I wanted to share my experience of the Torino to Nice Rally, this was my first bikepacking trip out of the UK and as you will soon discover things weren't ideal and I almost didn't go but I'm so, so glad I did.
It's the most incredible route, adventure and experience and I honestly want to do it all over again. So, even if you think you're not ready...you are more ready than you realise.
I get asked about kit quite a bit and I'll do a bikepacking kit list in another blog very soon.
Firstly, a big shout out to these lovely ladies @meehanmonster @rose_carey_7 @abby_popplestone @chapeau_sho who invited me to a WhatsApp chat and shared accommodation prior to the TNR starting. You're legends 💅 We were keen to ride together wherever possible but at the same time we had our own goals...we remained in touch throughout to cheer each other on and were re-united with pizza and wine often 🥳 We decided to set off an hour early to avoid the mass start and it wasn't long before we got our first glimpse of the mountains. They looked spectacular and slightly intimidating but we were buzzing to be amongst them and ride our bikes together ✨️ Day 1 was the longest ride of the week at 113km and I think it was the hardest too, not due to the distance but it had a reputation for a reason. Having no Alps riding experience to gauge it on I was nervous of what lay ahead and when we were faced with the mammoth Colle Del Colombardo I thought 'Ehhhh, Well the TNR will take a lot longer than I expected if I have to walk most of it' 😆 Colle Del Colombardo is pretty big at 2480m (almost double Ben Nevis), it's a very steep and rocky mountain but there were smiles all round and it was nice to ride/walk and talk to others putting themselves through the same ordeal who were also smiling and sweating in equal meassures. I must admit I was a bit gutted not to see much of a view at the summit but the descent was sublime, absolutely sublime 🤤 I didn't take many photos beacuse I was either too busy drinking coffee, snacking, chatting, cycling or pushing my bike up a massive mountain but I made sure to take more the following days, not that they do Italy and France any justice...but stay tuned 😌 LEARNS FOR THE DAY; ♡ A tin of Pringles may be a great sharing snack but annoyingly noisy and prone to popping out when sending it on bumpy terrain (I went back for the tub) 🚮 ♡ Thoughts: If this is the hardest day and I've managed it unscathed then I think I'll be okay for the next day which is also meant to be savage...I can do this 😌 Thanks for the summit snaps @bikingbiologists
This was my absolute favourite day 🤩 ☆ Colle delle Finestre 2176m ☆ Colle Dell Assietta 2472m ☆ Col Bleiger 2381m ☆ Monte Genevris 2511m ☆ Colle Bourget 2304m ☆ Colle Basset 2426m I was equally excited and nervous of the many Colles that lay ahead with the possibility of a thunder storm rolling in. We heard some very sad news about two men that unfortunately were struck by lightning the week before and died on the Colles so we were apprehensive to say the least. I knew it had to be a full commitment and possibly get off the mountains pronto kind of day but I was ready for it 😌 I woke up at our camp spot a little later than expected after a restless sleep but somehow still managed to be on the road at 0730 and having Colle Delle Finnestre for breakfast...without coffee 🤯 I rode solo (well as much as you can on a rally), I felt good and it was gravelicious. I passed over many Colles, climbed the most I've ever climbed on one ride and I was buzzing to have ridden it all! 🤌 Luckily the storm never appeared and I could just crack on. The views were absolutely breathtaking, there was a few moments I just had to stop to soak it all in, speak to the horses and cows and identify some mushrooms. It was proper soul food 🙏 The gurl gang (best cult in town) had arranged accommodation nearby in Sestriere, I was going to sleep on the floor in the room and split costs but the woman was having none of it so I paid €70 for a room, I'm still not over that 💸 but the shower and bed was ace and it was great to be re-united again 👯♀️ LEARNS ♡ I'm more capable than I give myself credit for sometimes and I'm buzzing to smash out some of those harder routes I didn't think I was 'ready for' yet 🥳
Col D'izoard was hard but not D'izoard as I thought it would be 😏 We started our day with a beautiful tarmac switchback descent into some sleepy towns with lots of character and cobblestones, it was like a Disney movie. Before long we passed the border into France...queue the tastiest tarts and pastries I've ever had 🤌 I absolutely loved Col D'Izoard, it was a pretty steady climb on the tarmac and we took it at our own pace. A couple of hours of climbing and slowly baking in the sun, we had reached the summit to find a gift shop and a surprise construction site 😅🦺 After another sublime and fast flowing switchback descent we ended our ride at a weird hostel/school place in Arvieux and had pizza for dinner, which we had to wait until 7pm for. I was getting more and more concerned about the opening times for food in the evening. I'm the kind of rider that needs a meal pretty much straight after a ride...not 3 hours later but at least there was food and I was getting by on my huge snack supply 😋 LEARNS ♡ Every Col is 20km long in this route 🤣
Col Agnel 2744m
What a tough day!
By now I was really struggling with energy levels, between a chest infection, Rab passing away and not having enough food I was emotially and physically exhausted 🥺
I eat a huge amount of food and know that my body needs quite a bit during long days on the bike too. The tiny breakfasts and having to wait HOURS after riding to have a meal was starting to affect my energy levels and I felt I was in a deficit 😫
I was managing the rides but it wasn't healthy and knowing my body and my history with food (or lack of food) I was becoming upset that I couldn't eat when I needed/wanted to. I tried to make this a priority and if it couldn't be a balanced meal then it needed to be calorific...which meant a lot of cake, quiche and fries 🍟
Thankfully my snack game is strong, it mostly consisted of squished brioche and croissants...so I had 236 of them that morning prior to descending into a very small town just before the climb.
