After almost losing the plot during yesterday’s ‘stage’, I remembered why I came to Italy and bounced back with a super-sized negroni and fine meal in a local trattoria. That put me in good stead for slipping the rented Kia into gear by 9 AM, and clearing the Milanese traffic horror by 930 this morning on my way to the stage 10 finish town of Pinerolo.
The red tiled rooftops of Pinerolo.
Pinerolo lies between Torino and Sestriere, and by 1130 I was checking into my room- and they’ve even got free internet – which is ever the welcome surprise after paying 18-25 euros a day.
The plan was a good one – even if it was plan B. My original hopes to ride the Colle del’Agnello & Izoard were dashed by both passes still being snowed under. And even though the official Giro route had been changed a few weeks back to miss these famous climbs, the new route of 262km offers up some tough challenges – but I saw today they are not without some danger.
Ride…. Nap… ride… nap… It’s such a fine line after a pre-ride lunch of delicious agnulloti.
Tomorrow’s stage starts at 10AM – so that tells a lot… read as: 7+ hours in the saddle. The two key climbs of the Moncenisio, (which gains 900m over 14km, and the last 5km average 10%), and the 2035m summit of Sestriere, which comes after 40km of going uphill – are going to be hard.
But see that little blip at the end of the stage profile? That little biter comes after 250km of racing and is going to cause some pain – so be prepared for some racing. Gentlemen, and ladies… may I present the climb to Pra Martino.
After carefully studying the guide book, and my own maps, and getting the hotel desk guy to make photocopies for my jersey pockets… I proceed to get lost not 6 km into the ride. Classic. Good thing I bumped into local-man Umberto – out for his afternoon pedal, who was more than happy to change his route and personally deliver me to the start of the climb – he even took me up the first switchback.
Big ‘grazie’ to my man Umberto for the directional hook-up.
This is a very cool little climb- it starts in the town of Villar Perosa and goes up for 10km, hits pitches of 12%, and winds it’s way through a wooded forest. This sign at the bottom pretty much tells the story… the climb is rickety, unpaved in a couple spots, and set in a forest that I’m sure was home to a large population of ogres, gnomes, and witches. The descent is even scarier – in fact down right dangerous – but we’ll get there soon enough…
The town disappears after the first ramp, and around the second corner you’re greeted with an imposing grade of 8%, with no escape behind these column-like trees, which carry on for some distance.
Follow the line of trees and you’ll be safe.
The Chiesa di San Pietro sits majestically at the top of ramp #5, and enjoys a commanding view of the valley below.
My second sign that this climb has been left in disrepair is the number of crumbling stone buildings along its path – including that entire farm/ barn down below.
There were few signs of human interest to inhabit the climb, the flora seemed fine with that.
There are not shortage of places to go in Italy… you just gotta choose the right one.
Somewhere in the middle section I caught these two guys – both in their 50’s, and chatting up a storm. I coughed out a “ciao” as I rode past, and they were barely out of breath.
… A LOT of Basso fans here… and at least one for Di Luca.
And a LOT of crumbling stone structures from way back… this one had mature trees growing from the center of what used to be someone’s bedroom…
The summit is unceremonious and unwelcoming… with just another gutted building, although this one from more modern times. There’s also a cordoned off launch pad for hang gliders and a transmission tower. The descent hastens riders away to the left.
The recent rider concerns about course safety seem to be heard by the RCS. And although the roadsides were marked with fresh white paint, this switchback (below) was the only one that was clearcut so riders could better see the turn.
There’s no question for me that the drop here is unsafe at race speeds. It’s very steep and very technical. The average grade is listed at 10% in the guida, with countless switchbacks, connected by bumpy off camber sections. It’s honestly more a test of nerve & two-fisted braking skills than how fast you can carve a turn.
The one redeeming feature of the descent was that much of the top was completely enclosed by a canopy of trees. (Which required full stopping to snap this pic.)
The lower slopes in the town are littered with manhole covers, grates and assorted bumps. The upper slopes lack guardrails of any kind, and one turn was strung with these concrete blocks as a ‘barrier’.
Between us… I won’t be too surprised if this climb gets the axe in a last minute ‘adjustment’ before tomorrow’s start. Going up would make some great racing, which could easily be negated by the treacherous descent at best, and at worst cause some serious crashes.
There’s Pinerolo again… not far now.
Not far to the base of the descent, here’s yet another church – let’s hope someone says a prayer for the riders.
That’s me givin’ er the ol’ college try– at least for the photo opp – on the stage’s very final climb. (Many thanks to the local who kindly agreed to take this pic…)
Once off the descent, it’s a 1600m flat run to Pinerolo, and a hard left hander that delivers the corsa to one final uphill section – a few hundred meter climb to the Basilica di san Maurizio. It’s just enough to charge the legs with one more dose of lactic acid, then another fast drop to the town center and it’s narrow, cobbled streets.
And here I am – 10km later, back at my hotel, perched conveniently on the corsa.
We’ll see if they actually use this climb tomorrow, but regardless it’ll be a hard day of pedaling. Now it’s almost negroni time, and then I’ll be up early to make the start village by 9AM tomorrow…
Until then – Ciao and thanks for reading –