Cykelnerven 2024 – Day 4 – Menton to Turini

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.


At breakfast, we looked at our route options for the day. Each day we had a route (basic) and a bonus route. My goal coming into this event was to ride to the summit of the Col du Galibier. After that, I did not care.

Menton, France

On Day One, I knew I had to ride the bonus miles because only the bonus included the Galibier. After that, I would take each day at a time although tentatively I thought for Days Two and Three I would not do the longest days as I would listen to my body. But on Day Four I would reassess and perhaps ride the bonus climbs.

Barry and Kathleen (Zach’s Mom)

The shorter planned route was basically a loop but with a pipestem out and back which was a downhill to a river. Conor and I both looked and said we would do that route but without the descent to the river and the subsequent climb back up. We had a plan.

Original Route

And just like that the plan changed. There was an automobile rally on the route we had planned so Bo sent out a new route. It would be an out-and-back.

Hotel Vendome, back entrance

Everyone could ride as much or as little as they wanted to. Go out as far as you want and turn around when you want. This would be the climb of Col de Turini although the summit there was also blocked by the rally.

Hotel Vendome

The route was a 10-mile climb up the Col de Castillon. After the descent to Sospel, the 15-mile climb to Col de Turini began. We were to form two groups on the road and I fell in with the second group. We had plenty of strong young climbers that took to the front group and I no longer fit that definition.

A view from the room Hotel Vendome

After the water stop in Sospel, I rolled out with Ernie and Conor. I told Conor I would ride with him as far as he wanted to go. I suspected the coaches would not want some stragglers going all the way today but maybe they would. They routinely put in extra miles by going up the mountains, turning around, coming back, and going up again. Maybe it’s all bonus miles for them.

Climb to Col de Castillon

I think my legs would have felt better if the Col du Galibier was the last climb we would do this week. But it was the first and everything was anti-climatic in a sense. My legs were not feeling so good.

My bike in France at the Mediterranean – Menton

Last night I had reserved my flight home from Zürich. It wasn’t optimal because I wanted to watch Stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse and ride the Furka Pass next week. But my conditions were simple.

No British Airways
No Heathrow Airport

Conor checking out the tiny car in Sospel

I was also using AirMiles on American Airlines and I didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars in fees, usually by flying through Heathrow. I was searching for something towards the end of the week but the only flight I found that was on American direct from Zürich to Philadelphia was Tuesday morning.

Leaving Castillon

My original flight was ticketed for Tuesday, June 25. I had canceled it and the website stated the points would be returned to my account. This was a pleasant surprise as once before I departed Zürich early when Bormio had snow. It cost me $150 to restore the points and I was expecting to pay the same if not more. Then it was treated as a schedule change.

Sospel, France

I had reserved the flight and went to pay for it last night but the system didn’t show that I had enough points even though I did with the canceled flight. The points were showing in my account but weren’t being recognized when I went to use them.

Rather than be on the road today until 5:00 p.m. I wanted to get back and take care of purchasing the ticket for my flight home. For these climbs your mind has to be all in on the road ahead. And my mind would be thinking about the reservation that was pending until I could take care of it.

Also, I wanted to go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea only because I had never done that before. So I never planned to ride a great distance today but would ride with others. I wasn’t going to peel off and be first back.

At the top of the Col de Castillon

Ernie, Conor, and I went through the town, and another four kilometers past Sospel when the climb to Col de Turini began. At that point, Conor decided he was done climbing for the day, except for the climb back up to Castillon to get over the mountain and back down to Menton, of course.


When Conor turned around I went with him. “Nobody rides alone.” The water break was also our lunch stop but lunch would not be there until 1:00 p.m. It was noon.

Conor refills his water bottle in Sospel

We passed a quaint outdoor cafe and Conor suggested that we grab a drink (coffee, Coke). How fluent in French he is, I don’t know. But Conor asked if we could be seated and we were. I didn’t understand what Conor said in French. Then again I didn’t understand half of what Conor said in English either. 🙂


Conor is from Ireland. At one point I said to someone else that I didn’t understand half the shit he said and Conor retorted, “I don’t understand half the shit I say either.”

Sospel, France

On Day Three (yesterday), a group of 10 of us had stopped for a coffee at a cafe on the descent to our pickup point. I sense this is more a European custom or tradition than done in the U.S. However, there are plenty of coffee rides in the U.S. so maybe it’s more that I don’t frequent group rides that make stops for coffee. Well, I don’t frequent many group rides either.

Lunch stop – next to tiny car

At the stop yesterday we all looked at the bill of €34 and wondered how we would pay since many of us were not carrying cash. It turned out that Conor picked up the check for everyone. So today I insisted was my turn.

Cafe in Sospel

As we were ready to leave I told Conor if he got the check or they brought their credit card device to the table that I would pay. He asked and the older of the two waiters we had said they don’t accept credit cards. Not a phone. Not plastic. Only cash.

