High above impossibly beautiful Bellagio on Lake Como is a special church. It's Italy so there is a church every half mile,...but this is a church known to cyclists around the world,... the Madonna del Ghisallo. Legend tells us in the 11th century while Count of Ghisallo was out hunting he was threatened for his life by bandits. He knelt down to pray and had a vision of the Madonna and the Virgin saved him. Thus this spot is called Madonna del Ghisallo. I wanted to make this climb for a long time and was lucky to achieve it last month!
The 12K climb with some pitches exceeding 14% is guaranteed to work off any pasta or risotta you had this week! You'll need some climbing gears so your knees don't explode! A guy with minus body fat just passed me on a Pinarello Dogma like I was standing still! I look down at my heart rate monitor and it is beyond red line! Another rider in his 70's goes by on a gorgeous Wilier Zero.6! This is hard!
Just as my legs are screaming... "stop"... I see the church ahead.
The church was originally built in 1645 and in 1949 the Madonna del Ghisallo was named the Patron Saint of Cyclists by Pope Pius XII.
"I made it!"
My good friend from Paris, Philippe Auzas, joined me on this "Italian Lakes" cycling tour with Experience Plus. Philippe and I completed a tour of the French Languedoc region a few years ago and Tuscany/Umbria last year. This week's tour may just be our favorite!
Cyclists and other visitors are in awe of the chapel and the cycling memorabilia collected over the years!
A flame is continually lit to honor fallen cycling stars through the years.
The chapel was really inspiring!
Next door is the modern Museo del Ciclismo.
The museum contains the history of Italian cycling and is definitely worth the visit!
There is a stunning collection of "Maglia Rosa", the famous pink jerseys awarded to leaders of the Giro d'Italy cycling race.
Check out my last week's Gentry Connects blog on Gino Bartali, the cyclist who saved over 600 Italian Jews during World War II.
Sarah & Thomas, strong riders from Washington D.C, were a fun part of our cycling group on the tour.
We raced back down to Bellagio, cleaned up, and found a good restaurant to refuel with fabulous views of Lake Como. This is a day I will never forget!
***Check out this great Youtube video for what the climb is like and with wonderful views of Lake Como. This is truly a beautiful area of Italy!
Images: Dick Gentry, Positivo-Espresso, Carbonollie