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5 iconic climbs telling the tale of Il Lombardia: The Ghisallo

03/09/2021

Our tale of Il Lombardia through five climbs begins with the dearest, most iconic and most widely known one: the Ghisallo.

It 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 H. 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), Coppi (1946-47-48-49-50), Kubler (1952), Defilippis (1958), Van Looy (1959), Baronchelli (1979), Chiappucci (1988), Rominger (1992) Basso (2004), Bettini (2005-06) and Nibali (2011).

As we said before, 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”.

This is why our tale of Il Lombardia told through five iconic climbs couldn’t start anywhere but here.

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