example. Do you have suggestions for climbs that do not have such a steady diet of 10% plus gradients? Also, any tips on setup would be welcomed. Thank you, again!

Hi Ralph,

Super happy to hear you are enjoying The Col Collective.

Great to hear you’re thinking of tackling some cols. I’d say that the best region to look at would be the Pyrenees, in general the climbs are more mellow and slightly lower altitude.

We’ll be releasing more videos from the Pyrenees in the coming weeks. Maybe have a look at climbs out of Bagneres de Luchon (Peyresourde, Superbagneres, Port de Bales) and also the Col d’Aspin (from Sainte Marie de Campan) If you do end up there and feel up to it then you can also tackle the Tourmalet which, although it’s the highest road pass in the Pyrenees, with the right set-up could be possible as it’s not super steep and allows you to get into a good rhythm. Speaking of set-up, I would recommend a 34 tooth chainring and up to a 32 tooth sprocket on the rear. The great thing is there is no time limit on the climbs, just find your own pace and enjoy the moment.

I hope that helps.

Best of luck!


Hi Mike! Love The Col Collective! I'm training for a team Everesting event next year. I will be 50 in January and although I have been riding for years, I don't really know how to prepare for this. The event itself involves repeats of a 1 mile hill in the south-east, the hill is NOT the steepest but I know after 20 or so repeats it will feel like hell, with at least 45 more repeats to come. Help! Dave

Thanks for the question and very happy to hear you’re a fan of The Col Collective!

Sounds like you have a big challenge planned for next year, just what we like to hear! In terms of preparing for this it’s easy to assume that intervals and intensity work are the key here and while each will serve a purpose it’s important not to overlook your base training and overall aerobic conditioning. In an event like this you’ll need to try and be as consistent in your pacing as possible. It’s unlikely you’ll be redlining it (and if you are you’ll probably want to slow yourself down). The goal will be to remain at a comfortable working level that you hope to sustain throughout. At first this may feel too easy but as fatigue starts to creep up on you the tables will turn at which point it’ll start to become even more of a mental battle.

I’d focus the majority of your training at the intensity level that you’ll be working at during the challenge, to try and build your efficiency at this level. It’s important to try and lay the foundations early in the year (higher volume, lower intensity, longer rides) to build a solid base. As the event approaches start incorporating more specific workouts - are you able to train on the climb or something similar? If you can then I’d start to replicate what you intend on doing on the day. Riding the climb at the exact intensity, seeing how you feel, checking your gearing, understanding how your legs cope with lots of short recovery sections on each downhill. It’s not the same as doing a long endurance ride where you keep a consistent force on your muscles whilst turning the gear over.

Whenever I have a challenge I look at the end goal and then work backwards to put a plan together that replicates as closely as possible what I intend to try and do. You need to get to a point in your training and preparation where you feel confident in your technique, equipment, nutrition strategy as well as your physical and mental wellbeing. Don’t forget that recovery is one of the most important elements of training and that you don’t necessarily have to build up to the full elevation before the event (this could cause too much fatigue). Consistency is the key with your training and if you’re regularly able to build up to rides of 4,000-5,000 metres elevation then this will put you in a very good place. You want to get to the event physically and mentally fresh so that you can pull out all the stops on the day. Keep it simple, take a deep breath, believe in yourself and whatever happens as long as you try your best then you’re always a winner!

I hope that helps a little. Best of luck!


Topic: Climbs, Events, Fitness

We are planning to cycle the Col du Galibier while on holiday next year. This will be our first year cycling in the Alps and wondered if you had any advice regarding gearing? Thanks. Heather

Hi Heather, You are in for a real treat next year, the Galibier is an absolute beaut!

We are planning a series of articles for the “Learn” section that we hope will be of great help to cyclists now and in the future. Gearing will be covered here. Of course, we don’t want to keep you in suspense until then! If it’s your first time in the Alps then you don’t want to get caught out by being under geared. Pacing will be absolutely essential, it’s not a race so take your time and enjoy the experience as best you can. I’d look at trying a 34 tooth front chain ring with a 32 tooth sprocket on the rear. If you can try this sized gear out in advance then that will give you an idea of how it feels. Another little note to consider is that Alpine climbs feel very different to shorter more punchy ascents. I actually find shorter more undulating climbs in the UK where I’m from harder than the longer, more consistent, climbs as you’re not able to get into a rhythm.

I hope that helps. Make sure to post your photo when you’re at the top with #ColCollector. We want to see you here

Topic: Alps, Climbs, Gearing

I’ve never done any riding in the Alps or Pyrenees but would really like to start in the summer. I can take a trip beforehand to prepare, is there a good region that will prepare me for the high mountains without the more challenging climbs?

There are a wealth of destinations to visit in Europe which would provide perfect preparation for a summer cycling challenge. Locations such as The Canary Islands often make the list but the unrelenting climbs there are often too tough for a first dip into mountain acclimation. Here are three choices to whet your appetite and get your legs in gear:

1. Mallorca tops the list as the most popular and established training location, and for good reason. It offers a wonderful network of smooth roads, varied terrain, from significant mountains to flat coastal routes, and more consistent warmer weather during the late winter / early spring months than northern Europe. Travel to Mallorca is very easy with multiple operator options and transport connections. The whole island is well prepared to cater for cyclists; Hotel rates are very competitive and you will often find cycle specific services at hotels such as access to tools, bike storage and cleaning facilities. If this will be your first experience tackling extended mountain climbs and descents, Mallorca is your perfect introduction.

2. The professional’s choice is the ultimate recommendation and Girona now features as the preferred microclimate for so many athletes. Popularised by cyclists such as David Millar, Dan Martin, Robert Gesink, the Orica GreenEdge team and of course, Lance Armstrong, Girona’s combination of stunning scenery, challenging climbs, quiet roads and rich cultural heritage make it a fantastic escape for pros and amateurs alike. Head north to climb the Pyrennean foothills or east towards the rolling roads which hug the Mediterranean, Girona can offer a bit of everything for a cyclist. Even the local Catalans have embraced the sport and you’ll find Girona one of the most genuine and welcoming areas to ride in. Just an hour away from Barcelona international airport and with plenty of hire bike shops in the town, cycling perfection is within easy reach

3. The Côte D’Azur needs no introduction, home to affluence, glamour and luxury. But head inland away from the bustling, urban coastline and the French Riviera reveals a palate of inspiring roads and stunning scenery. Challenging climbs are on your door step such as the Col de La Madone reaching 925m high straight out of Nice, or escape into the Alps Maritime valleys and the Gorge du Gourdon. The rolling terrain is challenging but the gradient is never too punishing, perfect for training the legs and measuring your efforts. Your rewards are smooth roads passing through rock archways, massif peaks with huge open vistas, blue skies and descents wafting pine through your nostrils. Travel, transport and connections couldn’t be easier to the Côte D’Azur, with London less than a 2 hour flight away. You might even catch the first pro race of the season if you go in March. Aptly known as the ‘Race to the Sun’, seeing the pros racing Paris-Nice might the best inspiration to motivate your training for the summer challenge ahead.

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