The Forgotten Roads
If you can amplify the enjoyment of cycling by adding in the unknown, why wouldn’t you?
With the leaves slowing falling from the trees, and the temperatures starting to cool, we sought to squeeze in one last adventure before the winter really sets in. Where better to enjoy an autumnal adventure than in Lombardy in Italy, of course, but this time around with a twist. With our all-new Roadmachine Xs at the ready, we set out to create our own Giro di Lombardia, exploring the areas that a finely tuned race ready bike could only dream about - a Giro di Lombardia X shall we say. This is the story of that ride.
The route the pros don’t take
Como’s rush hour hums around us. It’s still dark as cars hurtle by, clearly impatient to reach the office. At this point, we’re riding feverishly – an alternative version of productivity – so we can escape the city. In two days' time, when the pros ride this same section of the route of the Giro di Lombardia, they’ll get the luxury of closed roads—but we don’t. For the record, it is the only part of today’s ride that we want to get over with as quickly as possible; we plan on savouring the rest.
Our route mirrors that of the WorldTour race from Como to Bergamo but with some key differences. Most of the loop we’ve created – the back streets, the b-roads, the farmers’ tracks, the singletrack, even – doesn’t feature in the pro version, despite surfaces like these being the reality for so many bike riders. It’s a more adventurous route that’s full of detours and gives us no choice but to face the gradient and the terrain on our Roadmachine X, leaning into the sort of cycling culture that we grew up with.
Before we know it, we swing off the main road and onto the Civiglio climb. You’ll know it from past editions of the Giro di Lombardia but it’s steeper in real life than it looks on the television. While not featured in the 2021 route, we’ve got it as a warm-up for the 5000-plus metres of climbing on our schedule today.
Our route is mapped at 210 km on a bike that’s designed to reset the boundaries of (y)our riding adventures. According to komoot, two-thirds is on road, with the remaining third split between bike paths, loosely defined ‘streets’, and equally as loosely defined ‘paths’. There’s also 5km of singletrack we’re keen to examine, coming at the top of a very appealing-looking gravel section that extends above the Muro di Sormano before dropping down to the top of the Ghisallo.
For a few hours of the WorldTour race after they’ve passed Lecco, all you will see on television will be the ups and downs of bucolic mountain valleys and ancient-looking villages that flash by quicker than you can process. This constantly rolling effect is central to this Pre-Alpine region, with endless twisting loops on the valley sides that connect distant villages. For cyclists, it’s not even that well explored here (other than the Selvino, of course), which makes it perfect for our purposes: embrace the how and why of bike riding, rather than just ticking off the distance with our eyes focused on numbers on a bike computer.
After all, if you can amplify the enjoyment of cycling by adding in the unknown, why wouldn’t you?
There’s a lot of sweat, a handful of swear-words, a few metres of hike-a-bike, and lots of wow-moments. Our average speed ebbs and flows with the contours, but who cares. We are finally getting to ride through a landscape that had teased us over the years, turning onto the lanes and tracks that we’d seen from the roadside that had previously appeared too broken-up or simply too remote to ride. Each alt. diversion feels like a novelty. Even the bike paths give us a jolt of excitement.
Descending Selvino’s 19 hairpins as the sun sets quickly turns into a race to Bergamo’s Città Alta. This is something that the pros will replicate—their prize being a place on the podium, ours a hearty pizza with a view of the city lights. Rewards and route aside, cycling is cycling, so it’s certainly no surprise that whatever version of the Giro di Lombardia you’re in, the traditional or the alt., it ends up as a race.
From fast smooth tarmac to single-track gravel and everything in between, we needed a bike that could handle it all. The Roadmachine X, provided the perfect setup. The trusted lightweight carbon Roadmachine frame with endurance geometry for a full day of riding, the expansive gear ratio range provided by the SRAM Force AXS 1x groupset, and 33mm tires that were able to soak all the rough stuff that we threw at them.