I've ridden up Piancavallo several times, but this is the first time I've done it from Pedemonte, the lowest starting point. This route is also the steepest. As Passi e Valli in Bicicletta Friuli Venezia Giulia puts it "The climb has no introductory stretch- as soon as you leave Via Pedemontana the grade is steep immediately: between Prà de Plana (3.0 km) and Rifugio Bornass (6.6 km) the average grade is 9.6%, reaching 13% at times. Only the last stretch after Castaldia (10.9 km) gets easier at 5.5%, but the average grade until then is 8.5%."
The last two years they've widened and repaved the bottom half (from Pedemonte to Rifugio Bornass) so it is a modern highway now- it was in bad shape previously and the scene of many accidents.
The start is too close to my house to attempt directly, so after a warm up on the plain, I headed upwards. It wasn't too bad at first, but the steep grade never lets up, so eventually I was worn out. The only thing I could think of was to stand up, so I did that for the steepest stretches. Normally I only stand for a hundred meters or so, but this was much longer. But it worked out. The only bad part was when a car would approach from behind and I had to get over in the cinders and little pebbles they put on the road in winter. The rear wheel had no traction because I wasn't seated, so it would spin while I balanced, remaining stationary. Quite an uncanny feeling. At Castaldia the parapendia were flying around, while those who had already landed packed their chutes in the snow. Here the grade decreases to maybe 5%, which was a relief. I continued up through the snowy landscape to Piancavallo at 1267 meters. It was pretty deserted, unlike the weekends when it is packed with skiers.
It was quite cold at Piancavallo (-1ºC) and very cloudy, so after a snack and some water, I headed back down. I kept my speed down because of the frost-heaved pavement, the water, cinders and pebbles on the road, and cars going fast downhill. At Rifugio Bornass I decided to go on the back road to Madonna Del Monte, which is quieter, prettier and felt safer. I was frozen solid by the time I reached Costa and Via Pedemontana Occidentale. Even the 200 meter climb home didn't thaw me out.
I will try again this summer via Barcis, Piancavallo, up over Col Alto (1374 meters) and down the new road (which is better in summer).
Here's a video of Marco Pantani on his winning climb up Piancavallo in the 1998 Giro d'Italia