by Casey Thompson © 2018 Bike It! Bellagio
Bike It! Bellagio has created a Strava club to encourage YOU to get out and explore Lake Como on two wheels during your stay. Our mission is to create a small community of athletes from all around the world who have been to Lake Como and become inspired by the idea of exploration of an area through our challenges. We have created three challenges for you to take part in when you come to Lake Como! The first two promote the most famous climbs of the area and are close to home (Bellagio): The Madonna del Ghisallo and the Muro di Sormano, the two most important checkpoints of the annual Giro di Lombardia. Two of our guides from the “Easy Riders” crew, Elio and Mario, will be doing the Ghisallo and the Muro, respectively, for time, at the beginning of the season. Whoever comes closest to or matches Elio’s Ghisallo time during the season will win a prize. Whoever can beat Mario’s Muro di Sormano time during the season will win a prize as well…it may be tougher than you think! Be sure to record your activity and put it on Strava to make it count in the competition.
The third challenge is the Bike It! Bellagio Official Climbing Challenge! Every week, we will feature a new climb and route to encourage you to get out and explore! During your stay, try our featured climb (and route) of the week and see how you do, as well as see how many other traveling cyclists are exploring the same roads as you. Anywhere you ride around Lake Como is scenic, fun, and unforgettable. This is not a challenge to see how fast you can climb, but rather to value our territory and give every area of the lake that may be missed by the average traveler a chance to be explored by you! However, we do have a challenge for the locals: participate in the challenge, complete each weekly stage from March to November, and you will be rewarded with some swag!
Many athletes, at all levels, are Strava users. Strava—the “social network for athletes”—has become one of the most popular activity tracking applications since its launch in 2009. A type of social network, Strava allows users to share their rides, runs, hikes, swims, ski sessions … and so much more. I got on Strava in 2013, and I think it is one of the best apps for athletes around the world. Its idea of segments and challenges motivates many people to improve in their sport, as well as just get outside and have fun! In addition to using Strava for accomplishing segments or seeing how many minutes or seconds I am off a QOM or PR, I especially like Strava because it allows me to connect with other cyclists, runners, triathletes, and seeing their maps and photos of their typical rides or where they’re travelling! I like seeing where other people train, as it gives me an idea of what their terrain is like, and the photos let me see the beauty where they live. Our world is beautiful (especially Lake Como, Italy!), and there’s SO much to be explored. When I travel, I use Strava to look up popular rides or runs for the area. It’s a great tool that allows you to make your sport a part of your vacation time.
by Luca Negri © 2018 Bike It! Bellagio
Cycling has always played a part in the Casa Don Guanella of Lecco on Lake Como, as the community director, Don Agostino Frasson (Father Agostino), is an avid cyclist himself. As many of you may know, I worked for the Casa Don Guanella community in Lecco for 8 years, and still today I feel a part of this community and now continue to volunteer and give my support. I am on the Granfondo Don Guanella race committee, using my territorial knowledge and helping with route planning and other organizational aspects.
I remember when I began working for Don Agostino and going for out for our first, long bike rides during our free time. There were only a few of us in the beginning, but every year, more cyclists joined the group. Still today, the number of cycling friends in “Don’s group” continues to increase.
Don Agostino’s passion for cycling is infectious and his ability to promote that passion in other cyclists and cycling fans is inspiring. As he often says, “la bicicletta e’ un mezzo di evangelizzazione!” (the bicycle is a means of evangelism!”). Surrounding him is a growing community of cyclists from the region, where cycling is a beloved and highly practiced sport, representing the spirit of the area’s population. What at first seemed unrealistic, is now becoming a reality: the Don Guanella farmstead, and soon-to-be Agribike (agritourism), is under construction, thanks to the volunteer work and help from many of the community’s supporters.
It is from this spirit—to ride and work hard for yourself but also for others—that the idea for the Granfondo Don Guanella was born. All registration proceeds go toward the continued construction and improvements on the Cascina Don Guanella and AgriBike, a structure that will be a touristic reference point for cyclists and cycling fans. Its location in Valmadrera is easily accessible to the Triangolo Lariano as well as the eastern branch of Lake Como—both areas offer incredible cycling routes and destinations. Even more so, the Cascina and Agribike is an agricultural and social project for the welcoming, care, education, and insertion of alienated teenagers in the workforce in the sectors of agriculture and tourism.
The Granfondo Don Guanella is a novelty within the granfondo circuits for two main reasons: (1) its value in the cycling community of Lake Como and (2) it is the first-ever granfondo event where all proceeds go to charity. Plan to join us this May pedaling along some of the most historic roads that play a huge role in Italian cycling today.