Sospel, France

What to do? Sospel was a small French village. Aside from a number of restaurants, it did not appear to have other commercial ventures. No banks. No ATMs. It does have a hospital though.

Sospel, Fr.

I suggested to Conor that we could ride back and see the staff at the lunch stop and hoped that they would have some cash. Kerry and Kathleen (at the time known only as Zach’s Mom), were at the stop. I thought that I could suggest leaving my phone as collateral and Conor and I could ride to the lunch stop and pick up some cash. It was no more than 250 meters away.

Thank You

We rolled in and Kerry was surprised we were back so soon. We chuckled and told her we’d been back for an hour and all this time had been chilling at a cafe. But we needed cash. Now.

Sospel, Fr.

The younger waiter at the restaurant wasn’t concerned at all about the money. A couple of times he said “Don’t panic,” of course, we weren’t. But it wasn’t that big of a deal and it seemed if they had to comp two customers today that they would have. But we rolled back in with cash and settled up.


Lunch today was the same as lunch on Day One. And Day Two. And Day Three. A baguette of ham and cheese or salami and cheese. This is not to diminish the food choice or lack of variety. Each day these were perfect while riding although I could never eat and entire one.

Caramel Viaduct

On this day Kerry warned us. We would be chewing forever. And she was right. I don’t know what was in this bread. It wasn’t burnt or stale. Or was it? But it was hard to chew. I made mine an open-faced sandwich by tearing off the top of the sandwich.

Conor and Barry before skipping out on the check

Conor and I then began the ascent to Castillon. It wasn’t as steep as on the other side nor as long. The sky had darkened and we had some raindrops, but no real rain to contend with. At the top, we were in the clouds. He told me to lead the way because I had told him that I wanted to stop at two photo points, both to capture the stone arch bridge or viaduct I had seen. I had noted the exact locations by landmark and we began the descent.

Caramel Viaduc

I had noticed the bridge or viaduct and wanted to take a closer look. From a distance when we were climbing, I had hoped that we would cross it but as we approached I saw that it was closed. I’m not sure what the purpose of the bridge had been. I assume it was for a railroad* but perhaps it was an aqueduct.

Caramel Viaduc

Conor and I made the 10-mile descent back to Menton safely. Barry, from Ireland, would not fare as well. He wasn’t with us but on his ride down he was just one mile from the hotel. He went to transition from the street to a bike path and his tire caught the lip of the transition pavement and he went down hard. His bike was unridable and he had to use a SAG to get back.

The beach at Menton

I went to my room and checked on my ticket. My roommate was already in the room so I assume he turned around very quickly or didn’t ride at all. I don’t remember seeing him on the road.

On the airline website this time it allowed me to purchase it without telling me I needed more points. I made the transaction and then grabbed a towel. I headed toward the sea.

Rocky sand

Across the street from the hotel is the Mediterranean Sea. The area closest to the street had the most sand but was a mixture of sand and rocks. The closer one got to the sea the rockier it got. I found a place to put my towel down and started to walk to the water in bare feet. It hurt my feet so much that I went back and got my flip-flops and wore them to the water’s edge.

Beach. Rocks.

The water seemed surprisingly chilly but was probably the same as the Atlantic Ocean in New Jersey- Maryland – Virginia**. There were waves but not violent ones. The sea floor was also very rocky.

Staff: Shona, George, and Kerry

Back at the hotel I showered and got ready to tear down my bike and pack it. But first I went for a walk outside the hotel. The back entrance was next to a street, a pedestrian street with shops. I found a store and bought some fresh strawberries. They were OK but did not measure up to the Finnish ones.

Pedestrian street behind the hotel

It was time to pack. Dinners were also later than I eat. The advice seems to be nothing after 8:00 p.m. yet in France all our dinners were after 8:00. I packed the bike bag and was ready to go. Not anxious to leave but we were leaving in the morning and it was nice to have everything packed.

Bike packed and ready to fly

In the evening we had a celebration. Jens’ had a friend, Lo, join us, and she was very delightful. Ernie’s wife was coming in at midnight.

Annaleis and Tu

And dinner next to the sea.

Ordering drinks. I’ll have water. Always water.
Bo, Ernie, Toni

*This was an abandoned tramway line, the Viaduc du Caramel, that ran from Menton to Sospel. Built between 1908 and 1912 it is now idle.

**The actual temperature was 21℃ / 69.8℉ whereas in Virginia Beach, Va. the water temperature was 22.5℃ / 72.5℉. Plus there’s real sand in Virginia Beach.

Stage 20 of the 2024 TdF includes the climb from Sospel to Col de Turini. Most of the group went much of the way but the summit was closed today due to a car rally. We were originally scheduled to ride the Col de Braus as well but it was closed.

Col de Castillon
PJAMM Fiets: 3.2 Distance: 9.2 mi. Elevation: 2250′ Avg. Gradient: 4.6%

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