These are the last two climbs in the mountainous Stage 19 of the 2015 Giro d’Italia.
The Aosta Valley is a semi-autonomous region in the north-west corner of Italy bordering France and Switzerland.
With the annexation of the Kingdom of Savoie into Italy in 1860, the Aosta valley became its only French speaking region. During the fascist years of the 1st half of the 20th century teaching of French was banned – and as a result Italian spread. Both languages are now equal under the law – and both understood by the majority of the population. I always seem to hear Italian when there, although a significant proportion also speak Valdôtain – a Franco-Provençal dialect.
Anyway, as a result, towns/places will often have 2 (or more) names.
Starting from Chambave, Col Saint-Pantaléon (Colle di San Pantaleone) is a pleasure. It’s a big climb, on a wide two-lane road, but it feels like a secret. A little village or two up high, but not much else. Just quiet hairpins, mountain views, etc.
For more climbs in the Aosta/Piemonte region see here.
Near the summit the route enters the woods for the first time, and its steepest kilometre. I was extremely disappointed that there was no Col sign 😉 – perhaps too early in the season? At least there was a nice orientation map:
If you visit, this is the side to climb. The descent passed through a few little alpine villages, until joining the main road to Cervinia at Antey-Saint-André.
The Giro (me too) will only climb the last 20 or so kilometres on the above profile. If Col Saint-Pantaléon felt like a private road all to myself, the road to Cervina is busier. Nothing crazy, but occasionally very fast traffic. It’s probably quieter once the ski season ends, and it is still pretty quiet, but the contrast with Pantaléon was stark.
It’s not the hardest climb, but very nice – surrounded by high mountains. As a tunnel wimp, I wasn’t too pleased at the four uphill gallerias. But none were too long, all were on wide roads, and had some (not-great) lights. Non cowards likely won’t even notice.
The last 5 kilometres is when this climbs shines.
OK, I hadn’t done much research, but Monte Cervino is Italian for the Matterhorn, and indeed there it was. In fact, the ski station is linked with Zermatt (Switzerland).
A very fast cyclist passed me near the end and proceeded to turn around well before the village. Basically, he had summited and skipped the Giro finish: a short downhill, a nasty tunnel, and then an ever-so-slightly uphill stretch. Me? after we exchanged a “salve” – I visited town.
I bought a gelato from a nice old lady who asked me if I was training for the Giro. I told her I was a slow but cheerful cyclist. She told about the 2012 Giro in “brutto tempo” (awful weather). Let’s hope for sun on May 29th so we can enjoy the racing – and the views.