We stopped at a lovely bakery for a breakfast quiche, coffee and snacks for the road. I was struggling to eat and needed to take my time so I hung back for half an hour to chill, have another coffee and try to fuel up as much as I could. I caught up the others and we stopped at a little pop up cafe for more cake and coffee. I asked for some fries but the owner said it would be 12pm before she could do them 😆 So, I waited the 20mins to enjoy my fries as the gang battered on 🙌
Abby was smashing it despite her sore knee and I saw Katie and Rose just a little further up getting those switchbacks telt. We were all re-united at the top, had our photoshoot, put our layers on and hot footed it down another stunning descent to our campsite at Sampeyre 🏕
Guess who was hungry and had to wait hours before food again, yup! I tried everywhere for food, sucess was raiding a gas station for some crisps and a stale croissant. Just a little later I got a text from the others who had found a bakery and saved me as a lay on a bench bonking 🙃
We bumped into Claire and had the hugest, most filling and slightly sickening bowl of pasta I've ever had!😋
What a day!
Colle Di Sampeyre 2284m and the race to @rifugio_gardetta 😅 Rose and I set off at 0730 and it was the usual start to the day, tiny breakfast and no coffee but we smashed out a Colle for breakfast anyway 😬 It was a beautiful and smooth climb to the summit of Colle Di Sampeyre, made a little more interesting with the bunch of classic Porsches passing us. We were pretty cold and hungry when we reached the top so we were keen to get going. Haribo was consumed and we enjoyed another sublime switchback descent 🤤 We stopped at a wee bistro and I had two of everything, two portions of pasta, two cans of coke, two double espressos...I was so happy my appetite and energy levels had improved but it might've also been the double esepressos lol. We bumped into our lovely pal Claire who got some lunch and then joined us later on too 🤩 Rose got confirmation that our beds were secured at the Refugio for the night but dinner was served at 1930 and we were going to be cutting it tight and we heard the gravel path was tough 😅 After hours of biking and pushing our bikes up some very steep, chunky gravel we saw the Refugio. I was elated! We all were I think 🥳 There was a lovely bunch of TNR riders already there who held off from having their dinner until we arrived 🥺 They cheered us in and poured us a glass of wine as soon as we sat down...so kind and a lovely memory. Thank you Chris, Ben, Holly, Alice, Jethro, Lucas and Ray🍷 The food portions there was out of this world, it was so beautiful I didn't want to leave the next morning. I'd definitely return 🙏 LEARNS ♡ Sunblock those lips. SPF 20 isn't enough 🥺
Leaving "Little Peru' The photos just don't do it justice. Have you ever been somewhere so beautiful it just makes you tear up?🥺 The refugio was incredible, the people, the food, the massive coffee pot...it was perfect, many of us didn't want to leave 🙏 This was the first time I had breakfast tiramasu...it's like normal tiramasu but high up on a mountain so much better 🤤 Sadly there was some injuries and fatigue brewing in our girl gang so we decided we would get off the mountain and head to Tende on the train. We rode around 50km that day and much of it was gravelicious and downhill. No regrets 🥳
Whilst we were having dinner in Tende a couple of guys were scoping us and our bikes out, one guy rode up on his bike and asked to borrow one of our bikes so he could get something for his bike. It was a hard pass from us. I couldn't even make sense of this 🙃 The other guy ordered a beer, tried to talk to us (asked way too many questions) and then left, leaving his beer order too. Nobody orders a beer and then leaves it. It made us very uncomfortable and we didn't want to risk camping at the only campsite in the area so we cycled to another town and got very lucky with a cancellation that freed up a room in a Gite for us 😌
What a night! I slept well and left a little later than I wanted but was nice to have a little more sleep and breakfast with the best girl cult in town. The others were getting the train to Nice but I wanted to ride the rest, it was a fairly big day with 85km and 2505m of climbing but it was exactly what I needed 🙏 Col De Turini was stunning, it was steep, chunky gravel that went on forever but I wasn't mad at all 😍 I bumped into a load of other bikers that had done the Salt Road and were having food in Sospel so I joined them for some food and a pint. They were heading up to the Bivvy Spot but I wanted a little time to myself so I rode a little further and was rewarded with the most beautiful sunset, the moon and starts were on form and I had the best sleep 🙌 Tomorrow would be the last day 😫 LEARNS ♡ Go with your gut...always!
Today I felt sad. Partly sad because it was all ending but mostly beacuse I was still processing the loss of my ex partner Rab. I knew I needed a good cry and time to myself. It had been almost 2 weeks and I hadn't had a day to myself or cried hard since I heard the news 🖤 Side note...I'm pleased to be at that point of my life where I know what I need and what's best for me. Sometimes it's just time alone, most of the time it's time alone riding a bike 🙏 I met up with others who camped at the Bivvy Spot en route and held back, I just wanted to ride the rest of the route myself. Having that time to think, cry and chat to Rab was 100% what I needed 🥰 I remember smiling and joking with some others at the summit of Col de La Madone as it felt like a little baby Colle...now we were used to 2000m + climbs so there was no excuse when we got back home 😉 I rode into Nice feeling a lot better mentally and was buzzing to have a shower, wash my clothes and plan my ride to Spain...Unfortunately my chest infection was only getting worse but I still squeezed out a couple more days on the bike before heading home 🏴 LEARNS ♡ I've come a long way in knowing what's best for me and I'm no longer worried about upsetting others when I say I need time alone 😌