Last year we joined the Cent Cols Challenge for a few days as the group made their way through the Appenini region of Italy.
On our second day Phil Deeker, the man behind the Cent Cols Challenge, asked if we would drive ahead of the group with him to recce a climb that he intended to take the riders up that day, but hadn’t himself ever ridden.
The story went that the last time the Cent Cols Challenge had travelled to the Appenini, a rider had taken the road by mistake, instead of the way up Monte Nerone that Phil had routed that day (there are three ways up), and had rejoined the group telling them about this incredible abandoned road.
So, ahead of the riders arriving at the base of the climb, we drove up in a hire car with Phil to check the road.
Snaking up the mountainside through the trees, the abandoned section of the climb is over 10km long and gains 680 metres of elevation.
To say that it was not fit to be driven up would be an understatement.
Phil was delighted.
With the Cent Cols Challenge events cancelled this year, we wanted to share the story and some photos from the forgotten side of Monte Nerone.
Phil picks up the story below.
“There are three main ways up the Monte Nerone.
a) The conventional way: a typical ‘ski-station approach’ – a wide, gently rising road, well looked after and kept clear all winter.
b) A superbly twisting, steep-in-places back road from Pianello, taking the south ascent. Rugged in places, and once above the tree line, this way offers huge vistas over the surrounding wild landscape to the intrepid rider.
c) The “MTB” way: a broken “road” that seems destined to die slowly in the cruel hands of winter weather erosion.
Few road cyclists would choose the third one, and to be honest my wife, Claire, dissuaded me from exploring this one on our recon.
I have an uncontrollable fascination with roads that are in their ‘final phase’, abandoned by most travellers, and just waiting to be relegated to the lower division of “tracks”.
She reels me in sometimes back to the Land of Reason.
Something about ‘History in the un-making’ calls me to them.
BUT, they do have to be both rideable on posh road bikes AND safe to do so.
If those boxes are ticked, then I will take CCC riders there.
But this was the first time I had ridden this side.
Last time we were here, one of our riders had taken this way up by mistake.
She loved it!!
I enjoyed the ride myself too, and given the cold rain that fell emphatically on our backs most of the way up, driven by a determined wind, the dense tree cover gave us a certain protection from the harsh elements.
“Roads” like these are the ones that a recon reveals, and are often the ones CCC riders remember most.
Not necessarily because they are ‘bad’, but because they do not show up on maps, they are rarely sign-posted, and until the top appears, the suspense is maintained to add to the adrenalin flow.
Local mountain bikers know this way up.
No one would try and do a Strava KoM up here: you are too busy finding a way through the haphazard mix of tarmac relics and deep gravel-filled pot-holes.”