The Quella / Il Perlo Single Speed Ghisallo Challenge

The Quella / Il Perlo Single Speed Ghisallo Challenge

Following a fantastic stay at the Hotel Il Perlo, a cyclists’ mecca overlooking Lake Como on the iconic Ghisallo climb, an idea was born for a new Quella challenge that stripped away the luxuries of super-lightweight carbon bikes with multiple gears and gave modern cyclists a taste of what the riders of the early editions of the Giro and the Tour experienced.

There are many iconic climbs in the cycling world, but few can have the status and history of the Ghisallo.  It has been the most celebrated climb of the Giro Di Lombardia since 1905, it’s tarmac has felt the wheels and the sweat of Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, Tom Simpson, Sean Kelly, Eddy Merckx, Vincenzo Nibali, and most recently Tadej Pogacar – all winners of this classic Monument race. 

The Ghisallo has also featured many times in the Giro D’Italia and returned to the Giro’s route in 2019 where Dario Cataldo cemented a breakaway stage win with a strong ride up its hallowed slopes.

Giro di Lombardia above Lake Como

Giro di Lombardia above Lake Como

The main climb is 10.6 kilometres long, with with stretches of 14%, at the base is the beautiful lakeside town of Bellagio and at its summit, the Madonna del Ghisallo church.  The story goes that a local Count named Ghisallo was saved from bandits when he saw, and ran to, an image of the Virgin Mary. This apparition became known as the Madonna del Ghisallo, and she became the patron saint for local travellers and a  small but beautiful 17th church sits at the top of the climb in her honour.  Following World War II in 1949, a local priest proposed that the Madonna del Ghisallo should also become the patron saint of cycling, and the directive was later officially endorsed by Pope Pius XII.   The chapel now contains some of the rarest and most historic cycling memorabilia in the world.   

Inside the Madonna del Ghisallo

The Giro di Lombardia passes the Madonna del Ghisallo

It is a unique shrine to cycling, and the site of the eternal flame for cyclists who have died. Among the memorabilia is the broken bicycle of Fabio Casartelli, a native of the region, who died racing the 1995 Tour de France. 

 Next to the chapel stands the amazing Ghisallo Cycling Museum charting bicycle design and road racing throughout its history.

The Museo del Ciclismo next to the Madonna del Ghisallo chapel

On visiting this museum after being guided up to the top of the Ghisallo by Il Perlo’s owner, Carlo Sancassano, the first thing that struck us Quella folk was the gearing on the old single-speed bikes in the museum that were used to ride these climbs in the early 1900’s.  Whole grand tours were ridden with a flip-flop hub that offered these rock-hard rider two gears, one for climbing and one for everything else.  The only way to change gear was to take the wheel off and flip it around, so riders generally pressed on unless the climbs got really steep.  Unbelievably, the Giro was also longer in those days.  The 1914 race was over 3200kms and included five stages of over 400kms, all undertaken on 16kg plus steel bikes with a single speed.  This formed an idea for a new Ghisallo challenge in collaboration with our friend Carlo – ‘Why not use a steel framed classic Quella to give modern cyclists the chance to ride the Ghisallo like the riders of yesteryear and record a time in the process?’  

Gina Bartali and Fausto Coppi, legends of the Giro del Lombardi

Il Perlo is above the town on the roadside, exactly 7.8 kms from the church and the top of the climb. 

The challenge is simple:

  1. Take our Quella / Il Perlo bike from the hotel, turn your Strava on, and go to the start point in Il Perlo’s car park to ride through the start.
  2. Pedal out of the drive and up the Ghisallo as fast as you can until you reach the chapel. 
  3. Check your time on the Quella – Il Perlo Single Speed Challenge Strava segment, save it and record it in the book at Il Perlo reception where you you will join a unique club of riders and get a certificate to prove it!

For additional bragging rights, a Quella Ghisallo Challenge T-shirt can be purchased only by riders who complete the challenge for 25 euros.

Madonna del Ghisallo Chapel at sunset

If you think you’re up to the challenge or just to find out more about the lovely Hotel il Perlo, a perfect mecca for cyclists, email us at or you contact Carlo Sancasso directly at Hotel Il Perlo on the email address:

Find out more about il Perlo here

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