Day 11: Nice to Tende (85km, 2000m)

We woke up early, and rode out for some breakfast (needless to say, we weren't about to pay Radisson prices for breakfast). We also found the CitySports store which might have some power drinks. While Mike waited for the store to open, I went back to negotiate (futilely it turns out) with the hotel about the ridiculous laundry bill.

By the time I settled everything and came back it was 9:00am, and CitySports hadn't opened yet. Someone finally told us that it opened at 10:00am, so we decided that we had to leave now before it got too hot to climb.

Mike had not ridden a lot in heavy urban traffic before, so I gave him a quick course in city riding: "You're the fastest thing in the city except for a motorbike or scooter, so don't be shy and take a full lane. Anything a motorbike or scooter can do, you can do as well." We started out well, navigating our way out of the city towards Sospel. Unfortunately, when we finally got to the Sospel turn off, it turned out to be a freeway entrance, forbidden to bikes. The first few people we asked were of no help, but I spotted a van driver who looked like he was a professional delivery man, so I asked him, and he pointed me at a side street which led us to the correctly numbered highway.

Soon enough, we were out of Nice and climbing "Col du Nice", a climb that's considered a part of Col de Braus (1002m) by the OCD, since the descent was very short and we immediately started the second climb after stopping in the town for a fountain. The day had heated up dramatically and we were quite cooked by the time we reached the summit of Col de Braus. The descent down to Sospel took us almost down to 300m. We ate lunch in Sospel in the shade, but the heat made me back off on the food since I knew that the heat along with too much food would make me sick.

Climbing Col de Broius (879m) in the afternoon heat was brutal --- near the top we were overtaken by a fully laden cyclist (front and rear panniers) along with his girlfriend, who was riding a completely unloaded bike. They descended ahead of us while we stopped to get our bearings. From here, the road would descend at a 12% down to 200m again where we would start our climb to Col du Tende (1871m). I started to feel the weariness of doing so much work set in, so took the descent easy, though still fast enough that Mike hung back a bit.

At the bottom we made a left onto the Tende highway, where traffic immediately increased. A strong tailwind set in, however, which cooled us down and pushed us along at 28kph. That did wonders to my optimism. A long tunnel with fresh tar laid down, however, made my rear wheel pick up something which punctured my rear tire, so I had to stop and fix the second flat of the tour. It wasn't fun, since by that point, clouds had gathered and we once again had the sense of impending doom. "I don't think we're going to make Col du Tende," I said. "No, I don't think so either, but I think we can make Tende itself." I nodded.

We kept climbing but without a tailwind this time. The temperature had cooled significantly, and at least we were somewhat sheltered by impressive looking cliff walls, but with the urgency of the storm coming up, we could not stop or slow down, just turn the pedals fast. Eventually, about 5km from Tende it started to rain. We rode to a railroad bridge and then popped our bikes over the fence to try to wait it out. "The storm came on so suddenly, maybe it'll blow over just as quickly," I said, not to convincingly to Mike.

The storm ebbed and flowed for a bit, and then turned to hail! Pretty soon it was hailing so hard that even cars were stopped under our little railroad bridge. The temperature dropped several degrees, and I started to feel cold. We had some interesting gestured conversations with some of the drivers who stopped, but none of them could give us a ride. Fortunately, just before we stopped I had spied a sign that said "Le Terminus, 2km, Logis De France hotel." Logis De France is a network of family run hotels in France, and the OCD guide indicated that they were usually good value, and I was eager to try them. They were in St. Dalmas de Tende, about 5km south of Tende itself.

It took more than half an hour, but eventually the hail became rain again. Well, rain is something we were willing to ride through, especially for 2km, so we hopped on our bikes and furiously rode through the next kilometers, stopping only to get a little bit off course, and then to confirm the directions to the hotel, which was just a bit further than I had thought.

The lady who was running Le Terminus saw us and happily gave us a room, along with dinner and breakfast. As I looked around the room I unconsciously pulled open my rain jacket to try to remove it, and ripped the velcro right from the jacket itself, render the jacket now useless. The room while small, was more than serviceable and a hot shower very welcome after the cold rain. My shoes and socks were wet, so after the shower I came down to dinner in bare feet into an elegant dining room that looked like I should have worn a tuxedo.

Nevertheless, nobody seemed to be bothered by my footwear (or lack of it), and dinner was delicious. "Today is the reverse of yesterday: yesterday we got everything we wanted, but today we got nothing we wanted, but I'm just as happy I found this place."

Not having much to do, we did laundry, did our best to dry things out, and then went to sleep.

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