Highlights and tour details
The "Tour Monviso Strada" winds through an area that includes some of the most renowned hills among road cycling enthusiasts, made famous by the legendary exploits of the great champions of the "Giro d'Italia" and the "Tour de France": Agnello, Vars, Bonnette, Lombarda, Fauniera, Esischie and Sampeyre.
Good training is the necessary ingredient for tackling this demanding loop that follows winding roads with little traffic, rich in history and charm. A bike trip to discover all that this part of the South Western Alps has to offer: breathtaking landscapes, villages frozen in time, secret valleys, steep climbs and fast descents in an environment of uncontaminated beauty.
Our ride begins at Colle della Lombarda, where the descent winds its way through the wild Sant'Anna valley to Vinadio. A little further down the valley near Demonte is the start of a 22 km climb to the 2481 m of Colle dei Morti or Fauniera. From here you descend briefly into Valle Grana and then go down into Valle Maira from Colle d'Esischie. The road surface is not very good and requires caution.
The climb resumes from Stroppo towards the 2283 m Colle di Sampeyre. The descent that leads to Val Varaita is also bumpy and requires attention. Once you reach Sampeyre you start pedalling again towards the demanding climb of Colle dell'Agnello (2744 m): 10 km with some stretches at a 14% gradient.
You will then cross the French border, passing through the characteristic villages of Queyras and the gorges of the Guil stream. When you reach Guillestre you take the climb to Colle del Vars (2108 m). Once the pass is reached, you go downhill on Alpes de Haute-Provence side that leads to the Ubaye valley. Near Jausiers, the ascent to the legendary Col de la Bonette (2715 m) begins along the highest road in Europe. The subsequent descent reaches Saint-Etienne de Tinée, and the village of Isola, where the ascent to Colle della Lombarda (2350 m) begins.
There is no shortage of possible variations that make this cycling experience even more rewarding: from "la boucle de l'Izoard" to the passage along the banks of the Serre-Ponçon basin, now almost on Provencal soil.
Points of interest
The sporting feat cannot exclude a visit to Saluzzo, city of art and culture, capital of the Lands of Monviso. The numerous castles and noble residences bear witness to its past of ancient marquisate: from La Castiglia to Manta Castle, from the royal residence of Racconigi to the Tapparelli d'Azeglio castles of Lagnasco, all places where you can enjoy the excellent local cuisine.
POINTS OF INTEREST:
The route crosses many magnificent Alpine valleys that protect rich historical and cultural heritage. On its verdant slopes, the Varaita Valley gathers age-old mountain villages like Chianale, where the buildings are characterised by walls made from local stone and roofs from slate. There are also small villages like Pontechianale and Casteldelfino that keep alive their historical-cultural features. In the municipality of Sampeyre, the ancient Occitan traditions are evoked in the Bahio festival.
The Maira Valley is traditionally silent and reserved, offering uncontaminated alpine tourism. Crossed by the River Maira, the valley is narrow at the start, with gorges and tight passages, and wide in the upper part where it opens out into large pastures. The view from the top can range to the highest peaks of the Cottian Alps.
Anyone travelling up the Maira Valley will be able to discover the traditions and the Occitan language, the craft workshops that work wood, the dairies and the Merens horse breeding farms.
The Stura Valley is crossed by the River Stura which flows from the Maddalena Lake at an altitude of almost 2000 m, and flows impetuously between the Olla gorges and separates the Maritime Alps from the Cottian Alps.
Among the places to visit, we recommend Demonte, with its picturesque old town centre and Vinadio, with its imposing Albertine Fort (one of the most interesting military buildings in the Alps, that currently hosts the multimedia exhibition entitled "Montagna in Movimento" in English " Mountain on the Move" and the sulphurous thermal baths in the hamlet of Bagni (at about 1300 m), open all year round.
From Vinadio, you reach the deep valley of Sant'Anna that leads to Lombarda Pass, other border between France and Italy which can be travelled in summer. The Sanctuary of S. Anna (the highest in Europe), an ancient hospice that once offered hospitality to pilgrims arriving from Provence, stands at an altitude of 2035 m.