Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Le Col de la Madone de Gorbio

It is August 2019 and I am climbing le Col de la Madone de Gorbio in Southern France. I started in Menton where we stayed overnight on our way to the Stelvio Pass in Italy. 

They named a Col after a a bicycle?

The Madone is a mountain that has never hosted the Tour de France and in all likelihood never will as it has some narrow sections and some rough road surface. But it is a climb that all cyclists should know of as it is the Col de la Madone de Gorbio that gave its name to the Trek Madone series of bicycles.

In the 90s it was one of Lance Armstrong's playgrounds. He trained frequently on the Madone when he lived in Nice and it became his benchmark for fitness. Before the 1999 Tour de France, Cycling Weekly has quoted him as saying "If I went to the Madone two weeks before the Tour and went as hard as I could, I knew if I was going to win the Tour or not." That year he beat his personal goal of 31 minutes and went on to claim the yellow jersey. The rest is history - all of it!

Under and over the viaduct then onto the narrow roads  .  .  .

Starting from Menton the Madone ascent is about 3000 feet of climbing and about 8.5 miles long. The average gradient is 6.7% maxing at 10%. "About" you say? Well the problem is there is no official start for the climb. Some say it starts at the roundabout, others the town sign or the supermarket and the pros seem to use one of the bus stops in the village of le Castagnins. Of course there's a Strava segment but in 1999 Strava was still 10 years in the future and no one is quite sure where Armstrong's start was!

  .  .  .  and through the tunnel  .  .  .

Well, it doesn't bother me one bit as I'm starting in Menton and going past all of them. Through le Castagnins then under the viaduct then over the viaduct on through Ste Agnés to the narrow roads, through the tunnel and before I know it I'm at the summit in no time flat. Well, truth be told, from the time I left the hotel and found my way to the top it was about two hours but I did carry a camera and stop to take pictures along the way which Lance didn't bother with. 

.  .  .  to the summit. The original Madone marker was stolen. This one vandalised.

Then the descent, a rough road with a wall of rock on the left and a precipice to the right and a fabulous view over Monaco. A rider going the other way  impresses me. He is climbing at about 15mph, no hands, putting on his jacket - someone famous? Down, down, down I go to the hotel where I have time to shower and change as they have understandingly extended the check out time for the cinglé who wants to ride up the Madone. 


Then it's time to relax. A glass of wine and a nice lunch with Jocelyne on the Menton water-front where we are living large with the azure Mediterranean in the background. 


For route information click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment