But what then? A swing by Provence and Mt. Ventoux? Not really time, and no desire to do any kind of punishing ride only a few days before the start of PBP. A stop in Burgundy for some wine tasting? Well, not really something I want to do alone, and mid-August is not good timing. Instead, once I realized how close Cremona was to Milan, the choice was obvious. A quick visit to northern Italy's business and fashion capital, and a day trip to the cyclists' shrine at Passo del Ghisallo, the Madonna del Ghisallo. This is an iconic location for cyclists, the "spiritual home to Italian cycling." And the climb from Bellagio on the Lake Como side features regularly in the Giro di Lombardia.
My hotel was on the SE side of central Milan, so I started by hunting and pecking my way through the city until I could get on a good road headed through the northern suburbs and toward Erba. I would climb to Ghisallo from Erba in the South, not the Bellagio climb, but very nice once in the hills, and with its own delights.
|Climb from Erba to Ghisallo|
|Climb from Bellagio to Ghisallo|
Eventually I rode on a path through Parco Nord Milan, then on better roads.
It was very hot by now, maybe 36 or 37 degrees C. I passed Erba, taking a road on the side of the valley that offered a nice view.
Then before I had expected, I was at the top, the shrine in view and Lake Como stretching out before me. A few meters away, there was a beautiful modern building set into the hillside, the Museo del Ciclismo Ghisallo.
|Bike parking just at the museum entrance, of course.|
The museum was almost empty, and I decided to visit it first before the shrine. The man at the admission desk saw me lock my bike and offered "reduced admission, 5 Euro (instead of 6), for those arriving by bicycle". I thanked him, and said "I came all the way from Milan ... maybe 4 Euro?" ... but he was not having any of it. His response "so it took you how long, about 90 minutes". "Errr ... a bit longer" (actually more than twice that, some due to leisurely pace, some due to navigation on the way out of the city).
The museum building is gorgeous, and it is full of memorabilia of (mostly Italian) cycling history. I highly recommend it, especially for someone with an interest in classic bicycles -- Bianchi, Colnago, Casati, Olmo, at least 3 Merckx, and on and on and on. There is a lot of racing memorabilia (especially from the Giro d'Italia), and I could not imagine a better place to observe the evolution of shifting systems, tensioners, etc. I took many photos, which you can access at this link. Better yet, stop by if you ever get anywhere close.
|Leader jerseys from the Giro d'Italia over the years; also lots of world champion jerseys nearby|
|some much needed basic food in Asso|
|Asso ... more cobbles, and not much activity on a hot August afternoon.|