It's nearly Finestre at last

Froome, just three bends from the top of Finestre. Image used with special permission from  Russ Ellis Photography

Froome, just three bends from the top of Finestre. Image used with special permission from Russ Ellis Photography

During the Giro I promised some content about Simon Yates and our take on the effort ahead of him in Stage 19 on the Friday but, by the time I’d got my thoughts together stage 18 had finished and he was showing signs of losing his momentum.

Like a boxer who knows he’s got his opponent on the ropes, Team Sky must have picked this up too, as Froome’s all out effort on one of our most fearsome home climbs proved. The eventual result incredible, given you would have been forgiven for thinking they weren’t really even in the fight up to this point. 

I know a stack of guides who use that route, and I’ve been up it with some fast people (or rather been up it in the dust of some fast people) but never have I seen anything like the way Froome blasted up it.

It’s now months since that ascent and actually more months since I’ve physically ridden it, and we’re only now putting the cable guides on to our first near finished Spoon Customs Finestre adventure bike. Number 001. Just like the challenge to get this bike to market, the hill that gives it it’s name is harder than you’d think. 

To try to put it in context (the hill not the bike) the climb is 19k long out of Susa, mostly at about 9%. The first run of tight hair pins is in the trees and is broadly pleasant, if not somewhat incessant. It’s tight so there aren’t the natural false flats on the outside of the bends like those on a climb like Alpe D’Huez, although it’s rarely as steep. The road is also blessedly empty and the shade from the trees on a hot day is useful. It feels a bit dark-green and pleasantly damp sometimes, even in high summer. 

Head out of the trees though, and the tarmac runs out. I’ve ridden the Paris Roubaix course (albeit once, finishing dead last. Yes, last) and it is nothing like the abuse that the cobbles dish out but the loose gravel here is a completely different type of challenge. Its rollered for the pros too. For us, it’s dusty, unsure and long on a skinny tyre. You need to concentrate.

And when the sun comes out after 8k in the shade of the trees, that tough challenge becomes really hard as there’s little shelter. It’s not the same as a climb like Ventoux where you feel like you’re picking your way around the top of a mountain in outer space. The track up to the summit here feels more enclosed and less other-worldy for it, but it’s hot and dusty and that sense that it’s an ordinary track makes it feel long and stifling sometimes, harder perhaps than it should feel. 

It’s not till you get to the top and look down into the Valley Susa that you realise what you’ve just done. I’ve sat at the top with mates or seen faster riders waiting for me, legs hung over the side, just metres away from the finishing post at Cima Coppi, the top. And it’s here that you get a proper sense of how incredible the landscape you’ve just navigated looks.

In Stage 19 they took riders over the top and down to Pragelato. Then up to Sestriere in a long unremarkable slog, before literally bombing it down to Bardonecchia. 

From the top of Sestriere to the roundabout at Cesana it is steep and bendy. Armco and fresh air. If you mess up here, you’ll need a parachute in places. The first section up and out of the village is probably most famous for Lance Armstrong’s 1999 TDF EPO moment (he was coming up the other way almost as easily as Froome went down it). 

Seeing Froome fly through the two roundabouts in Cesana however, past the Tourist info and the little baker’s shop that sells me coffee from time to time, was a feeling like he’d just ridden through my back garden. 

For my usual loops it’s here that I’d usually turn left and head back up the hill to Montgenevre, but Froome headed right on to the main-road descent to Oulx nearly three minutes up on the chase group. Left through the village up into Bardo’ (I know this bit well - the downhill park part of Alpi Bikepark here is awesome too) and then a stiff climb up to the finish at Monte Jafferau. Which I confess at least in the case of the very last section, I’ve never climbed completely. 

I’m heading out to do some web work and shooting again in Jan, but just with my skis. I’ll wait patiently till we retrace Froome’s effort on the bike with my Pro Camp group heading out again in the Spring and we’ll no doubt see what we can make of the descent to Oulx when it’s loaded with tourist traffic. I’ll point the guys up Jafferau and update you when I’ve had a proper look. 

Fat tyres on our Finestre give you more comfort and grip than Froome would have felt, and our double S bend seat stays absorb more of the road. We’ve relaxed the head angle on the new bike to make the steering more predictable on rough stuff too, but so you can cope in the tarmac tree sections too, we’ve only raised the front end as much as we felt we needed, so the bike would still climb well on steep roads, without constantly feeling like it’s trying to wheelie.

The first Finestre frame is going through final fab’ just now. It’s a disc road bike, with all day geo and clearance for fat tyres. I’ve got a 56cm for stock that’s available before Christmas if you’re quick, in colours of your choice, and you can order any fully custom bike now for delivery in good time for Spring. I’ll deliver it to you out there if you want to make the trip and we can retrace Froome’s effort together (a little more sedately perhaps).