Gran fondo trip report: Chaos in Como

Thursday 18 June 2020 by Frank Jansen

Some time ago, Cyclokalender published a call for the submission of beautiful Cyclover stories. Today we publish our second edition, written by Menno Bartlema. Would you like to share your own gran fondo story, too? Send it by mail, preferably including pictures, to (max 800 words).

For the autumn holidays of 2019 we had planned to visit a friend in Italy who is in Parma for a year for work. And what's the coincidence? In the weekend of the Tour of Lombardy we'll pass Como, the finish town of this autumn classic of 243 km and 4.200 meters of elevation. More good news: the day after the pro's, a gran fondo is organized over a part of the course: Il Lombardia, a shorter version of only 111 km with 1,700m including the famous climbs (Muro di Sormano and the Madonna de Ghisallo). First watch how it really should be done and then try to copy that; we couldn't let that go. On to Como!

Photo: Bauke Mollema would win the pro race this year after a fantastic solo.

Il Lombardia will be organised for the third time this year (the Tour of Lombardy for the 113th time). The first two editions, the start and finish were in Como, but this year they've have moved to Cantu, 15 km from Como, so that the city will not be crippled for a cycling race two days in a row. Too bad, but understandable. On Saturday, the day of the classic, Lies and I cycle to Cantu in the morning to pick up my starting number. On the way there, we take the Civiglio, the second last climb of the race and the climb on which Bauke Mollema will make his decisive breakaway later that day. It's a tough climb of 4 km on average 9.6% with stretches of 14%. The riders already have 220 km in their legs; we ride the climb fresh and Lies already thinks it's a tricky thing.

On the way back, we pass the foot of the Civiglio where find a spot in front of a bar along the road. The riders are expected within half an hour and a huge crowd is flowing in until just before their passage. After a convoy of motorcycles, the first two escapees pass by; shortly behind them is the first group with all the favourites. After the passing of the last riders, we quickly ride back to the centre of town to watch the finish of the race in a cafe. At the finish line it is already too busy to see anything. In the café there are mainly Como residents who, during the last 15 kilometers, shout out cries of recognition at the streets through which the riders cycle. We have more eye on the course itself: Bauke is only in the lead and is going to make it! Party and reason for some extra refreshments.

Photo: public at the round of Lombardy on the Civiglio

Well, try and repeat that... Of course that's not going to work out, but I can probably take a shot at a nice classification with the old men the next day. I get up on Sunday morning at 5.30 am to cycle to Cantu one hour later in the dark to the start which will take place at 7.30 am. Here and there other cyclists (mostly with only a small rear light) meet up. It's cold (about 9 degrees) and the air is little damp. The early start is unfortunately necessary in order to have as little inconvenience as possible from the busy traffic in this area. In the dark I manage to find my starting area with some difficulty; with number 1271 I am about halfway and therefore lose more than 4 minutes at the start. Luckily it has become light by now, so the pot holes en cracks in the road can be avoided and I pass the roundabouts and other traffic obstructions without tearing my clothes.

After a long run of about 40 km through generally busy buildings, we arrive in Asso at the foot of the Muro dir Sormano, a climb of in total 7 km and over 600 meter of elevation. That still sounds acceptable but the last 2 km are on average 16% with a stretch of 27%. When we were on holiday here a couple of years ago with the cycling buddies, I involuntarily missed that last part by taking the main road straight ahead. So now finally the chance to experience what the riders experienced the day before. And that's not nothing!

The Madonna de Ghisallo (9 km an average of 6.2%) is now a piece of cake. After a long descent follows and I ride in a fairly large group the last 30 km through heavy traffic, with all its chaotic scenes, in an express train back to Cantu. The finish line has been drawn on the high central square where it is, how surprisingly, also a huge chaos. I cross the line after 3 hours and 30 minutes of cycling and, given the circumstances, I'm happy with that. The pasta party and the prize-giving ceremony we leave for what it is. No point in exposing us to this chaotic event any longer. On to a quiet place for a well-deserved lunch.

Photo: Centre Como

More info about Il Lombardia.

Text and pictures: Menno Bartlema

Would you like to ride cyclo's? Not everything's been canceled this year. Take a look at our calendar to see what else you can do. Il Lombardia is still planned. The organization is busy with measures to make it happen.

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