Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Eroica diaries pt 2 Madonna del Ghisallo
Caught the train from Saronno up to Como, planning to ride to the shrine at Madonna del Ghisallo.
It cost more to get the bike on he train than it did me, and a few Italians still looked at me as if I was breaking some local taboo.
I don't think I missed much by not riding- the train passed through a succession of small towns, separated by green space which seems doomed for iminent development. Every vista includes a couple of construction cranes.
After intensively exploring the lakefront at Como I finally found the road to Bellagio down a back alley, getting underway at 11am. The road undulates along the Como lakefront through a succession of villages, and past the holiday homes of the 18th century rich.
I stopped at Lezzeno for a plate of spaghetti and a beer, before continuing to Bellagio, where I managed to get lost again. After consulting with a pair of German moto-tourists and their library of maps, I went, somewhat uncertainly, on my way.
I may surprise you, gentle reader, that the most important shrine in all Christendom is essentially devoid of any signage, so as I grovelled to an altitude of 800m, then started descending again, I was somewhat in doubt that I was on the right road. Like a good pilgrim I kept going, eventually to be rewarded by a sign advertising the Madonna del Ghisallo camp grounds. A few minutes more stiff climbing (this is the most significant climb on the Tour of Lombardy parcours), and I was there.
The inside of the chapel is tiny, the walls festooned with banners, jerseys, and memorials cyclists who have died. some at a ripe old age, but also a disturbing number of teenage riders in more recent years.
Higher on the walls, bikes that belonged to Bartali, Coppi, Motta, Gimondi, Merckx and Moser, as well as the bike that Fabio Casartelli was riding when he was killed in the 1995 Tour de France.
I stock up on Madonna di Ghisallo medallions and Fausto Coppi postcards before heading downwards to Canzo-Asso, a descent with none of the technical challenges promised by the 11km switchbacked climb up from Bellagio. Out of Canzo-Asso the road rises again, a last dragging grind before the final descent, enlivened by thickening traffic and a series of roundabouts, into Como.