Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sella Chianzutan (from Tolmezzo)

Sella Chianzutan is the first climb of today's Giro d'Italia stage. I'd recently ridden up the Sella from San Francesco ( http://dolomiti-friulane.blogspot.com/2010/04/selle-chianzutan.html ), so I thought I'd try the opposite side, from Tolmezzo. It's the harder of the 2 approaches, so a better workout, plus the prospect of crowds of bikes, motorcycles, and cars going up and down the narrow road on the San Franceso-side scared the hell out of me.

After a long flat warm up, I rode the rolling hills from Valeriano, Pinzano to Flagonia. Here I turned away from the Giro route, and followed the Strada di Bottecchia along the Fiume Tagliamento, past the cliffs of the grifoni sanctuary at Lago Cornino, to Lago Cavazzo . Then northwest to the Tolmezzo bridge, and the start of the climb.

I was pleasantly surprised- there was hardly any traffic on this route up the climb. I saw numerous bikes zooming down the hill, but I passed only 4 0r 5 bikes headed uphill. There were a few canyon-racer motorcyclists, and a few cars. Very peaceful. The climb itself is excellent- smooth pavement, steady 7-9% grade, immersed in forest.

At the top there was a nice crowd of a few hundred, mainly picnic-ing, very laid back folks. I found a nice spot on a grassy knoll and kicked back waiting for the peleton. After awhile the breakaway arrived, 6 guys led by Pineau (Quickstep) and Sijmens (Cofidis). About 9 minutes later the bunch arrived, headed up by Liquigas and Ivan Basso, closely followed by the maglia rosa, David Arroyo Duran (Caisse d'Arpagne). The only other guy I recognize in the pictures I shot is Italian national champion Filippo Pozzato (Katusha).

After they passed, I decided to hurry home, as the skies were threatening. Quite hectic descending with all the bikes, motorcycles, cars, hikers, etc. After the road leveled out and widened a bit things calmed down. Then it was an easy cruise home, aided by a tailwind.

When I arrived panting and sweating in the cortile, my sweet neighbor Nerina told me "i corridori arrivano a Zoncolan!" and invited me in to watch. It was fantastic seeing Ivan Basso's victory, followed by Cadel Evans and Michele Scarponi. What a wonderful day for Friuli and ciclismo.


The top of the climb


Sheep and asini grazing at the meadowy summit


Beautiful wildflowers cover the meadows


Pineau (Quickstep) and Sijmens (Cofidis) in the breakaway


Helicopter emerging from behind a hollock in the meadow


Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and David Arroyo Duran (Caisse d'Arpagne)


Italian national champion Filippo Pozzato (left)


The route, from upper right to lower left


Profile of Giro stage 15


The gradient on the climb from Tolmezzo to Sella Chianzutan

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