P: Up at those lofty heights the weather can change for the worst and get cold, especially camping out overnight. What were the conditions like over the 1st edition?
J: Sunny mainly, but slightly cooler than at the height of summer. Yes, it is cold if you sleep out above 1300m really, so it's always best to drop as low and sheltered, if things are looking adverse. We all got drenched at some point, I think? But they tend to be shorter storms rather than a full day or more of rain. There was a couple of feet of snow on the Col Agnel just ten days after we passed through, which acts as a reminder of how changeable the high places can be. Be prepared.
P: The stats and from riding these parts last year on our Bunker Research tour, you need a good level of fitness to ride this - lots of climbing, on both paved roads and gravel tracks...
J: Time-wise it's about 50-50 gravel/paved with roughly 20,000m of climbing in total. I agree, your bunker tour used part of the Via del Sale so you know what it's like, it can get loose and steep but generally the gradients aren't as steep as the UK; the climbs go on a lot further though. I was amazed how many riders turned up on 34T front / 32T rear lowest gears and / or 28-32C tyres, that would make it hard work but there's road options, no need to stay on route either, so why not. 'Run what ya brung' but bring climbing legs or shoes you can walk in, at least, for some bike-hiking!
P: So what would you say the ideal bike for the Torino-Nice Rally is? Sounds like a cyclocross / standard steel tourer with 40c tyres should be fine, right?
J: Yes, that'd be fine. There's probably no ideal bike but for me it's rigid, 45-55C tyres that roll fast, comfy, lightly-loaded. Cyclocross with 40C tyres is a good minimum, maybe not for a kitchen-sink packer but it would be fine for a light rider who can handle a bike. Maybe; it depends if you're a mountain biker, a roadie, or a tourer at heart. On the recce, Andy rode his Surly Troll - a very well travelled bike (he's in Africa on it at the moment). Both years I've ridden a 650B drop bar bike; I'm having a bit of a 650B love-in these days. I got some framesets made in time for the 2016 ride so Ben and I both had a similar bike. Steel frameset, 650B WTB Horizon tyres, drop bars, discs. I like that combination for mixed-terrain cycle touring as long as it's not technical riding. Will had an Open UP with Horizons. I think there was 3 Open UPs on the ride last year. Those guys can afford Nice, clearly!
P: Given the terrain and elevation, it’s best to pack as lightweight as possible, really. With the exception of bike and shelter, what bits of kit would you recommend anyone not to leave off their pack list if trying it out this year?
J: Things that keep you warm at 2300m in the rain - don't leave them out because you’ve seen a load of nice sunny pictures on this Journal piece / Instagram! Your camera, for sure. One more spare tube than you normally take if you're not on 29 x 2.25 tyres. Oh, and spare 700x25C tubes to swap for beer points with the guys on road bikes?!