I left Tende, France around 9:30 in the morning and started snaking my way north toward Col de Tende and Italy. A 4 Kilometer tunnel connects France and Italy. The turn to climb over the pass is right before that tunnel, if you’re oldschool enough to give it a whirl.
Some construction just before the tunnel slowed me down, but I was eager to climb into Italy. Confusion started when I realized that the Col de Tende pass was closed due to something. Bummer! I figured I’d just take the confining tunnel into Italy and just be on my way. Nope! No bicycles in the tunnel… Um… Wait… How do I?! What? Dang.
I wheeled up to some construction workers and asked about the pass. They said it was closed. I asked if I could cycle through the tunnel. No bikes. Then they proceeded to say that I need to go start asking motorists for a hitch through the tunnel… Damn, this isn’t rolling into Italy with style, but okay.
Laughing to myself, I started to make my way to the waiting motorists as I heard a whistle. A quick glance backwards and I got the hand wave to come back for a second from the construction workers. A bubble of happiness popped when I got the go ahead to climb the pass into Italy! BOOM! YES, SIR!
A magical bike path over a mountain?! Well, let’s be real here. This pass was no calk walk. It was switchback after switchback to the top. The road was “paved” for a little while and then turned into basically rubble. Water was eroding the inside of the “road” giving me the eerie sense that the road might just tumble away with me on it. I sweated through sand up 19% grades, almost toppled over countless times as the rocks beneath my touring bike gave way, and kept to the inside of the path the whole time. The outside was inevitable doom with no guardrails for safety.
51 switchbacks later I was at the top of the Col de Tende and setting awakened eyes onto Italy for the first time. Nothing like climbing a mountain into another country to start off the day! I shared a moment with the view of France, giving it my thanks for all of its wonder. I breathed in Italy for a couple of minutes at the summit. Then, I descended into a new world.
“Bornjourno.”-Brad Pitt (Inglorious Bastards)
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