Though the average gradient of the tour is a modest one (4.4%), the tour is, in fact, very challenging both for the length (14.5 km) and because in the second half it climbs in “degrees” at a gradient that sometimes exceeds 10%. The climb is an average of 635 metres in height and we suggest 39/23-25 inch gears for the second part while for the first few kilometres 39/17-19 inch gears are sufficient. The road surface is in good condition, and the traffic is barely noticeable except on Sundays in summer. We must be careful though of larger vehicles. The average time it takes an amateur cyclist goes from 45 minutes to 1 hour, while an excursionist may take from 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1’25”. The record time for the Futa Crono-Scalata was set in 1995 by the great Francesco Casagrande at 25 minutes 21.11 seconds(!!!)
This may very well be the most renowned Mugello mountain pass, because it is both a great favourite of Tuscan and Emilian cyclists, and the place where, for years, amateurs and professionals have challenged each other in the prestigious Crono-Scalata.
The starting point is in Barberino di Mugello from the central square with its lovely loggia and some of the towns most important buildings. Once outside the town, past the crossroad that leads to Montepiano, the road runs through a forest and starts to climb. It is not steep however (2-4%) and remains this way for 5 kilometres. This allows us to admire the view, which, on the left, looks onto the Stura River valley.
We cut into the hillside and cycle under the shade of the trees that line the road making it possible to enjoy cool temperatures even on the hottest days of the year. At 6.7 kilometres, just past San Gavino, the splendid Romanesque church, we reach Il Bivio, the intersection that crosses state road 65. We turn left and, after a brief climb, reach Montecarelli where we can refill our water-bottles, if necessary, at the water fountain on the left before meeting the second, more challenging climb.
Just outside the town (8 km) we must tackle a significantly steep climb. Switching to a low gear is advisable because we are about to meet one of the most difficult climbs on the tour: there are three stretches of 6-700 metres at a gradient of 8-10% where, in summer, the road snakes under the scalding sun making us perspire heavily.
At 10.7 kilometres from the start of the route, we reach Santa Lucia (700 m.a.s.l.) and catch our breath before starting to climb sharply again; fortunately we begin to feel the pleasant effect of the high altitude. At 11.6 kilometres, the road levels for 400 metres but, past Monte di Fo, the road climbs steeply again. This stretch, the roughest part of the whole ascent, is 1,800 metres long with a series of hairpin bends that wind around the side of the mountain at a gradient of more than 10%. At last, in the area of L’Apparita (13.8 km), the road levels. 700 metres of flat road lead to the top of the Futa Pass (14.5 km, 903 m.a.s.l.) where, on the great wall that was built ages ago to protect carts and travellers from strong winds, we find a plaque dedicated to the great cyclist from Mugello Gastone Nencini, the unforgettable champion of the 60’s.