The ascent of the Cascata del Toce by bike
The ascent of the Cascata del Toce by bike, for those who periodically spend an afternoon on YouTube to remember the exploits of Marco Pantani (I know there are many of us), has a very special flavour. In fact, it was the last ascent that saw the Pirate on the pedals. It was May 30, 2003. Nineteenth stage of the 86th Giro d’Italia, from Canelli to Cascata del Toce. With four kilometres and 800 metres to get to the top of the final climb of the Giro, Pantani gave it a go. He came in eighth place. Winner of the stage and the Giro: Gilberto Simoni.
1. Information about Cascata del Toce
The Toce Waterfall is located at 1675 m.a.s.l. and with its 143 m it is the highest waterfall in Europe. It is fed by the river Toce and is located in Val Formazza, a valley of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, in Piedmont. The waterfall is open only in summer and has a fixed schedule. You can find all the information on the web site of Associazione Turismo Commercio Formazza.
2. How to fet to the starting point for the ascent to the Cascata del Toce
By car you can follow the A26 motorway to its end at Gravellona Toce, and then continue to Domodossola (as always, a good alternative is by train). From here, any place is a good place to start the climb.
3. The ascent: Exit route
As always, masochism makes me prefer to enjoy the greatest possible difference in altitude and then leave from the bottom of the valley, more precisely from Domodossola or, better still, from Oira. The first 20 km are a very long flat with some sprints through the municipalities of Crodo (do you know the Crodino, the blond non-alcoholic drink? Well, it was born right here) Baceno and Premia.
4. The ascent: The bypass with traffic cut off
At about 1000 metres above sea level, just after the village of Foppiano, I come to a crossroads: on the left, the entrance to the tunnel, on the right, the old road, which is closed to vehicle traffic and which I choose to go through. From here start about 3 km of fantastic tree-lined curves for pedestrians and cyclists that will make me pedal with a drop of just under 300 meters. It is also the only part of the route where there are no water fountains, which are numerous along the rest of the route.
5. The ascent: Arriving
I return to the road which is shared with bikers and motorcyclists, near the village of Fracchie-Fondovalle. Here the valley opens up and the path flattens out, giving the possibility to recover before using the last of your strength that will lead to the peaks of the Cascata del Toce.
From the village of Ponte, the road climbs again through a few curves in the middle of the trees that cool you down in spite of the hot day. Suddenly, almost without noticing it, after a slight turn to the right, you can see the Toce waterfall in all its majesty: I’m in the village of Sotto Frua, 2 km to go and a little less than 200m of altitude difference. I’d like not to stop and finish the climb in one go, but it’s impossible to resist the charm I ‘ve be greeted with. After a couple of minutes, I go again and in a few metres I’m finally at the finish line. The view from above is truly exceptional. I take some photos; I relax for a moment and I understand that the climb is not over yet…
6. The ascent: Riale
I thought I had earned my beer, but instead I see the asphalt continuing past the waterfall. I ask, and they tell me that the road ends 2 km and 100 m higher, in the village of Riale. Since I’ve come this far, I’m not going to give up. I get back on the bike, I’m enjoying the view, but I’m not going to push any more. I’ve switched off my brain and just want to get to the end of the road where the lake that feeds the whole Toce waterfall is located. A standing sprint on the bike, and here I am this time after 39 km of climbing. Now I just need to stop and freshen up before getting back into the car.
- Remember to bring your front and rear lights if you intend to pedal through the tunnel (I went downhill).
- Don’t load your bike with too many water bottles, the route is full of villages and in each of them you can easily find water fountains.
- Recommended bike: Road bike.
8. Places to visit