Giro d'Italia stage 15, on Sunday, 23 May 2010 finishes with 4 climbs. The first, Sella Chianzutan ( see http://dolomiti-friulane.blogspot.com/2010/04/selle-chianzutan.html ) is pretty easy. The second Passo Duron, I'd never ridden before, so I tried it out today.
I started in Tolmezzo, cruised up the main road toward Austria and turned right at Cedarchis onto a beautiful gentle climb along Torrente Chiarsò up to Paularo. The valley is surrounded by gorgeous green forest, numerous waterfalls, little villages perched on the mountainsides. By the time I reached Paularo I was blissed out. A pretty blond girl walking her poodle waved and said "Bon di", I turned left onto the road for Passo Duron, and reality smacked me in the face. The grade hits 18%, and persists for half a km, averaging 13%. I stood on the pedals and ground up the slope to the cimitero. Now the grade lessens slightly, averaging 9.6% from the cimitero to the top of the pass (about 4 km). I had to stand frequently, between stretches of seated grinding.
I stopped at the top (1070 meters) to snap some pictures (and stretch my aching back). I kept hearing a screeching sound like an eagle from the nearby fir trees- maybe an eaglet in a nest crying for more food? I then headed downhill slightly to Forcella Lius. It's a beautiful meadow with cowbells clanking in the distance and panoramic views in all directions. I saw a newly-erected monument to Friulani who've emigrated around the world. Apparently it was built for the Giro stage, as it mentions the 23 Maggio 2010 date.
I continued down the hill to Ligosullo, with a lovely mural celebrating the giro. Also a church with pink ribbons radiating like spokes from the steeple down to an adjacent tornante guardrail. People are dressing the whole route up for the giro- pink decorations everywhere along the roads today, road crews paving the worst stretches, painting white edge-stripes on the roads, mowing the verges, etc.
At Paluzza I briefly rejoined the main road to Austria, then turned right at Sutrio, rode by the Zoncolan turn-off and up Sella Valcalda, the third climb of stage 15. I climbed it last Fall, but it seemed easier today- maybe all this ascending is paying off. It's very easy at first, then has a 3 km stretch of 8-12%, and tops out at Ravascletto (960 meters), a ski area. From here it's a fast curvy descent to Comeglians. Then I turned south, passed through Ovaro (which is shown in my blog header photo), past the turn off for Monte Zoncolan (which the giro will be climbing) and continued down Torrente Degano. This torrente was very full and churning with snowmelt and rain. It was chocolate milk-colored from all the pulverized dolomite, etc caught in the current. The crosswinds had picked up as well, almost blowing me off my bike at one point. Very wild ride down to Villa Santina. From there I turned east toward Tolmezzo and into the now-headwind. Good resistance training!
It was great ride, and there are numerous variations you can make, taking various side roads (you can read about the side "road" from Paularo to Pontebba here) http://cycloclimbing.com/tour2000/dolomite4.html
Torrente Chiarsò, mountains around Paularo
From Paularo looking down Torrente Chiarsò
Murale a Ligosullo