HUNT Open Dev rider Claire Frecknall has recently returned from the Turin - Nice Rally, a bike packing ride across the alps to the Mediterranean sea. Read on to find out how the ride went and to see some stunning images from the mountains...
The Torino-Nice Rally is a self supported bike-packing adventure criss crossing the French-Italian border for around 700km (with around 15,500m of climbing) between Turin and Nice. There’s tarmac, gravel and some tough hike-a-bike for those who choose it.
This year was the fourth edition, it’s grown in popularity hugely over this time and having now ridden its easy to see why. The whole ethos and atmosphere is spot on, it’s not a race, the journey is there to be enjoyed, there are no checkpoints, just a suggested route which includes various “rough stuff’ options and suggestions of shortcuts if needed.
Sunday night is a social dinner, a chance to meet fellow riders and fill up on pasta or pizza before the start of the ride. On the Monday morning around 180 of us gathered back in the square in Turin for last minute bag fettling and photo taking before the big roll out. Immediately we split into smaller groups, weaving through the city on the way out to the mountains. After around 50km of gentle climbing the start of the long climb up to Col Colombardo really kicks in. This is where everyone soon discovers if their bike/gearing/kit choices are good or bad!
I kept bumping into the same random group of strangers on this first climb and our pace and personalities seemed to fit so we had dinner together that night and ended up spending most of the week together, sharing lots of laughs and stories of our various adventures along the way.
Throughout the route the terrain varies hugely, from miles and miles or seemingly endless tarmac switchbacks on the Col L’Izoard and Col Agnel, to long dry gravel tracks up the Col Turini and along the Via Del Sale. Some of the rocky descents on military roads like Strade dei Cannoni and the path down to la Brique would probably have been more suited to a mountain bike.
I was riding my Reilly Gradient on a Mason/Hunt 650b Adventure Dynamo Disc Wheelset and tubeless 47c WTB Venture tyres. I’ve been really happy with this setup and the extra tyre volume was definitely welcome on some rougher sections. After letting some air out and was able to fly past people cautiously picking their way around rocks on skinnier tyres.
The route options take you to some stunning remote bivi spots but for those who want the luxury of a shower and a comfortable bed there are plenty of options. You could easily ride this route ultra light by booking accommodation along the way and leaving your tent/bivi gear at home.
Every day the route takes riders up passes over 2000m, the Col Agnel being the highest at 2744m, but for all the hours spent crawling up hills there is a view that will take your breath away and a descent that’ll leave you grinning from ear to ear. The reward for the struggle of the climbs is sitting with a gelato or espresso in preparation for the next one.
There are so many amazing places on this route, for me I think the highlight was the section around Gardetta. We stayed at the refuge at 2335m, riding over the crest of Col Preit during golden hour as the sun started to set over this stunning but barren landscape. I woke early and took a blanket out into the stillness to wait for sunrise, the place was silent apart from the distant ring of cowbells.
In the morning we rode the incredibly photogenic “Little Peru” which included a Gravel road around the mountain sides and up to a small hike a bike section over a snow scattered summit. Down from here the track eventually led us onto an amazing swooping tarmac descent through a valley, past sheep famers and along the river back down to a town.
The ride back into civilisation almost inevitably left me feeling sad, each time I make a trip to the mountains I leave a little piece of my heart up there in exchange for the memories that stick with me forever. Rolling down into Nice signals the end of the journey so I stop in the sun to take in the view over the Cote d’Azur already planning my next adventure.
See the wheels Claire was riding