Nobody can tell me exactly why it is called the Colle delle Finestre. The most likely reason is its connection to the Fenestrelle fort; the military road was constructed to serve the hulking HQ. Surely it comes from finestra, the Italian for window, a nod to the mountain’s metaphorical lookout onto the Susa Valley to the north and the Chisone Valley to the south.
But I prefer to think, as one local restaurateur suggested, that it was coined from the bastardised French phrase fin de terre — the end of the earth. When the clouds roll in, it is a lonely place. Most hallowed mountains in cycling offer vague concessions for visitors — restaurants, ski lifts, car parks, passing places. Not the Finestre. It is hardcore: pebbly furrows, 45 wicked bends and an unrelenting gradient from start to finish.
It’s the mountain equivalent of a stubborn driver in an old banger hogging the middle lane of the motorway at 65mph, refusing to budge. You’ve got to admire the chutzpah and bloody-mindedness — and that of the Giro organisers for including this brute in the first place. It took one Giro appearance in 2005 (pictured) to make the Finestre a hit.
Bonkers climbs need bonkers fans. The Giro tifosi fit the bill, marching up with wine boxes and copious bottles of Nastro Azzurro. The Finestre is anything but lifeless with this party animal platoon.
Spectators cluster in the final 300 metres, as the Finestre’s jagged, fame-like hairpins provide a natural basin for observing the race. The contenders aren’t having as much fun when they pass, but the gruppetto responds to the tifosi in kind.
This isn’t the end of the earth, just a climb that represents the end of another Giro.
This article was originally published in Rouleur 62