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July 9 2007 - Drive from Torino to Cortina D'Ampezzo


Ride Italian Classics Climb on Lake Como Ghisallo

We got up early this AM, everyone was feeling lousy since the room wasn’t exactly the Ritz Carton! No matter we settled up with the hotel, had some breakfast and headed out to find our adventure.  The first thing we found was Torino traffic. The next thing we found was Milan Traffic ….. uugh. So many thinks to like about Italy and so many to not like.

Eventually we worked our way up to the lakes and decided to try and find a bike shop in Lecco to fix Paul’s seat clamp. We had no luck as it seems in addition to not working on Sunday, the Italians don’t work Monday morning either.  We did find a grocery store where Paul was able to get some hose clamps that he and Tom kludged into a custom seat clamp.

The area around the Lake Como and Lake Lecco regions were spectacular. The hills came right down to the water with only a narrow road separating the  two. We found our parking area and set up for the ride.

The town where we stopped was a village in Valbrona and it was interesting. We parked in a parking area that turned out to be the spot where all the kids waited for their parents to pick them up after their summer activities. It felt strange with all these kids watching every move we made and I guess my American lack of trust was showing though as I was definitely nervous about leaving the van and our stuff with all the kids around. In hindsight, I think it was very obvious that we were not locals and that we were American. The kids obviously were just interested to see what we were all about. The parking lot and town were very safe.

The ride started with a short descent on a wet road so we had to take it easy. Luckily, there were not a lot of cars on the road.  At the bottom of the hill, we took a left and rode along the lake for about 10K. The roads were so narrow that while we were driving out after our ride, we came face to face with an oncoming tractor trailer truck. We both stopped and neither could pass. Tom eventually backed up a bit and hugged the wall and the truck moved as far over as he could and we got by with only cm to spare.  The views along the lake were spectacular. Looking across the lake, you could see avalanche shelters on the roads.

When we reached the town Bellagio, we headed up the famous Ghisallo. The Ghisallo is part of the Tour of Lombardy that is run every October and signals the end of the classics racing season. Riding up the climb I felt like Palo Bettini and imagined riding in the Tour. The lower slopes of the climb were about 8%, but soon it kicked up to 14%. Tom raced off to the top, while Paul and I slogged our way up the climb. Actually, I felt pretty good so I was happy.

Here’s a shot of  Paul, approaching a pull off area about half way up the initial slopes. Everything was very green and it was pretty warm and definitely humid.

When we reached the top, we found the Museo de Ciclismo was closed (we knew that ahead of time).

One of the maintenance crew pointed us to the small santuary for the Madonna del Ghisallo, where we could see some memorabilia. All in all, it was more than pretty cool.

After looking through the chapel, the descent back to the car was pretty easy, but the road surface wasn’t really great. We got there, loaded the van and started the trip to Cortina. Before we got too far, we passed a bike ship where we stopped to get Paul his replacement clamp for his seat post.

When I initially wrote this entry, we were on A22 heading towards Bolzano and Cortina D’Ampezzo, our destination for the night. 

As an Epilogue to the day, we finally reached Cortina at 22:00. Just after I finished the initial write-up, we encountered a significant storm that had trees down by the side of the road and lots and lots of rain and wind. Wow … but we arrived. Tom hung around at hotel which was the Hotel Meuble VillaNeve and cleaned up and Paul and I braved the wind and rain to go out for a pizza and a beer at the Pizzeria Ristorante Vienna.