A Journey Through Piedmont

We hit the road at about nine and joined the S33 Dual Carriageway heading south, after about 25k the road becomes the A26 Autostrada

Before the first toll booth we peeled off near Baveno to grab a look at Lake Maggiore, very nice.

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The Autostrada was fun, not much traffic to start, which was just as well cos there were lots of my dreaded tunnels. Now I have to say that Italian and Swiss tunnels are nicer than French ones, I’m still not a great fan but they are definitely better, like no pot holes and decent lighting!
As we neared Turin, the traffic picked up. There are a couple of things about Italian motorways that I noticed that I have to share with you. Firstly, they have lay-bys right adjacent to the hard shoulder, imagine that in the UK…we can’t even use the lanes we’ve got properly! The other curious thing is that their motorways have bus stops! Yes that’s right, big D has not lost the plot, they really do have bus stops on the Autostradas! They are protected with loads of Armco, but they are bus stops. I think that is a really good idea, well done Italy.

This is what I mean about lay-bys, had to use one just to show you!

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Right then, we got to Turin and all hell let loose! Suddenly the road got very busy and the standard of driving? Somewhat not quite as good as appalling! Lane discipline was OK, but you just had to guess where everyone was going, as no-one ever indicated when switching lanes or exiting. It certainly made life interesting!

We turned off the Turin orbital at the Pinerolo exit got to the toll booth and well, you know what happened then!

When we got going with our new front tyre, the air temperature was in the thirties. I had been given strict instructions at Torino Harley Davidson to take it steady for 100 miles to let the tyre bed in and scrub off release agent. I knew anyway, but it was nice of them to remind me! Stopped for a coffee and a think at Pinerolo.

I originally planned to ride via Col Agnel to tonight’s hotel, but with the tyre delay we were likely to be late, perhaps we should go on the main road via Briancon as it would be quicker? Stuff it, I wanted go over Agnel and if we were too late for the hotel we would find another one, decision made!

Traffic on the R589 to Saluzzo was as the Italians say, merda! But hang a right and get into the hills and things got a whole lot better, even if the road was crumbling away all over, a depressingly common occurrence I found off the Autostrads. As Phillipo, the driver of the recovery truck said, “no money for roads, Berlusconi’s fault!” I offer no comment…

The road climbs gently to Casteldelfino, then begins to gain altitude and really gets going after the dam.

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Hairpins start soon after. The Italians are really good at telling you on the signs if there is a string of three or four coming up, then numbering them as you go. Good idea. On this bit of road most of the bends had altitude markers as well, I don’t know if this is for cycle racing or some other reason, but it certainly adds even more interest. There was one particular bend that we rounded at about1700m where the air was full of the smell of wild thyme, very pleasant indeed.

Anyway, as we were late in the day there wasn’t much other traffic about and I was able to use all the road on the bends, which made life a bit easier. There was loads of snow next to the road, very deep in places and then disappointingly, we were at the top, but wow, what a view!

20130626-000945.jpgEvery-way that you looked!

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As you can see the pass is 2744m (9006ft) above sea level and I believe that makes it the highest paved international pass in the Alps. There’s a big metal sign on the Italian side, that some “Stig” like geezer was caught standing by!

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There’s also a new sticker on the sign, in the tradition of such things. One or two people in Devon and Cornwall might know what this is about!

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Tonight we are in Guillestre, a pleasant little town/large village and no problems with the late arrival. When I explained, the response was that I did the right thing…”life is for living and when the mountains give us a day like this, you should live it there.” I’ll go along with that!

Today’s mileage: 244.

I’m the man on the silver mountain.

Dookes

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