The rider’s ride
Scott Addict 10, £3,499, scott-sports.com
At a time when every new bike that comes out seems to have vast, angular tubes, with hydraulic discs and integrated aero cockpits, the Addict looks quaintly traditional. Its silhouette reveals slender, gently tapering round tubes, making it look elegant and refined next to some of the more boxy modern offerings.
It also eschews any fiddly components, opting for a standard seat clamp, headset and brakes – all of which I was thankful for on this trip. The bike is easy to set up and adjust, and during my time on it there were no clicks, grinds or creaks, leaving me to simply enjoy the ride (the smooth efficiency of the Shimano Dura-ace groupset helped a lot).
And what a ride it is. The Addict is exceptionally light, which is just what I needed on the steep slopes of the Finestre, yet those skinny tubes proved to be remarkably stiff, meaning that there was very little wasted energy as I hauled on the bars and stamped on the pedals. It’s certainly the perfect companion for anyone heading into the hills, and yet its real revelation came on the descents and flatter sections of the route. The handling is reassuringly stable, with no jitteriness for such a light bike, and despite its fairly aggressive racing geometry I found it to be a comfortable ride for a long day out.
For 2017 the bike will be updated with the new Dura-ace 9100 groupset, and a disc brake version is on the way too. Should I discover a few grand stuffed down the back of the sofa, I’d be seriously tempted to spend it on an Addict 10.
To see it on a map, the road must look like a child has tried to obliterate the landscape with a pencil, scoring it back and forth with tight, sharp lines
di Susa where a large billboard celebrates the occasions the Giro d’italia has blasted through the village. Even at our gentle pace, it’s not long before we leave the buildings and agriculture behind and enter the dense forest that covers the lower slopes of the Colle delle Finestre.
Into the woods
Surrounded by trees on either side, it’s difficult to get any sense of the progress we’re making or where the road is heading. Every corner simply reveals another short stretch of tarmac leading inexorably upwards to another, strikingly similar corner.
To see it on a map, the road must look like a child has tried to obliterate the landscape with a pencil, scoring it back and forth with tight, sharp lines. We are certainly gaining height quickly, but I can only see back as far as a couple of hairpins below, and I’m keen to find a break in the trees so I can assess how far we’ve come up from the valley we started in.
In the forest it’s eerily quiet. The only noise is the gentle buzz of rubber on tarmac and the sound of breathing. In truth, it’s the sound of my breathing. Alongside me are Davide and Diego, two guides from the Piedmont Bike Hotel where I have been staying, and as yet they’re not displaying the same levels of effort as me. Davide has been instrumental in arranging our ride, and he chats away animatedly while I offer brief responses between gasps for air. At least he has the decency to get out of the saddle when the gradient kicks up in the hairpins. Diego meanwhile remains seated and taps out a rhythm as metronomic as a Swiss watch.
‘Diego is too quiet,’ Davide whispers to me. ‘I think he might be about to launch an attack.’ I glance back at Diego, who is doing that special trick of setting the pace while staying at the rear of the group (I’ve no idea how they do it, but I’ve noticed it’s a skill particular to good cycling guides). He looks as calm and inscrutable as a statue. While I wrestle my bike up the slope, puffing and snorting like an asthmatic bull, Diego looks as though he is barely breathing at all. For all I know, he does this climb so often that he has actually fallen asleep behind those dark glasses and is cycling by muscle memory alone.
Eventually, a large gap in the trees reveals a magnificent view down to the valley and across to a towering peak, which Davide informs me is the Roche Melon that guards the border with France. I insist on stopping to take some photographs on my phone, although it is only a ruse. I’m really just thankful for an excuse to have a breather and