Thursday 8 August 2019

Colle Delle Finestre - the most epic climb?

Once a year our cycling group follows a small tradition to visit Italy in order to taste the most famous Italian climbs, pizza, espresso, ice creams and enjoy overall Italian's hospitality. Last year we did Colle del Nivolet and this year the time has come to roll-on the Colle Delle Finestre. 

Some say that this is the most Epic Climb...

How was it for me? As usual, read further to find out!

Wikipedia describes Colle Delle Finestre as: "Colle delle Finestre is a mountain pass in the Cottian Alps, in the Italian region of Piemonte, Italy, linking the Susa Valley and Val Chisone. The road was built around 1700 to gain access to the fortresses in the area, mainly the Forte di Fenestrelle."
Worth to add that the elevation is 2 178m and last 9km to the top is  the gravel section.

But let's go back to the beginning...

First of all, Susa valley is only about 3hours drive from Vevey Switzerland. The road is basically flat except St. Bernard Pass. We arrive to Susa by car without any problems. Our hotel is called "Hotel Napoleon" and it's located in the middle of the city. Here, the first surprise - Napoleon is dedicated to the cyclists and bikers. The whole basement is prepared to store bikes & motorbikes and service them if necessary. Impressive!

Hotel is beautiful, clean, well equiped  and stuff is nice & friendly. 5 stars from me!

Quick change and we are ready for afternoon loop, a warm up before proper climb the day after. 

Our direction is "Col du Mont-Cenis"

Col du Mont Cenis is a mountain pass on the French/Italian border. At 2081 metres it separates Lanslebourg - France with Susa - Italy. 
It is the border between the Cottian and Graian alps. The mountain became pretty famous due to Giro Italia in 2013 and Tour de France in 1999. Massive climb with the lake on top created by dam.

The road from Susa goes through surrounding villages to finally go pretty steep up and via classy hairpins to finish at the lake on the summit. 

The loop is not long, in total 60km with 1700m climb but the fast pace of the group makes my legs tired at the end of the ride.

Reaching the top we enjoy the views and good weather.

Followed by "French" espresso we head back to the hotel. 

We decide to take the main road which it's really nice and fast. "Need for speed" is something we need after long and steep climb :)

Day two begins early morning with small instructions from Matthias - our guide and organizer of the whole trip. @Matthias, big Kudos for all that :)

Shortly after leaving our hotel the road goes insanely up. We have constant 10% climb and in some moments it goes up to 15%. In such sections I regret I ate breakfast...

Although it's early morning we feel the heat already. Luckily the road goes through the forest which gives plenty of shadows...

Crème de la crème starts 9km before the Finestre summit. When I see the road I ask the local guys if that's really THAT road... they say yes and laugh... 

Before road bike I was using a gravel bike quite a lot. I'm well familiar with gravel, forest trails but I never did such road on road 25mm slick tires. 

There are "easy" parts with white sand (Strada Bianca) and small amount of stones. That's easy and I enjoy that, however there are also sections with plenty of stones and gravel. In those cases if you don't get enough speed you get stuck and start pushing your bike... not that enjoyable!

In the first moment I think that the road is closed for cars and motorbikes but closer to noon, more cars and bikes are arriving...

On my blog I never advert other products but here I need to make the exception. Shortly before the trip I've installed Conti GP5000 TL 25mm tires. On the road they did fantastic. Super low rolling resistance, the true dimensions and low weight made me very impressed. The ride comfort on tubeless tires is very similar tu tubulars which I love. However, the real test was during Colle Delle Finestre and they did superb. Through the whole gravel section they didn't fail and there was no sign of usage despite of sharp stones. Finally proper Continetal tires!

Also the prototype of BORG triplet hubs had a good test there. High temperatures, white dust and difficult bumpy roads with lot of pot holes. No problem at all, wheels are straight like new, hubs roll like crazy. All went really well!

During the climb I could not resist from stopping and taking some pictures. I'm used to Swiss Alps but this climb was really different & special.

The last few meters of my climb were captured by the guys:

Ritchey - thanks for brilliant frame!

Group picture on the top:

From the left: Bill, me, Menno, Matthias, David, Andrew and Isabelle. The dream team :)

Time to go down to the valley, last look and off we go!

The road down is nice and smooth. We go full speed

Before the lunch we had to make the last climb. The most hungry guys arrived first :)

...and shortly after that we get well deserved food

I took this picture maybe 5min after we brought the food. At that time more than the half was gone already :)

Pizza, coke, good mood and last descend to Susa, this is how our trip ended. 

Although not a super long distance but unique climbs and gravel section made this trip one of the best I did so far. I highly recommend to explore Susa as apparently there are almost 1000km of roads and climbs in this valley.

I will definitely come back there to ride more!



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