After tackling the punishing slopes of the Muro di Sormano, the participants in the Gran Fondo Il Lombardia will be met by another iconic climb, with milder gradients this time, however with a story like no other – the Ghisallo.
The Ghisallo made its debut on the route of this legendary race on November 2, 1919. First across the summit was Costante Girardengo, fifteen minutes ahead of Belloni and Suter.
Except for three times only, the Ghisallo has been a permanent fixture and the signature climb of the “Classic of the falling leaves” since then. Most often, it has proven decisive for the race, especially until the 1950s, when it came as the final impediment.
All the greatest cycling champions succeeded in clearing the summit in the lead, with the church bells ringing to salute them: Bottecchia (1923), Binda (1924-25-26-27), Bartali (1936-40), Fausto Coppi (1946-47-48-49-50), Kubler (1952), Defilippis (1958), Van Looy (1959), Baronchelli (1979), Chiappucci (1988), Rominger (1992) Ivan Basso (2004), Bettini (2005-06) and Nibali (2011).
As we said earlier, this is an iconic location, and not just as far as sport is involved.
Its fame and reputation come from at least two other reasons.
First of all, Our Lady of Ghisallo was declared the patron saint of cycling in 1949 by Pope Pius XII, following a request by Don Ermelindo Viganò, the parish priest of Magreglio and first Rector of the church of Ghisallo, backed by a number of riders, including Coppi and Bartali.
Three bronze busts were erected on the churchyard to pay tribute to the three of them, alongside the busts of Don Luigi Farina, the storied Rector of the sanctuary of Ghisallo, and of Alfredo Binda.
Secondly, the place is the seat of a legendary cycling museum, a collection of memorabilia of the greatest cycling aces, created by Fiorenzo Magni in 2006.
As Sergio Zavoli said on the day the museum was unveiled, “ideally, it brings back the world of bicycle racing, through the deeds of men who have proved that effort and courage, pain and delight are the true nature and symbol of cycling.”
On October 9, once again the Ghisallo will be the pain and delight of those who will put all their effort and courage in racing the Gran Fondo Il Lombardia.