Mike Cotty tackles the iconic dirt climb of the Colle delle Finestre in Italy
The Colle delle Finestre first appeared in the Giro d’Italia in 2005 and has only featured twice since then, with the race returning in 2011 and 2015, but the Italian giant has quickly established itself as one of Europe’s must-ride climbs.
The numbers only tell part of the story. Measuring 18.7km in length, with an average gradient of 9.2% and a maximum pitch of 14%, the Colle delle Finestre rises for 1,694m to the 2,178m summit.
However, what really sets the Finestre apart are the final 8km, where the tarmac turns to the dirt and the ‘road’ winds its way to the summit, through a natural amphitheatre lined with spectators whenever the Giro is in town.
It’s terrain which has conjured some of the most iconic pro cycling images of recent years, not least in 2015 when, on the penultimate stage of the Giro d’Italia, Alberto Contador lost more than two minutes to Fabio Aru, who was second in the standings, but managed to cling onto the pink jersey and secure the race win.
“To try and describe the Finestre in words is something of an injustice,” says Cotty. “Its dense forest can feel somewhat overbearing as you wind your way up from the Val di Susa in the north, hairpin after hairpin, no respite from the gradient and seemingly oblivious to the world that’s about to unfold.
“A near perfect line across the road with 8km to go is the true starting point at which has made the Finestre so famous, where the asphalt turns to dirt, the heart rate quickens and your inner chimp starts to squeak…..it’s on like Donkey Kong!”
“It’s as if the more you push, the more the Finestre delivers. Mountain views open up before you as you pick your line through every turn and climb towards its 2,178m summit. If I can offer some advice on conquering this mountain it would be simple.
“Be prepared for all conditions, finesse wins over brute force on ‘lo sterrato’, take a second to appreciate the moment in the final kilometre and remember that the wheel tracks that you’re riding in now have been created by some of the greatest riders and moments in cycle sport.
“Although this climb may not have been raced as frequently as many of Italy’s icons, in some respect that only adds to the attraction. Ride it and you will soon see, words are an injustice. The experience is, and always will be, one of the most challenging and fulfilling you’ll ever be gifted to do.”
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