Ghisallo, a challenge that’s worth double


Erba (CO)


Erba (CO)


54,8 km

Total vertical climb

1.070 m

It’s never happened before but this year I didn’t start the season until April. The unfortunate result of a nagging knee tendinitis issue that has kept me off the bike all winter.
Keen to build up my form again I choose a “basic” ride for my first foray back in the saddle. Not too demanding but enough to satiate the appetite. The Super Classic loop of the Larian Triangle—50 km with a vertical climb of 1,000 m—starting and finishing in Canzo, via the mythical Ghisallo, on to Bellagio, along the lake shore as far as Onno and then a final ascent of Valbrona.
The ride will also be an opportunity to road test the Selle Italia Max Flite: a technological marvel in gel. It should prove particularly comfortable because it has been chosen using the new idmatch system which identifies the ideal type and model of saddle for your physical characteristics. Perfect after a long break from the saddle.
Side note: the technician advised me to try moving my saddle set-up back a bit to avoid overloading the joint. Something to keep in mind.
The air of legendary cycling that you breathe in these parts gives you a special buzz: the name “Ghisallo” alone brings to mind the epic Giro di Lombardia and the feats of so many champions. But today I am happy to climb at a pace that doesn’t leave my lungs feeling like they’ll explode. Arriving at the top will, in any case, like always, be full of emotion, with the small shrine to welcome you after all the exertion. Among other things, the unmissable Cycling Museum here has recently reopened. Walking amongst all the relics with your cycling shoes and cleats clattering about on floor really makes you feel part of the history of this sport.
But back to the matter in hand, and our itinerary. Today there are 3 of us. A couple of my oldest friends have joined me on this adventure, happy to finally be back riding together. We leave the car in Erba, a few kilometres from Canzo so that we arrive at the climb warmed-up. The weather is perfect: 16 degrees without a breath of wind. Perfect for the short ride.
For 7-8 km the route is issue-free on more or less level ground (just watch out for traffic). After Lake Segrino, the gradients start to get more interesting, but remain around 6%. The route continues like this without sudden inclines until a couple of kilometres from the top when you hit a more challenging 9% over a tricky straight stretch that’s long, wide, and never ends. When the computer reads 16.5 km and 490 m above Erba, we reach the square in front of the Shrine of the Madonna of Ghisallo. Best not to look at the stats, but today is not a “performance” day anyway. So we take it easy: café, coffee and a trip to the museum. Just like real tourists.
Now the hiding to Bellagio awaits us: 10.6 km plunging almost 600 m to Lake Como, with gradients as steep as 11%.
So far the knee has held up well. The leg seems all right and the saddle is awesome, like being in an armchair. Once we reach Bellagio, the ever so predictable suggestion is made, and, might I add, met with unanimous approval: we decide to climb back from here, retracing our descent in the opposite direction, instead of completing the loop via the more “accommodating” Valbrona, as scheduled.
Besides, the “true” climb to Ghisallo is from this side.
And so we’re off, without thinking twice. I feel the fatigue immediately, and the leg suddenly becomes heavy, but the constant hairpin bends help enormously. With an average gradient of 9% however I can’t see how it can be climbed with a gear higher than 28… We are greeted with the sight of the Shrine again 45 minutes later: more than double what it takes the pros. But that’s fine. The return to Erba is business as usual.

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