(This is one of my favourite rides ever)
La Strada dell’Assietta is a high mountain military road in the Piemonte Alps built in the late 1800’s linking various military emplacements. The middle 60 kilometres of my route are virtually always far above 2000 metres. The road even has an official web site.
This loop also includes a 15 kilometre stretch on La Strada Militare Colle Finestre – Gran Serin. An alternate, slightly crazy road linking Colle dell’Assietta and Colle delle Finestre. After World War 2 the road was officially classified as “inutile e di difficile manutenzione” – “un-useful and difficult to maintain” – and thus abandoned. This was the highlight of the ride with the “road” reaching roughly 2800 metres along wonderful cliff roads while passing various military ruins before descending to Colle delle Finestre at 2176 metres.
EDIT: I have since ridden several different routes up to Assietta. See here for a detailed look at the entire network of high gravel old military roads.
This will be a long post, I took lots of photos, reached (at least) nine mountain passes, and thoroughly enjoyed every moment.
I started in the ski station of Sauze d’Oulx at roughly 1500 metres. A steep, narrow paved road climbs to roughly 1900 metres then reaches one of the entrances to La Strada dell’Assietta, marked by various regulation/tourist signs and a nice gate.
The important thing to note from the sign: the road is closed to motor traffic every Wednesday and Saturday in July/August. I rode this on a Tuesday and it was quiet, but I’d avoid Sundays. The route is quite dusty/sandy so every motor vehicule causes a minor dust storm
The route next winds up through wooded ski slopes past Sportinia (2135 metres) finally reaching Col Basset (2424 metres). This is where the main military ridge road begins. There is another set of “welcome to Strada dell’Assietta” signs here. Thus, it’s quite a long, hard climb just to get to the “start.” 🙂
Note, one can also climb to Col Basset from Sestriere. I peeked down the road from Col Basset, it looks fun too:
I would find out later that this was the less spectacular end of the route. But I was still impressed.
From Col Basset it is roughly 35 kilometres to Colle delle Finestre. I would pass several Cols, climb several Monte, see lots of ruins, and spend much of the day looking up and seeing an unlikely road going higher. I have labeled the major landmarks on the map and added “sign” photos at bottom.
The next big climb: Mont Genevris:
The ridge road would occasionally pass through a Col and switch sides. Giving views of completely different mountain ranges. Fun roads:
After lots of scenic up and down, I would eventually reach La Testa dell’Assietta (2566 metres) and then descend down to Colle dell’Assietta (2472 metres).
In 1747, the Battle of Assietta was fought at altitude here during the War of the Austrian Succession. The Piedmontese were forced to spread their forces protecting 13 passes, but successively repelled the French invaders inflicting over 5000 casualties (3700 killed including 7 French generals). This great Savoy-Piedmontese victory is still celebrated every July 19th with costumed ceremonies at the colle.
There are several statues/plaques commemorating the battle including a huge statue at the summit of Testa dell’Assietta.
At Colle dell’Assietta (2472 metres) the road splits. The main Strada dell’Assietta descends to Pian dell’Alpe (1950 metres) directly below Colle delle Finestre. I had planned to take this descent, but when I saw the closed Strada Militare delle Finestre – Gran Serin heading higher, I just couldn’t resist.
In the photo below is Colle dell’Assietta at left. You can see how the road splits. I had just filled my water bottles and drank two iced teas at the only drink opportunity – La Casa Assietta (2500 metres) – so I was ready for more adventure.
Now things get really fun. This is the road that was classified as un-usable following World War Two. Initially, it climbs to the barracks and batteries at Colle Gran Serin (2540 metres):
The roads goes higher, reaching roughly 2800 metres.
Finally, I began the long descent to Colle delle Finestre (2176 metres). Unbelievably cool road:
At one point I ran into a road block and was worried. Until I realised it was to stop people below from going up to where I had just been. 🙂
Some fog/cloud had rolled in but I could eventually see Colle delle Finestre and the road below.
My route descended to the Fort just above the Colle:
I then descended to the main paved road just below Finestre. I, of course, rode up to have a look down the far/famous side:
Although the lowest pass of my day, Colle delle Finestre was the highest pass in the recent Giro d’Italia. It is a beast of a climb. Details, including a lousy video, see here.
My main problem now was that I was a LONG way from the start. Hot, tired, and thirsty. I considered descending down low in the valley and riding back via paved roads. But that sounded complicated, far, and boring. So I decided to return via the Strada dell’Assietta.
This meant climbing to Colle dell’Assietta via the road that I had skipped by taking the higher Finestre road. Excellent. Descending from Finestre on the paved road you can’t miss this side’s “entrance” to the Strada dell’Assietta on the right at roughly 1900 metres. A little farm sells drinks just before. Phew.
I didn’t take too many photos here as I needed to get moving, but this stretch was as good as any. First, a long cliff ridge road that heads ever higher, then some very fun hairpins as the route heads into the mountains:
Finally, from Colle dell’Assietta I retraced my steps all the was back to Col Basset, and then descended down to Sauze d’Oulx. Luckily, passing a pizza restaurant, where I ate several meals.
This was about as close as I’ll get to using the word “Epic.” Simply too much fun. Remember, you need a bike with front suspension, and if possible, ride on a Wednesday or Saturday to avoid all motor traffic.
Various landmark signs along the road:
Truly Amazing. One of my very favourite rides. Paradise on a bike.
Quiet / No Traffic
Thanks for another great report, Will. I especially like reading about the history of the route. I’ll be riding this in just under two weeks as part of the Transcontinental Race and am really excited about it – hopefully I won’t be too tired and can fully appreciate it. Someone already posted a link to your article on the Transcontinental Race’s Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Transcontinental.en/, so now all of those guys know about your blog 🙂
Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I love the history too, and could have written much more.
I’m excited for your massive TCR event. You’re right, the Finestre road was extra crazy, but you’ll still have some bumpy descents. I did NOT have front suspension and found it tough at times – every cyclist I passed was on a mountain bike. You’ll spend some time searching for a “good line.” But I am sure you’ll be fine.
All the best on your big adventure, I look forward to following it.
Inspirational stuff. Have done most of the ‘iconic’ climbs but you go on an discover even more beautiful passes.
Thanks for another one to add to the list for next year Will. A great read as always with some stunning views.
I bet the beer tasted good after that one!!
Hi there again,
You seem to be one step ahead of me 🙂
I going to try this one in two weeks time.
I’ll try it on a road bike to make it more sketchy!
We’re planning to sleep out on the mountain as well.
Great write up, I don’t really need to take a camera now!
Safe fun riding to you.
Mike, I really don’t think a road bike is a good idea ….. good luck. enjoy
Another amazing ride and thanks for posting. Please keep this up
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Did this ride yesterday….(though did not do the extra bit up the Colle Finnestre as the cloud was down and we were running out of time!)…amazing ride, loved it. Now trawling through your other rides to see what do next! Have some great photos of this route if you want them
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