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Madonna del Ghisallo (754 mt.) - Cycling Museum in Magreglio (CO)

by Marco Buffa February 1996

Why you shouldn't miss this one

For those of you who're planning to go to Italy by bike and specifically to cross Lombardia region near Como's lake, you can't miss such a place: there are many types of reason that can get you to go there.


You know, this is an ascent that from both sides has the last part quite demanding although short: a good test to evaluate your "grimpeur" attitude.


At the top look at right side of Como's Lake and at the two mountains named Grigne in front of you.


Even if you're not catholic, do enter the little church (free entrance) : it's also a cycling museum. It's up to you saying a prayer before starting the visit as a sign inside suggests. You'll find here the originals used by Bartali, Coppi, Merckx: looking at the Merckx one, see the gear he used ... There's also the bicycle Moser used in Mexico City in 1984 to improve hour record and last, sadly, the Fabio Casartelli's bicycle used in Tour 1995 (Fabio born not so far from here). Again there's a lot of original maillot (pink , yellow, rainbow ) belonging to all time champions. Every year on december 24 there's a religious meeting celebrating great champions that are no more here in this world.


For three years "Lombardia 's Tour" has been choosen to be the last race of World Cup and even if its path has been changed, it always includes Ghisallo: take the opportunity to ride along a piece of one most popular Italian cyling races.



Northside starts from Bellagio: you reach Bellagio from Como (30 km. a bit demanding: no sun on the route in the morning), from Lecco (20 km. a 350 mt tunnel with no light inside) or by ferry from Menaggio or Varenna (maybe also from Como). If you come from Lecco, turn left to Visgnola: this shortens the ascent without extra effort. At first you'll see a road sign saying "14%": it's correct. There are many switchbacks (beware of them if you're in descent: they often are wet and it's very easy to fall). At km 3 you'll see behind yourself the two arms of Como's Lake gathering it's surely a good place to take a picture. The slope decreases compared to the intial values but there's no chance to meet a resting stretch: however, after a straight stretch, a set of bends ending with a left switchback you end the first part of the ascent (km 6.5). Now you have almost 2 Km to rest with some descent stretch always followed by a short steep one. In Civenna begins the last part ( 2 km) made up of 6 switchbacks: even if you're tired look at the surrounding. No rest till the top (754 mt.). The musueum church is at your left.


It starts from CANZO - ASSO two little town 50 km north MILAN. If you come from COMO, follow directions to LECCO and then turn left when you see directions to Canzo and Asso. No traffic lights here; just a set of three stretches "up and down"; once you passed a tunnel with no light inside you're definitively out of the sunlight (so this route during winter is very cold). If YOU come from MILAN, get to Erba, and keeping main direction you'll meet indications to Canzo and Longone (with a small lake); it's the easiest way to get to Canzo but also the most crowded. If you come from LECCO you have two (both demanding) choices:

* follow the lake route to Bellagio and after 10 km, in Onno, turn left to Valbrona and then Asso. You'll find two tunnels, one lighted (length: 1650 mt) while the other no(length 400 mt.). Beware also of people coming up from the beachside: they suddenly appear and the street is not so wide to avoid them. Great view above the lake when you climb to Valbrona (4 switchbacks). In Valbrona, at your right, a fountain devoted to cycling people celebrating also the winner of "race against time" that rode from Onno to Valbrona (5 km) taking about 13 min. (my time: 22 min)
* follow the route to Como and when in Pusiano turn right to Canzo-Asso: you'll join the route from Erba at Longone's lake.

Whatever your choice is, you'll find a first demanding stretch on the route that bypasses Asso (you'll join this route in the middle coming from Lecco-Onno-Valbrona) but then no more difficulties till crossing the route to Barni; here starts a 1 Km. stretch with average gradient 10%, the most demanding of this side. You can also go through Barni: note "Fonte S. Luigi" at your left (always crowded: you'll find people filling quite a number of bottles to take home for drinking). However going through Barni is as demanding as keeping the main route. In the end, once you crossed Magreglio with a short ascent that you can ride using a previous descent stretch as run-up, you reach "Madonna del Ghisallo" and the church-museum at your right.


I can suggest the one followed by Lombardia tour: first go to Canzo-Asso then turn right to Valbrona in the route that bypasses Asso, go down to Como's lake and in Onno take left direction to Bellagio and climb to "MADONNA DEL GHISALLO" from northside to get back again in descent to Canzo (from Canzo to Canzo : about 40 Km.)

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