My personal Paris-Nice in 3 days cycling challenge took place at the end of June. The weather was perfect, the days were at their longest, and at night I had a full moon as companion. Believe me, these things should not be left to chance! I had tried to do this ride a few times before. The only time everything worked out was when I first attempted it in 2002. That was also when I was least prepared: I carried a piece of paper with a hand-scribbled list of villages and road names. No mobile phone, no map. Since that very first ride, something would always not go my way: the heat, the wind, or someone in the banlieue of Cavaillon snatching my bike from under my hands. So I felt extremely lucky when in 2010 the stars once more aligned.
Every time I try to learn from my mistakes, change my preparation or fine-tune the route. I like to believe that there's a cumulative effect that paid off in 2010. Regarding the route then, here are some new insights. You can also view the entire itinerary on google maps.
  • Between Nevers (after 250 km) and Digoin (after 350 km) stay south of the Loire. Not only is it very flat but it's also considerably more quiet than on the departmental road a few kilometers to the North. The road runs in close proximity to the Loire, so there can be very dense fog at night. The atmosphere then is really rather magical as the mist, softly lit from above by the moon, envelops everything bar the canopies of the tallest trees.
  • Once in the Rhône valley at Andance, stay west of the river until almost 40km before Orange, so as to avoid the big cities Montélimar and Valence. Again, the road is much more quiet and the views, after dawn, a lot more scenic.
  • Once at the Mediterranean in Fréjus, take the beautiful, if steep, mountain road through the Massif d'Esterel instead of following the gruelling ups and downs of the coastal road. It is essentially one 25km climb and then downhill all the way to Cannes. A magnificent last stretch before the flat finale to Nice.
It was the first time I rode without my shimano flightdeck, which was stolen the previous year (along with the attached bike). And I loved it. In fact, I have never felt the need to use a board computer on any of my rides since. It was only afterwards that I could find out how much I had cycled each day: a good start with 350 km on the first day, just over 250 km on the second day, another 310 km the third day, and 50 km to the finish line in the early morning hours of the fourth day. I equalled the time from my 72 hours maiden ride in 2002, much of which I had spent getting lost or recovering in cafés, something I tried to avoid this time. It is safe to conclude that I was much fitter back then.