Cykelnerven 2024 – Day 3 – Col de la Couillole

Note: On June 4-9, I participated in Cykelnerven, a cycling event that benefits the Multiple Sclerosis International Foundation (MSIF). We took on some of the toughest climbs to be used in this year’s Tour de France.


Ride for Mark

Breakfast at the hotel and we all gathered for a team photo. On paper it looked like we would have a 20-mile downhill leaving the hotel, followed by a 10-mile climb, and followed by another 20-mile descent. Easy, huh?

Good morning France!


With four coaches from Denmark, we broke into two groups to limit exposure on the road. The bonus climb would be the Isola 2000, to be used as the finishing climb on Stage 19 of this year’s Tour de France. I would pass on this climb, thank you very much.

Auron, Fr.

I don’t know if any of our group elected to Isola 2000. In fact, Bo may have taken that option off the table for everyone this morning. I do know it was not going to be an option for me.

Descent from Auron

Leaving the hotel we had a 20-mile descent. It was glorious. Except for the first five miles from the hotel which I had ridden yesterday, the ride was not technical but rather it was straight with some sweeping curves. The first five miles were more technical with steep ramps and hairpin bends.

View from Auron

When we reached the bottom at Saint Sauveur-Sur-Tinee and the turn to the climb, we all stopped. The instructions were to ride the next 10 miles at your own pace and ENJOY it. Stop. Take photos. It’s not a race.

Barry and Peer practice the sticky bottle technique

The climb was a 10-mile climb to the Col de la Couillole. This climb is a narrow country road and will be the mountaintop finish of Stage 20 of this year’s Tour de France.


It wasn’t very far on the climb before I pulled over to take some photos. And then I was last. I am sure that Tu did the same thing as I caught him.

Barry – Saint-Sauvery-sur-Tinee

I caught Conor and we rode together for the first 3-4 miles. When we came to a bend and our team car was there I thought he told me that he was stopping to get a SAG to the top of the mountain. I went on.


I had gone about 400 meters when I came to another beautiful photo op and stopped. A French woman was coming down the mountain and I went to take a photo of her. She waved although I missed capturing it.


To my surprise, she stopped. She asked if I wanted a photo with me in the background. I declined. I don’t know why. Probably because I don’t want many photos of me.

French woman (fast) – descending

We chatted for about five minutes, She was interested in the group and the mission. As she spoke fluent English I finally asked her where her accent was from. She laughed and told me to guess. She told me she lived in Alaska for four years and more recently was involved in something British so she had a mix of American and British.

We were then joined by Klaus. Or Frank. Or Jorgen. Hell, I never knew the coaches’ names other than Bo.

Team car with water

While we were talking Conor came riding by. What? I thought it was catching a SAG. Apparently, he was catching his breath and went on up the road.

The views – Just came up that valley

I got ready to say goodbye to the French cyclist. She was a lovely person. She had ridden down the mountain and wasn’t sure how much farther she would descend, because she would get to ride back up. I knew she would catch us when she did.


Klaus and I started up and she went down. We would catch and ride with Conor but gapped him a little. He was never far behind us and I was conscious of where he was so we didn’t ride away. We had a good conversation about Jens Voigt and Lance Armstrong among others. (Others would include Allen Lim, Scott Mercier, Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, and the Brothers Schleck, Fränk and Andy.) The time and miles flew by when our French woman passed us. I knew what Klaus was thinking. “Go chase her and ride with her,” I told him. And he did to no one’s surprise.

Something different

I waited for Conor and we came to the top together. We had a 20-mile descent to enjoy but the profile map showed a “bump” around Mile 19. It looked very steep, maybe 10%, but not too long. My legs dreaded that one.

At the cafe – Conor, Toni, Ian

The upper section was a bit technical (steeper with sharper curves). We came to a cafe where we all stopped for coffee. And a coke. Lactic builds up in these old legs and when we were ready to roll another 10 minutes went by. The other Barry and I decided we would roll out ahead but in the end only I went.

I had the course map and wasn’t afraid of getting lost but when they weren’t catching me I went back. They still hadn’t left. LOL.

We came to a canyon of red rocks. Red rocks and lots of tunnels. I never captured the photo that I wanted. We were no longer in the take your time and take photos mode. But I still took a few.


The road got a bit steeper. I love flying down mountains. I also love taking photos. I dropped back with Annaleis. The word was she didn’t have much experience and maybe she didn’t. She was cautious but not slow. She was sensible and not reckless. And what she gave away descending she made up climbing. She was rail thin so had nothing to carry up the mountains.

We brought up the rear and made no apologies for it. There two regrouping spots in the canyon. After leaving the second one my Wahoo said CLIMB! This was the dreaded kick up. In fact, it showed a 10-12% ramp (red) even as we were descending. It was weird. But whatever profile is attached to this road was wrong. We descended the entire way to the meeting point.

Transfer at the bus

Our first three days we rode from hotel to hotel. Today would be to a transfer point and then a bus to Menton. Menton, not only on the Mediterranean Sea, would offer us the best luxury of all. Two nights in one place.

View from the room

A 20-mile downhill. A 10-mile uphill. And a 20-mile downhill. Transfer to Menton.


Lodging would be Hotel Vendome, Menton. Dinner at Le Grande Large, about 500 meters from the hotel.

Stage 20 of the 2024 Tour de France


Col de le Couillole – 1 678 m (5,505′) – 15,7 km @ 7.1%
PJAMM Fiets*: 8.9 – 9.9 miles – 3,756′

Isola 2000 – 2 024m (6,640′) – 16,1 km @ 7.1% (Profile shown on Day 2 – Stage 19)
PJAMM Fiets*: 9.2 – 10.1 miles – 3,795′

*See PJAMM Cycling for a description of the climb

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