Col de Braus

The first time I saw a picture of Col de Braus was in the pages of a Lonely Planet Travel Guide: several walled switch backs neatly stacked up on one another, and held in place by walls that could double as medieval fortifications. The caption read "the road to Sospel". This was a little misleading, because this scene is not really on the direct road from the coast to Sospel. Actually the pass is over the major ridge that separates the Nice area from the Menton area drainage. It seems all web pages about this pass also contain a photograph of these 9 switchbacks. - Add two on this page, taken during soft late afternoon light.

                                        switchbacks on Col de Braus
The Switchbacks of Col de Braus

The first time I heard about Col de Braus was in the Denver airport when I left for this tour. I had struck up a conversation with somebody carrying a bicycle helmet as carry-on baggage. He turned out to be a racer and very familiar with the Col de Braus. This was when I learned that the picture from the guide book was actually taken on the Col de Braus.

1.(00.0km,346m) START-END NORTH: Sospel
2.(05.8km,642m) Col St Jean
3.(11.6km,1002m) TOP: Col de Braus
4.(12.1km,993m) turnoff on right goes to Col de l'Able and Col de l'Orme
5.(21.8km,377m) l'Escarene
6.(23.3km,419m) Col du Nice
7.(35.8km,58m) la Condamine and turnoff to Col de Quatre Chemins
8.(43.6km,2m) START-END SOUTH: Nice waterfront


From North. The profile begins in the lower part of Sospel, continues through town and then turns left, away from the route to Col de Turini at the northern end of Sospel. When you come down from Col de Turini you never enter Sospel.

The road to Col de Braus is quite wide, and still has very little traffic. It made me wonder if I was on the wrong road. On the other side of the valley and much lower you can see the two roads to Menton, one of which is Col de Castillon. The landscape surrounding the Col de Braus road is luxuriously verdant. The route passes another shoulder summit, Col St Jean. Here a whole series of houses are surrounded by a veritable garden city. A second signed turnoff provides one more chance to change the destination to Col de Castillon instead of Col de Braus. This option goes over a slightly higher point than the Castillon itself. Continuing up Col de Braus, snow covered peaks are beginning to appear far to the north on the horizon (last picture). This side too has a few walled switchbacks, close to the summit. The summit is also the site of the tomb of Renee Vietto, the best Tour de France climber in the pre WW2 years. It's easy to miss this. I did.

You can also keep climbing from here, but the road is a little rough. Just west of the summit an option crosses Col de l'Orme s(u) , direction Luceram. South of the summit an unpaved road reaches a high point on the Chemin Strategique des Banquettes s(u) . Both of these options cross multiple named passes, but not as summit points.

From East. (described downwards) The summit is below treeline, but on this side the view opens up considerably. The series of switchbacks that are mentioned in the introduction finally give way to a small slot canyon and then a long descend in the forest through Touet de l'Escarene, going to l'Escarene. The profile continues all the way to the Nice harbor on a busy road, in order to show the maximum elevation gain.


    Col de
                                          Braus, lower eastern approach
                                          through Touet de l'Escarene

the switchbacks on Col
                                          de Braus
    Col de Braus, switchbacks
                                          on upper eastern approach

Col de Braus, Col de


A Dayride with this point as intermediate summit are on pages: Col de Turini
The first pass with different start and end points on this Extended Tour is: Col de Vence

Col de


Cycling. During the early years the Tour de France included more passes in the maritime alps. This road seems perfect for a large road race, because of its width and smooth condition (with a few exceptions). Between 1911 and the early WW2 years, Col de Braus was included in 24 out of 28 years, but after that only twice: in 1947 and last in 1961. France's Rene Vietto, whose tomb is on top of the pass, won this stage once in 1934. Only one cyclist won this stage three years in a row: France's Jean Alavoine in 1922-24.

Col de Braus 

back to Cycling Passes in Europe