Colle della Lombarda (Col de la Lombarde)

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Colle della Lombarda is a high Maritime Alps pass on the French/Italian border. The Italian side is an unbelievably beautiful route, and can include a small detour to the Santuario di Sant’Anna – the highest Santuario in Europe. The French side is somewhat less interesting, climbing through the ski station of Isola 2000.

Surprisingly, as best I can tell, Colle della Lombarda has never been in the Giro Italia, but the Tour de France did climb the Italian side in 2008.

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Like nearby Colle Fauniera, this is another big climb that is beautiful from the very first kilometre. As the map at the bottom shows, there are a bunch of hairpins immediately, as the road climbs up through a beautiful valley – with high mountains on both sides.

A second series of hairpins

A second series of hairpins

The route starts by turning off a main alpine road that links France and Italy via Colle delle Maddalena (Col de Larche). This can be a fairly busy road full of trucks. Even the couple of flat kms I cycled on were enough for me. Not recommended.

Fifteen kilometres into the climb is the turn off for the Santuario Sant’Anna. It’s worth the two kilometre detour. I visited when descending at the end of the day and had a gelato there. They even had a nice altitude sign for me in front of the main church:

Highest Santuario in Europe

Road up to Santuario Sant'Anna

Road up to Santuario Sant’Anna

Here is a view of Colle della Lombarda taken from the Santuario

View from Santuario

View from Santuario

The road surface is very good for the entire ride. I didn’t get any good photos, but the red tinged mountains on the final few kilometres below Colle della Lombarda are lovely. Nearing the summit I passed a huge herd of cows, a lake, and some old military ruins/roads.

I would have liked to have had my mountain bike once I reached the summit as there are some inviting ridge roads, as well as a crazy hairpin-filled alternate old gravel military road up the last several kilometres.

Stickers, and old military roads

Stickers, and old military roads

Cheers

Cheers

I descended the French side but only for a few kilometres to Isola 2000. My legs were a little tired from the big ride the previous day. But still, the top of the French side is worth glancing at:

French Side, 2 kms from summit

French side

French side

Again, the road surface is excellent which made the long descent down a real pleasure.

The lower part of the map makes it incorrectly look like there are two roads. My GPS was just getting a bad signal on the way up due to the tight mountains on each side.

Route 2,758,170 – powered by www.bikemap.net

9.1 Awesome

Colle della Lombarda was a very pleasant surprise. A big, beautiful well surfaced climb. And the highest Santuario in Europe as a nice side trip bonus.

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Happiest while cycling uphill. More enthusiastic than talented, my 2014 Challenge is to cycle 50 great rides, slowly.

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