A Guide to Cycling the Col de la Madone
We had hoped to be able to do this ride when we visited Nice on our cycling holiday but we did not get the opportunity in the end. It is still very much on our bucket list of climbs to try in France and we will get to it at some stage. If you are planning to visit Nice or surrounds and would like to ride the Col de la Madone we have put together a route based on what we do know about the area and our experience of visiting.
This ride begins in the coastal town of Menton which is situated at the very base of the climb to the Col de la Madone. You will quickly realise when cycling the Col de la Madone that the climbing starts from the get go. With this in mind you may wish to pedal along the coast as a warm up before taking on the climb proper. Whilst the final elevation may not be as impressive as other climbs in the Alps, you will be starting from sea level and with a summit at 931m / 3053ft this climb will certainly work the legs over. Indeed, many professional cyclists in the peloton have used the climb to the summit as a test to gauge their form. Most famously this was used by Lance Armstrong. Richie Porte holds the record time up the climb with a ride of just 29min 40sec!
Col de la Madone – narrow roads and commanding views
As with most rides on the Côte d’Azur you will find as soon as you are headed away from the coastal road that the traffic quietens down and you just have the sound of your breathe for company. This is definitely the case when you are cycling the Col de la Madone. Once you reach the village of Saint Agnes the road narrows to almost a single lane for the remainder of the climb. With an average gradient of just over 6% you will also hit some gradients at over 9% on the way to the summit. Make sure to take in those spectacular views back down the to the coast as you make your way to the top. Then enjoy the descent all the way back to Menton!
Distance: 36km / 22mi
Start elevation: 15m / 48ft
Max elevation: 931m / 3,053ft
Metres climbed: 1,076m / 3,530ft
Metres descended: 1,076m / 3,530ft
Categorised climbs: 1
Food and water
You can top up with food and water either in Menton at the base of the climb and also at the Village of Saint Agnes halfway up.
* Rising from sea level you will have spectacular views back down to the sea as you make your way to the summit.
Col de la Madone
Length: 14.5km / 9mi
Average gradient: 6.3%
Start point: Menton
Elevation at top: 931m / 3054ft
Everything you need to know about cycling the Col de la Madone
How long does it take to cycle this climb?
Whilst top professional riders can try to ride the Col de la Madone in 30mins, generally speaking an average cyclist can expect to take anywhere between 1 – 1.5hrs to reach the summit.
How steep is the gradient of the climb?
The average gradient of the Col de la Madone climb is 6.7%, and the climb has a maximum gradient of 10%
Can a beginner ride the Col de la Madone?
While it will be difficult, it is certainly possible to cycle the Col de la Madone as a beginner. It may take you longer to reach the summit, but just remember to keep on top of your food and water and of course allow yourself to stop along the way if you need to. Another option is to also hire an e-bike which will make the climb much more achievable. If you can also practice riding on some hills before your trip, this will also be helpful.
How hard is the climb?
The Col de la Madone is rated as an Hors Category climb and is quite challenging to ride.
How high is the summit?
The summit of the Col de la Madone sits at an elevation of 931m / 3054ft.
Where is the climb located?
The Col de la Madone is located in the Alpes Maritimes. The start of the climb begins in the town of Menton on the French Riviera.
When is the best time of year to ride the climb?
The Col de la Madone is one of few Cols in France where the road is open to ride year round. While it is possible to ride the climb in Winter, the best time to ride the Col de la Madone is in spring, autumn or early in the Summer.
How many times has the climb been used in the Tour de France?
Somewhat surprisingly, the climb of the Col de la Madone has never featured in the Tour de France.
How do I get to the Col de la Madone climb?
Train services run regularly to the town of Menton and is the easiest way to travel to the base of the Col de la Madone climb.
Can I get food and water at the summit?
There are no cafes, restaurants or bars at the summit of the Col de la Madone. Be sure to take food with you or alternatively you can refuel in the village of St Agnes or back in Menton.
Where is the Closest bike rental located?
You can hire bikes to ride the Col de la Madone climb from the town of Menton. Alternatively you will also find bike rental option in Nice and Monaco.
Where is the best place to base yourself to ride this climb?
The town of Menton is the best place to stay to ride the Col de la Madone. Of course you could choose to also stay in the city of Nice and either ride to the base of the climb, or alternatively take a train between Nice and Menton.
Discover our comprehensive guide to Cycling in Nice
The climb of the Col de la Madone is just one of many great cycling routes near the city of Nice which you can enjoy. This area of the Alpes Maritimes is very popular with cyclists year round owing to the great weather and variety of terrain on offer.
If you are not familiar with this region then, our comprehensive guide will help you plan everything you need for your cycling holiday. The guide includes information such as:
- a map of the Alpes Maritimes with climbs and towns marked
- where to base yourself whist on your cycling holiday
- cycling hotels and lodges
- bike hire outlets
- getting to and from Nice
- non-cycling attractions and activities in the region
Click here to see a list of cycling routes available from Nice. Our cycling route suggestions start in Nice as we know from experience the majority of people visiting the area will stay in, or close to the city.