This guide was supplied by ChainLynx cycle tours, Custom made accompanied, self guided and supported Alpine Cycling Holidays in the French Alps & Piedmont regions.
There’s something about certain cols in Italy, they can be very challenging. Especially this one. Not only steep in certain parts but the fact that the last 8kms is compact gravel gives it a truly adventurous edge to it. The Colle delle Finestre is certainly one of the most legendary. Making Giro d'Italia appearences in 2005, 2011, 2015 and at this years stage 19 on the 25th May. The town of Susa, at the foot of this climb will also be holding the stage 20 départ.
To get straight to the point, this is one hell of a climb! As good as it gets as far as high Alpine gravel road cycling is concerned and is truly a spectacular ride. A very challenging ride which starts in Susa at 500m and climbing to almost 2800m.
At Chainlynx we organise and create rides, including this one, throughout the summer in the Alpine regions of the Hautes-Alpes (France) and just over the border like here in the Piedmont. The grade is steady and almost always just either side of 9%, with no real respites and a few crazy ramps, making this one of the toughest in the Alps.
We approach the Colle delle Finstre just on the outskirts of Susa, a Roman and Medieval fortified town, a very dense forest running up to the skyline to the south is where this route will be taking us. On the SS24 (Italian national highway), we take a slight right turn heading towards Meana, 2kms and Colle delle Finestre 19kms.
Follow this road as it climbs and passes under a railway bridge. Take the left fork here onto the Str. del Colle delle Finestre as it climbs some more.... yes it just seems to climb. Basically follow this road, appropriately named, heading to the mountain pass.
From here we will breakdown the climb into two parts. Both for psychological and discriptive reasons.
After certain steep sections leaving Susa the next 8kms are narrow but adequately paved. Here we start to ride very tight switchbacks in the dense forest we saw from the mainroad. It's a very nice heavily shaded section and at one point there are roughly 30 hairpins over 3kms. As we reach the end of the paved section the treeline starts to break and we traverse below some rock faces that have carved the road. The views across the valley from here reminding us that there is still some more vertical distance to go..... The end of the first section is nye and confirmed by a refuge, a water fountain / trough and a wooden arch over the road marking the end of the paved road and the beginning of the gravel track.
The treeline disperses gradually as the ride takes on the next 8kms of gravel road. This is true wilderness and a spectacular cycling adventure that we offer on our tours. The gravel road for the Giro will be rollered for the pros and be a lot more compact, the road in general is passable on a road bike with scattered pockets of dust and loose stones making it a technical ascent. We advise all of our riders to carry a spare tyre for this tour.
This final section of the climb is very open with longer sweeping bends and the occassional tight and technical switchback. Its here that we appreciate that last watering hole, especially in the summer heat, as we climb up through the open bowl area amoungst the grazing animals and sporadic farmhouses.
In these parts the ride is undoubtably stunning as we approach our summit at 2176m.
A now tarmac road descends on Str. del’Assietta towards the hamlet of Balboutet, taking a sharp downhill right here towards Usseaux. The narrow and technical descent joins the SP23R towards Pragelato. To finish this stage the pros will ride a long winding climb towards Sestriere (2035m) before tackling a long flowing descent towards Cesana, Oulx and along the valley floor towards Bardonneccia for an up hill finish at the Jaffret ski area.
In our humble opinion this could be a real deciding penultimate mountain stage for the General Classifications on the road to Rome.
We hope you have enjoyed our breakdown of this epic climb. ChainLynx Cyle Tours operate from Montgenèvre, near to Briançon. A hub of cycling activities and Grand Tours both past and present. We run our tours from early June until mid September. This years 21st edition Gran Fondo Serre Chevalier will be racing this very col – Be in touch for more details. We look forward to hearing from you