by Luca Negri © 2018 Bike It! Bellagio
My pilgrimages, or pellegrinaggi, to Rome have been not just a physical challenge, but a spiritual journey as well. I've cycled from Lecco to Rome, Italy—a 450-mile trip—four times so far. The first time, I was just 15 years old, cycling with my father, brother, and some friends from my small town of Castello di Brianza in northern Italy. We were cycling to Rome for the Jubilee in 2000, and we brought a plaque with us to gift to the Pope. The 2000 trip was also the only time that I returned to Lecco from Rome by bicycle.
For my second trip in 2011, we brought a stone as a gift, a donation or dono, which we took turns carrying in the rear pockets of our jerseys. This stone had been collected by a friend of ours on top of the Pizzo Stella, a mountain that represents Don Guanella, a priest who grew up nearby. That year we were going to Rome for the sanctification of Don Guanella. It was my first of three pilgrimages to Rome with Don Agostino, my priest.
My third and fourth cycling pilgrimages from Lecco to Rome were in 2015 and 2016, when I was also accompanied by Casey. This October, I am making another pilgrimage, but this time I will start in Rome and cycle 530 miles, over six days, to the Madonna del Ghisallo here in the Lake Como region in northern Italy. I will again be accompanied by my wife, Casey, as well as a group of Americans.
Famous places such as the Madonna del Ghisallo in the Lake Como area are well-known because of their sacredness. Nearly 70 years ago, Pope Pio XII proclaimed the Madonna del Ghisallo as the patron saint of cyclists. In 1949 a relay was held in which a group of cyclists rode with a large bronze torch from Rome to the Ghisallo Cycling Sanctuary. The final leg of the relay was ridden by the famous Italian cyclists Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali. Today that same torch is still lit in the center of the chapel in remembrance of the “fallen” cyclists and as a testimony of faith to the living cyclists.
Each Rome cycling trip has allowed me to meet and build friendships with other cyclists, and with each trip I have grown as a cyclist. From first being brought along at 15 years old as a complete newbie to the sport, to now leading a group of non-Italian cyclists on this trip, shows how much this experience has shaped me personally and spiritually and remained a part of my cycling lifestyle.
This six-day, 530-mile trek from Rome to the Madonna del Ghisallo above Bellagio requires motivation. It is also an opportunity for devoted cyclists to bring a dono to Rome where it can be blessed before carrying it by bike and gifting it to the Madonna del Ghisallo. This will be an amazing trip full of significance, comraderie, exploration, self-reflection, and of course cultural and gastronomical appreciation. If you are interested in joining us for this trip, please contact us. Trip details: Pellegrinaggio Roma-Ghisallo 2018
Grazie mille a Fabio Bonanomi e all'archivio foto di Casa Don Guanella per le foto.
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.