Sassotetto, the Queen of Sibillini climbs
Sassotetto from Sarnano. The most famous, the best known, for some the most difficult ascent of the Sibillini Mountains, included in a classic ring itinerary where you can appreciate the beauty of the mountains of Marche (Central Italy), the view that opens on the hills until the sea, the Lake of Fiastra, the village of Bolognola, the highest municipality of Marche …
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|S.M. Maddalena pass (Sassotetto) from Sarnano
It is not the hardest climb in the area. Laminox certainly overcomes it by difficulty. Probably not the most beautiful and not the most scenic, if we compare it with Forca di Gualdo from Castel Sant’Angelo sul Nera. Nevertheless, the name Sassotetto evokes in every Marche cyclist the memory of suffering on its ramps and the satisfaction experienced in climbing its wonderful hairpin bends. Then there is the history of cycling. Michele Scarponi climbed it in 2009, along with Basso, Nibali and Garzelli, to go to conquer, in Camerino, the victory of the stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico and the blue jersey, which kept until the end, in San Benedetto del Tronto. Many things have changed since then. Unfortunately, the Eagle of Filottrano flew in the sky and the beautiful villages of the Sibillini had to suffer the destructive violence of a terrible earthquake. Sassotetto, however, with its beautiful hairpin bends, is still there, waiting for the cyclists who come to test their legs and their breath every weekend.
The departure of our itinerary is in Pian di Pieca, at the intersection of the SP502 and the SP91, where we can find a bar well known by cyclists in the area. We begin to ride in the middle of this small plateau sometimes lashed by annoying gusts of wind. The road is straight and beautiful. In the background, towards Sarnano, we can see the Sibillini Mountains in all their splendor. Those peaks will be ours today.
The segment up to the village of Sarnano is ideal to warm up before the ascent that awaits us. Climb gently up to Gabella Nuova and then descend and climb again to the village. The slopes are however almost negligible. Sarnano is a characteristic village, with fountains and ancient walls. We will be able to visit its historical center later. At the gardens of Piazza della Libertà, turn right and continue towards Sassotetto.
After about a kilometer and a half our queen climb begins. We immediately meet the Fonte dei Brilli on the right. This is the last chance to cool off and fill the bottle before the pass. After about a kilometer, behind the bend to the right, near a restaurant, a series of zigzagging curves begins, fun to be faced downhill, where the temptation to speed up and climb out of the saddle is great. The first part of the ascent towards Sassotetto is all in all easy, even if in a couple of cases the 10% slope is reached. But we must be careful not to overdo it, because the most challenging part of the ascent is the central one. The cyclists that do not know the climb usually make the mistake of forcing the pace here and then going into a crisis in the central section.
After the little village of Piobbico things start to get serious. In just over 6 kilometers you climb over 500 meters, along a stretch of road where the average gradient is 8.4%. Segments of about 500 meters with a slope close to or even above 10% alternate with the stretches of breath at the six hairpin bends. This is the hardest stretch of the ascent. Then, after the most beautiful and panoramic hairpin bends, the road flattens and we can take a breath to observe the view on the left and fully realize the altitude we have conquered.
But it’s not still over. We arrive at the fork for Sassotetto, with its hotels, and turn right towards Bolognola. The pass is not far, but we still have a couple of poisonous hairpin bends and difficult slopes before the final straight, characterized by a gentle gradient and a breathtaking view on the left.
The pass of Santa Maria Maddalena is beautiful. It’s hard to see the elevation on the sign, but we know very well to be close to 1500 meters of altitude. We are at an intersection. On the left a road that leads back to Sassotetto. On the right the road still rises towards Piani di Ragnolo. The most photographed Sibillini house greets us from the right while we continue straight towards Pintura. The grazing cows look at us questioningly.
The descent to Pintura is relaxing and spectacular. The mild slopes allow you to enjoy the wonderful view of Sibillini and the famous Fargno road. After Pintura the descent becomes challenging and dangerous. The uneven road surface, the slope close to 10% and the tight bends require the utmost attention.
In a few minutes we reach the village of Bolognola, which, with its 1070 meters of altitude, is the highest municipality of the Marche Region. On the left the water flows from an almost hidden fountain. We fill the bottle and continue for a long and pleasant descent, where we just have to be careful not to be distracted by the landscape on the Fiastrone valley on the left. The road surface is not always perfect and there could always be a car behind the curves, especially in Summer. The road runs quietly under the wheels, but a stop at the famous drinking fountains of Acquacanina is mandatory. The water is exceptional and almost certainly you will meet someone who fills the jugs or other cyclists who face the climb from this side. I described these excellent sources in Le sette migliori fontanelle dei Sibillini….
We continue to descend and reach San Lorenzo al Lago. We finish the descent and pedal for almost four kilometers looking at the beautiful and restful waters of Fiastra Lake. If we need a break to eat or rest for a moment, this is the right place. Difficult, however, do not stop to take some pictures of this wonderful place.
We pass the dam, where the path for the beautiful excursion to the Lame Rosse starts, and we begin to climb towards Monastero. We went this way, in reverse, in Macereto: l’altopiano incantato. The climb is very easy. Soon we start to descend towards Monastero. We also cross a small gallery, with large windows with spectacular views of the Fiastrone valley.
After Monastero the descent becomes fast but still restful. However, you better to pay attention to the stones that you can find in the middle of the road, which is carved into the limestone rock. After a few kilometers the descent ends and remains the last stretch of 3.5 km; to ride easily up to the starting point.
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