The first race edition—October 8th, 2017—was a huge success: there were nearly 1,200 participants in the race, 800 of them attending the after party at the Cascina Don Guanella (current farmstead and future AgriBike). There were nearly 150 volunteers along the route, and several champions participated as well, supporting and promoting the event many months prior. The second edition will take place on May 27th, 2018, with the goal to continue the development of this social agricultural project-Cascina Don Guanella-dedicated to the youth in need.
Many promotional events led up to the race, featuring many champions and famous figures from the cycling world—like Cadel Evans, Alex Zanardi, Felice Gimondi, Gianni Bugno, Claudio Chiappucci, Gianbattista Baronchelli, Alessandro Ballan, Maurizio Fondriest, and many more—as well as important locals and other famous athletes.
The second annual Granfondo Don Guanella is here! Mark your calendars for May 27, 2018! This year’s event will take us to the mythical Ghisallo, as the cyclists will ride through fascinating and picturesque towns of Lake Como, like the famous Bellagio, known as the “pearl of the lake,” and Lecco. Ride with us and several champions to enjoy the solidarity among cyclists, the beauty of Lake Como, and the history of cycling, all while supporting the Cascina Don Guanella and AgriBike projects.
Support with your sport! Register today! www.granfondodonguanella.it
2018 Granfondo Route
* I want to thank Vittorio Mevio, president and race organizer of the main gran fondo circuit in Italy, GS Alpi. He has given so much to the Don Guanella community—his experience and his work—to make the Granfondo Don Guanella a reality all for charity. I thank him for the opportunity to be on the race committee.
by Luca Negri © 2018 Bike It! Bellagio
There are several beautiful cycling destinations around the world. Every place has its own unique scenery, its specialties, its challenges, and its must-see’s. If someone were to ask me what Lake Como is like—declared the most beautiful lake in the world in 2014 by the Huffington Post—the first words that come to my mind are elegance, legend, and sacred.
Elegance, because for centuries Lake Como has been a destination for “elegant tourism,” in the past referred to as elite tourism. Famous poets, musicians, authors, politicians … so many have come and continue to come to relax and admire the extraordinary, natural scenery on Lake Como, ever since the time of the ancient Romans, to more recent times by Leonardo da Vinci, Franz Liszt, Stendhal, John F. Kennedy, and, of course, George Clooney. The elegance of Lake Como is reflected by its historic villas, whose presence can be felt as you ride your bike along the lake. One villa after another, amongst small towns perched upon the lake’s limestone and granite mountains, with their simple, yet antique style, seemingly untouched by the passing of time. They are still perfectly harmonious with their surrounding nature.
A tour of Lake Como's western branch
Legend, because the legends and stories that you can breathe around the lake are still strong. The stories of Lake Como include those of defense, conquerors, hard life, mythical anecdotes about the contrabands of the past, and stories of unforgettable cycling. For example, when taking on the Ghisallo climb in the Giro di Lombardia in 1919, it was considered pure insanity, and 50 years later, taking on the Muro di Sormano was also then considered pure insanity. Today, these challenging climbs are taken on by cyclists from around the world.
However, the people from this area weren’t afraid of or discouraged from challenging themselves; they prayed to the Virgin Mary and went on. Italian cyclists’ faith continues to be an inspiration and means of support to them, and the Lake Como area is considered sacred. It’s not surprising that the only Virgin Mary for the protection of cyclists can be found here, on top of the renowned climb of Ghisallo: the sanctuary of La Madonna del Ghisallo. In 1949, the Pope acknowledged this sanctuary with a torchlight procession of inauguration from Rome, which both Italian cyclists Coppi and Bartali took part in. The sanctuary is quite small, yet full of historic memorabilia that tell the story of cycling. After 50 years, the chapel was unable to hold all of the legendary stories of the sport, so in 1999 Fiorenzo Magni founded the Ghisallo Cycling Museum, and it was built in 2000, next to the chapel, to hold antique bicycles and memorabilia with undeterminable value. Come and experience the elegance and legend of the sacred Lake Como by bike!
The Lake Como area is one of those destinations best explored on two wheels, so you can discover the local stops and enjoy the incredible, panoramic views. Each side of the Lake is different. The West is very pristine, the streets lined with villas and beautiful architecture, giving you a taste of Switzerland … the border is very close! The North is where the PreAlps begin to fade away as the Alps tower above you … the roads are quiet and more open. The valleys on the East side have a wild feel to them. The South, the Larian Triangle, home to the Madonna del Ghisallo and Muro di Sormano, contains the famous roads of the Giro di Lombardia. Going beyond the Larian Triangle into the Brianza region, the roads of il Lombardia continue with Tuscan-like landscapes and several rolling hills. The variety of cycling routes to choose from, all with their own unique beauty, is why so many cyclists return to this area—several times—as there is always something new to try! And the road conditions along and above the lake are great! A presto!
For those who have cycled in the Lake Como area, please share what you have liked best about the region.
A ride on Lake Como's "wild" side!
Riding through the hills of Brianza, south of Lake Como