To Varenna - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

October 13, 2018

To Varenna

So the good thing about biking without overreaearching the route is the serendipity of surprise - I love stumbling across something that by chance happens to be on our route, like the boat bridge across the Oglio or the Versailles of the Duke of Parma.

The bad thing about this is that we often don’t really know what we are looking at, and miss out on things we didn’t know to look for.  Today was a case in point.  Midway through the ride, we crossed paths with the 1918 Giro di Lombardia, a one day race that is one of the high points on the professional cycling calendar.  We knew something was going on, because spectators were lining the street and traffic control police were about.  Soon, a pack of half a dozen bicyclists blew by at great speed, fortunately just a minute after we parked our bikes and got off the road.  Then, nothing for a few minutes, although something was obviously still happening because no one was going anywhere.  Then, some motorcycles with lights flashing; then another pod of racers; and then some team cars  careening down the road after them.  Then, nothing for several minutes.  Then, many more motorcycles; and a huge peloton; and many more team cars.  Then a dozen ambulances.  Then a steady jam of normal traffic that didn’t abate for twenty minutes - the cars that had been held up until the race passed by.

I didn’t figure out what this was until the evening.  If I’d known, the whole day would have made more sense.  The big surprise this morning was that the hill above Bergamo was crazy with cyclists.  We must have seen five hundred of them in the first few miles of the ride.  It’s Saturday, and we thought this was just normal weekend cycling activity here and were highly impressed.  Actually though, it was surely associated with the race, which began in Bergamo this year. And, I’ll bet that the team of cyclists I saw yesterday in Piazza Vecchia were up here for the race too.  Maybe it was one of the teams entering the race, out on a warmup run.

Later in the day, we climbed Madonna del Ghisallo, a hill south of Bellagio.  We went that way by chance, because it looked like a good, quiet route to the heart of Lake Como.  On our climb, we were faced with a constant stream of bikers racing down the other way.  I’m sure these were connected to the race, which finished near here (and was won by Pinot, in his most important victory of his career, acing out Vincenzo Nibali who came in second).

I didn’t know the significance of Ghisallo to the cycling world though, until we created the summit and found a cycling museum and an impressive monument to racing cyclists.  Ghisallo is very important to cyclists, and the Madonna del Ghisallo is the patron saint of cyclists.  The museum is apparently filled with significant memorabilia to the cycling world - jerseys, trophys, photos, bicycles.  If I’d known it was there, I would have made sure we allowed time to explore it; but it was too late in the day, and we couldn’t spare the time if we were going to get in before dark.  Next time, if we’re lucky enough to come back this way.

We’re staying in Varenna for the next three nights, at the middle of Lake Como.  Across the water in one direction is tourist-mad Bellagio, and in the other direction is Mennaggio.  Varenna, by contrast, is beautiful but not overcrowded.  It looks like a beautiful place to lay over for a bit.

In the hills north of Bergamo
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Huge fir cones - they must be ten inches long.
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So what species of fir is this, anyway?
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Andrea BrownPerhaps an Abies nordmanniana (Nordmann fir) but most likely an Abies alba, Silver fir.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownOh, good. I half expected someone to tell me it wasn’t even a fir. Pretty good first cut, huh?
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1 month ago
In the hills north of Bergamo. Where’s Rachael?
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The second breakaway group on the Giro di Lombardia. After this, Rachael reminded me that I have a video. Be sure to look at it. Pinot, Nibali and Valverde are in there somewhere, whizzing past my parked Bike Friday.
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The route for the 2018 Giro di Lombardia
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I’d thought we were done with lizard photos for the season!
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Antique distance marker
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Moorhen, Lake Pusiano. Look at those awesome feet!
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Jen GrumbyMakes me wonder what size my feet would be if they were similarly proportioned to my body? And would that allow me to walk over mud flats?
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyWhat a lovely vision! You should test it out for your Halloween contest this year. Send pics!
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1 month ago
Beginning the ascent to Ghisallo from the much easier approach
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As we climbed to the summit of Ghisallo, we were passed by a constant stream of bikes racing down the other way. I’m sure these were part of the crowd associated with the Giro, which completed not far from here.
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The monument to cyclists at Madonna del Ghisallo
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Camera shy Rachael wipes the sweat from her eyes at the summit of Ghisallo
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We have a kindly elderly Italian gent to thank for this picture. He kept gently correcting us until we got it right. Would you like me to take your photo? Wouldn’t you rather stand in front of the monument? Wouldn’t you like your bikes in the photo? Wouldn’t you like to stand next to your wife? perfect!
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Bruce LellmanI think he was probably right on all counts. It's a very nice photo.
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1 month ago
Beginning the descent from Ghisallo to Bellagio, the much added approach (14% in spots). The Giro di Lombardia came up this way an hour or so earlier. It’s a crazy descent - who needs Stelvio, anyway? Rachael’s video gives a feel for it, and for how ridiculously slowly we descend.
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On the ferry from Bellagio to Verazza, hoping none of these motorcycles will tumble over and crush our bikes.
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These are the peaks just south of Mennaggio. I’m not sure, but I think the closer peak is Monte Grocione and the one behind it is Monte Tremezzo.
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Varenna, our home for the next three nights
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Ride stats today: 47 miles, 4,200’

Today's ride: 47 miles (76 km)
Total: 1,468 miles (2,363 km)

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