“We’re cycling from Turin to Nice” I try to explain in broken Italian and hand gestures to Sergio, who runs a bike rental shop at the bottom of the Col de Tende (Sergio saved my ride with a second-hand set of pedals after my XTRs exploded).
He looks decidedly unimpressed – the run from Turin to Nice would be a hard day’s ride (220km) with a pass over the Alps to contend with if you were to believe Google maps.
James Olsen, one of the organisers of the second Turino Nice Rally didn’t have that route in mind as he sent over the GPX courses a few weeks ago though.
As we list off the week’s summits on our fingers Sergio’s face changes from slight disappointment to a wide grin.
“Colle Del Colombardo, Colle delle Finestre, Strada dell’Assietta, Col D’Izoard, Coll dell’Angello…” we continue to list climbs and strada that take us regularly over 2500m as he pats us on the back.
He gets it.
I’ve never felt quite as dwarfed by nature as I did on these high mountain tracks.
Sometimes you’re inside the clouds, sometimes you’ve convinced yourself you can see the Cóte d’Azur at the end of the route when you top out on the second two hour climb of the day.
There is a constant I get on multi-day trips on the bike however; the feeling of escape I get from riding is amplified as it’s all you have to do.
You don’t go home in the evening, there’s no dinner to cook or emails to read.
You eat what you need and sleep where you can.
The Torino Nice Rally brought together everything I love about cycling: fitness, gear, self reliance, nature, time spent alone, time spent with friends, time making new friends.
If you’re looking for a place to really see where a bike can take you, maybe even transport you to, then exploring the Alps between Turin and Nice is as good a place as any I’ve found.
Follow Andy Matthews on Instagram @_jammyuk