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MADONNA DI GHISALLO

Lake Como sits in the shadows of snow-capped mountains and luxurious waterfront villages. But it also offers some of Italy's most breathtaking riding opportunities and testing climbs. The most legendary is the peak which summits at the Madonna del Ghisallo chapel, an incredible, awe-inspiring shrine to cycling’s heroes and history with some amazing artefacts, including the bike Fausto Coppi rode to victory in the Giro of 1949. If the ascent hasn't already raised the hairs on the back of your neck, the chapel certainly will.

The climb to the chapel, steep and unrelenting, is a regular feature in the Tour of Lombardy and the roll of honour for that reads like a who's who of Italian cycling greats. Coppi himself leads the way with a record five victories.

READ THE COPPI STORY.

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CIMA COPPI

Originally introduced in 1965, Cima Coppi is awarded to the first rider to summit the highest point in the Giro d'Italia. Italy's most revered and feared passed are the playground of this honour. And this year was no different with the Motirolo – described by many pros as the hardest climb in Italy – and the Stelvio (a double shot) both included on the same day. Eventual Maglia Rosa Tom Dumoulin may have lost his shit, but Spaniard Mikel Landa stayed calm to be crowned Cima Coppi, being the first to summit the Stelvio's 2758m.

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PASSO DELLA STELVIO

While the Motirolo may be harder, less forgiving, a real swearing under the breath ascent, the Passo della Stelvio and its incredible winding roads are surely more infamous. This climb deserves its reputation. The stunning hairpins and snowy backdrop (even in late May) leads you up one of the highest paved roads in Europe. So high, that making it to the top is a challenge in itself. Making it down, although occasionally hair-raising, is probably the most fun you're likely to have on a road bike. Attacking it on a year the Giro took a doppio pass of this mythical mountain, means fresh hot mix too.

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LITTLE STELVIO

So called for its resemblance to its more notable older brother. But piccolo it ain't - particularly if you attempt both on the same day. Less busy and carved magically out of the fir-lined landscape, the climb's 18 or so switchbacks lead to a ruined fort, a mountain-fringed lake (take a dip if your brave enough) and stunning vistas of the alpine village of Bormio – a popular destination for cyclists and skiers alike.

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FIGHTING FOR PINK

It’s tempting to think of the Giro d’Italia as a poor man’s Tour de France. But it's anything but. The Tour is a commercial juggernaut. The Giro a passion-fuelled pantomime to which even the 'regular Joe' can get incredibly close to the action. And fittingly for a stage show of such grandeur, it went to the last act. No procession for the final stage of the Corsa Rosa. Heroes one and all. It played out in true Gladiatorial-style on the cobbled streets and pink-lined piazzas of Milan.

Until next year. Ciao bella.

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“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”

—Jack Kerouac

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