Colle Delle Finestre (Italian Alps)

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Distance: 17.8 km
Average Gradient: 9.4%
Maximum Gradient: 14%
Elevation Gain: 1,688 meters
Surface: 10 km sealed/7.8 km unsealed

Here is a link to the Strava segment here:

Colle delle Finestre is a mountain pass in the Cottian Alps.  In the Italian region of Piemonte and links the Susa Valley to Val Chisone. The road was built around 1700 to gain access to the fortresses in the area. The Colle delle Finestre is long, steep, narrow & very, very windy road.  With close to 60 hairpins along the way. It is an incredibly challenging climb.  Which has appealed to the organisers of the Giro d’Italia.  And has been included in several of the recent grand tours. A high level of fitness is required to even attempt a climb like this.

Image taken by Klaus Nahr

Colle delle Finestre climb

The first 2 km of this climb is quite brutal! This road offers a narrow, twisting series of switchbacks.  That climb through a forest out from the valley floor out from Susa.  And is sealed over the first 10 km of this climb. Even though this climb is very steep.  It was built to military specification so that horses could drag cannons up. It is steep, but the gradient is consistent.

After you pass through Meana di Susa.  There are stretches which are truly amazing. You pass through beautiful old Chestnut woods.  And from here there are an impressive number of hairpin bends for about three km’s. Whilst in the forest you reach the Colletto di Meana. This is where you’ll start to earn your money. This is definitely the most demanding part of the climb. You’ll find the unpaved section is steep.  But like the lower part of the climb was built quite well and offers a consistent gradient. The road is gravelly but not rocky.  However you will need to keep an eagle-eye on the road to pick the right line through the gravel.

Image taken by Will Cyclist

The view

Once you’re out of the forest, the top of the pass finally unveils itself. You will be able to see the valley below.  If you suffer from Vertigo, possibly give this one a miss. The sudden drops to the side of the road may feel a bit disconcerting.  The views just get better and better, and the road gets rougher and rougher. Despite the incredible views.  Much of your time will be spent looking at the road in front of you. Bouncing along rutted roads.  And trying to pick the right line through the maze of gravel.

When you near the top of this climb. The hairpins gradually became scarcer and the road even starts to straighten out. It will be an feeling of pride and relief to get to the top of a climb like this.

Image taken by Klaus Nahr

The Colle delle Finestre will test the hardiest of climbers.  It’s the type of climb where you have to battle it as much in the mind as with the legs. The empty landscape in front of you may seem a far cry from the Giro d’Italia.  If ever you’re struggling.  You can picture thousands upon thousands of fans standing to either side of the road screaming at the top of their lungs. Some would have camped here for days, many quite drunk. A flare suddenly exploding right next to you. You picture a fan running alongside you screaming in a foreign tongue. You fear for your safety.  And then you realise that you’re day dreaming.  All alone and just delirious suffering in a cyclists familiar place.  “The pain cave”.   This is one heck of a hard climb!

Image taken by Klaus Nahr

Details:

The road is open for travel between the first of June to September 30

The climb starts from Susa which is easily accessible by autostrada (Freeways)and there’s a railway line too.

Forte del Colle delle Finestre

Along the climb you will pass a very old abandoned fort. The Forte del Colle delle Finestre was built in 1815.  As a means to control the pass connecting Val di Susa and Val Chisone. It is a 2 story building made of stone and overlooking the ravine. The fort housed up to 130 men and was fitted with 57 mm cannons. It was manned during World War I, but abandoned as the front moved and decommissioned in 1928.

You will pass this fort on your way up. This late 19th century Italian fort was in use until 1928.

 

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