Madonna del Ghisallo Pilgrimage

An icon of Italian (World) Cycling and on my To Do List for a long time, the pilgrimage to the patron saint of cycling –  ticked off 🙂

Having seen it so many times on the Lombardia / Giro and read about it in so many books and pored over numerous pictures I still was surprised at how tricky a wee climb this was.  Got a nice wee ferry ride to Bellagio to the start of the climb. You immediately climb out of Bellagio on fairly steep 8-10% ramps until you get out the town and into the climb proper – it was here the unofficial “start” line was painted on the road after a mile of climbing!

The climb is in 3 sections. The first section is about 4.5 miles of steady, steep climbing through trees and rapidly gaining height. Then the road levels off and even goes downhill slightly for the next mile. Time to spin the legs and get the average speed up. Then the final mile is steep again – where you’d make your attack!

It was so familiar as I turned the last corner and could see the summit with the church on the left – all the greats over all ages of cycling have raced up here and it was a privilege to follow them  – albeit half their speed 🙂

The church itself is amazing with memorabilia from Italian World Champions (and a few non Italians) over the years. Spent an age soaking it all in. There is now a museum on site too (5 euro entry for cyclists) which is well worth a visit. You could spend all day looking at the multitude of donated bikes, jerseys, newspapers, books, videos detailing the history of cycling and the riders.

All that was left was the blast back to Bellagio and a gelato by Lake Como to remember all those that have passed this way.

Thoroughly recommend it for everyone and even the non cyclists in my group who drove up enjoyed the history, church and museum.

Some pics which don’t do it justice…

Coppi’s 1 hour record bike

The Garmin stats:

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