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Which keen cycling amateur doesn't dream of riding like a pro…?
That opportunity has knocked on the doors of the almost 1000 brave riders that signed up for the 1st ever Paris-Nice cycling Challenge on March 12th. The choice was between 2 routes, one almost identical to the Stage 7 and last for the Pros who had been racing from Paris down to Nice; gruelling 123kms and more than 2000m of elevation gain were to put even the most seasoned (pro) amateur to the test. For less ambitious or sprinters, a shorter 96kms route opened the opportunity for a wider range of cyclists, although not be dismissed as easy either.
A common ritual of most cyclists isn't exactly what the rest of mortals consider Weekend... no enthusiastic rider wakes up at ten, so alarm check the night before, bike wash, lube it, energy bars stocking and one good night sleep are only a few of the ‘rules’ for one big ride day.. The occasion was worth it, we were to ride the same roads that World Cycling Champions were going to race the next day!
The good things of taking part in a sportive is not only the pleasure of riding with fellow passionate riders, but also the many voluntary locals that are spread over the route to ensure your safety and even block the cars for safe passage in dangerous crossroads or roundabouts. Add to this, several feeding stops that help you ride lighter but still get the so needed energy, a bit of riders’ favourite drink, coffee or even some mechanics for a quick fix, and an honour medal is always a nice finishing treat. However, what would be riding Nice’s most beautiful scenic roads without a beautiful snap, focusing this time on my riding, the option to have photographers catch you is a rare opportunity that I couldn't let go; I do lots of pics, only not of myself. Although you might not appear as good as the pros, it's one nice souvenir:
It is a magical experience to ride the same roads that pro riders of the caliber of Alberto Contador or Ritchie Porte were to take just 24h later, both former champions of the Paris-Nice Race and strong contenders of the World famous Tour de France. In 2015, the last stage and arrival to Col d’Eze was decisive for the final result, as it would again for this year's edition, making it one of the most exciting race finish.
With the departure and arrival set at the unique Promenade des Anglais, the Col d’Eze became one of the main actors, especially for Alberto Contador who gave it all in this traditional climb. After one week leading with the yellow Jersey, Sky Team rider Geraint Thomas had in front one fierce contender in the Spanish Contador, Team Tinkoff Saxo, who performed one of his most memorable rides. The terrific Grave de Peille ascension and the mentioned Col, were Contador’s allies, increasing his positions exponentially, so much, that the so prestigious victory was at at fingertips reach… unfortunately, his so desired win was not going to happen.
With only 4 seconds difference, Geraint Thomas gave it all in the descent to Nice and managed to keep the yellow jersey and final win of the Paris-Nice; this nail-biting Stage 7 and the amateurs challenge made this weekend one unforgettable cycling experience!
As an appetizer of this year's Grand Tours, the Paris-Nice and the soon to come Paris-Roubaix are the perfect season start for the cycling fans eager to see, touch and feel the exciting World of Pro cycling. Enjoy below a few pictures of this unique opportunity!
Stay tuned for more cycling adventures!