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

How do you train for an alpine climb, was in the French Alps last year and faded by the end of the week. Alan

Hi Alan, sounds like endurance is what you need to focus on here. The most important thing to concentrate on is your base fitness, lower intensity longer rides that really lay the foundations of your endurance. A lot of riders overlook this and go straight to high intensity but it’s the base that’ll put you in really good stead on the climb itself and day after day as fatigue creeps in. Good luck!

Topic: Alps, Fitness

What's the best strategy for tackling a climb like Alpe D'huez & trying to set a PB, took me over 60mins on 3 occasions last year, would love to break the hour. Martin

Hi Martin, sounds like you’ve got some serious experience with the great Alpe! Improving your time comes down to three main factors (1) power to weight. Is there a way to skim a little weight from bike or body? (2) pacing. Are there any areas where you’re really struggling and going too deep into the red? Those first couple of kilometres can really take a lot out of you, if you can get through them at 80% you may have more in the tank to push it on by the top. (3) fuelling, making sure you are well fed and hydrated prior to the ascent and keeping your levels topped up during the climb could make the difference. Aside from this, where did you feel the time was getting away from you. Was it the length of the climb, the gradient, temperature conditions? By identifying this you’ll be able to work on overcoming it in your training. And finally, don’t forget one VERY important point. Believe in yourself, you CAN do it!

Topic: Alps, Fitness

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

I have booked a 3 week trip to the Alps at the end of June this year. I intend to ride a lot of the top cols including the Marmotte on around the 3rd day. I've been to the Alps and the Pyrenees before but not for this length of time so I've factored in rest days. I live in North Devon which is hilly. Could you give me some guidance on the best way of preparing for the trip please? I'm 45, have a good diet, low alcohol intake and I ride 4-6 times a week. Many thanks, Warren.

Hi Warren,

Thanks for the question. It sounds like you are on for a MONSTER trip to the Alps, that’s what we love to hear!

In terms of preparation, the most important thing will be to try and build a solid base fitness through consistent time on the bike. Riding 4-6 times per week will be perfect of for this especially since you live in North Devon where you have some steep pitches to play with to help to build strength. One very important point in your preparation, and also when you are out in the Alps, is to listen to your body. If you’re feeling tired then back off a little to give your body a chance to recover. Try to build up to the same duration per ride that you hope to do when in the Alps. Use this build up time to practice pacing and experiment with nutrition so hopefully there will be no surprises when you’re out there. Try not to get carried away, it’s easy to get super focused and end up doing too much so once again take note of how you are feeling week in week out. You want to get to the Alps fresh both mentally and physically. The accumulative fatigue from all the climbing that you’ll do out there will mean you’ll definitely want to take some easy days, so good job on factoring those in. I’ve always found that keeping my training simple and as close to the intensity and duration of my end goals has worked well in the past. And finally, you’ve got a lot of time to prepare slowly, slowly, building up your fitness in a controlled way. Make sure you enjoy your cycling, it should always be fun. The moment it feels like a chore it’s likely you’re doing too much.

Ride safe and good luck!

Mike Cotty

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.

I’ve done several long sportives in the UK and will be attempting the Maratona dles Dolomites for the first time. I’ve ridden once in the Alps before but never the Dolomites, how would you say the climbs compare and is there anything I should consider to prepare me beforehand? Thanks for your help! Peter

If you have a good number of long rides under your belt, including an Alps trip, you will be perfectly prepared to tackle the Dolomites. The Maratona dles Dolomites is one of the most majestic granfondos, and anyone partaking for the first time will, no doubt, be blown-away by the incredible mountain panoramas. Although the physical requirements for taking on the Maratona will not differ too much from an Alpine sportive, the mountains can feel a little bit more intimidating in the Dolomites. The mountains are packed closer together and have characteristically steep sides. You ride closer to the mountains faces here, closer to their peaks, you feel you are tip-toeing around a sleeping giant. On the day of the race, soak in the grandeur, enjoy the views but keep one eye on your speed or heart rate. Too often you can just be sucked along by a peloton, distracted by the views and end up going too fast, too soon. Consistency is king in endurance racing.

The Alps, by comparison, are a vast mountain range, with a more open feel. The climbs themselves are longer and more consistent in gradient. The Dolomites, force the roads to be less lengthy and have a few sharper kicks. Be prepared for some short bursts of powerful climbing to get over the steeper sections. Try some steeper hill repeats to acclimatise the legs in training and get used to being able to change your efforts and cadence to suit a changing gradient climb. Thankfully the roads of the Maratona are impeccable smooth, whereas the Alps generally suffer a rougher surface. So you can look forward to some really rewarding descending for your uphill efforts.

Otherwise, standard mountain sportive preparation applies. A compact chainset and a larger ratio cassette are advised. Make sure your fit position on the bike is correct, bike is in top condition mechanically, set your goal for the race and you have a corresponding training plan to stick to.

A final preparation point may be to find out as much as you can about the Maratona course before you ride it. Knowledge is power. Knowing where and how to apply your efforts or save your energy could be make all the difference.

Good luck and most of all enjoy!

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