There are many places in the world that boast to be the spiritual home of cycling: the twenty-one hairpins of Alpe d'Huez, the pavé of the Arenberg Forest, and the Muur van Geraardsbergen among them. Nothing though, really can claim the spiritual tag like the small chapel that sits at the top of Madonna del Ghisallo. Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins stopped by to take a look at the climb that plays a prominent place in this weekend's Giro di Lombardia.
Legend has it that in mediaeval times, a local count was being attacked by bandits when he saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary, and running towards this vision saved him. Thus, the Madonna del Ghisallo became the patroness of travellers. Then, in 1949 a local priest managed to persuade Pope Pius XII to admit her as the patroness of cyclists. Since then, the small chapel has become a shrine to cycling legends, both living and deceased, and provides a memorial to those who have fallen in our sport.
Being an almost permanent fixture on the percorso of the Giro di Lombardia - as well as featuring regularly in the course of the Giro d'Italia - has kept the chapel in the forefront of the cycling world over the years and a collection of cycling memorabilia that would be the envy of any museum has accumulated inside. The walls of the tiny chapel are almost covered in pennants of cycling clubs from all over the world, jerseys from champions of the recent and distant past, and most prominently, a selection of bikes that have made history.
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