People who follow bicycle racing casually are all familar with the Tour de France and the other one and two week tours. I, myself, am more fascinated by the one day races which bookend the season, the Spring Classics and the Fall Classics. Whereas the Tours are tactical, team events, with the team leaders conserving energy for two or three major days, the 10 or so Classics are long, let it all hang out, one day races where they race through cold Spring rains as if there is no tomorrow, because there isn't. They are historical races riddened by tough, hard men riding in the shadows of past champions. The season starts with the Tour of Flanders (since 1913). Then come the cobbled races which I love, such as Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North, (since 1896) run over awful, narrow cobbled back roads - a wonderful mixture of sweat, blood, tears and mud. Then there is Leige-Bastogne-Leige (1892) an out and back, and after the major Tours are over come the softer Fall Classics. The season is finally capped by the Giro di Lombardi, a new comer at only 102 years old. While this isn't as difficult a ride as the Spring races, it makes up for it by the scenery along Lake Como, truly one of the beautiful places on earth.
The last climb leaves the lake shore and climbs up to the top of the peak of the Chapel of Madonna del Ghisallo, the patron saint of bicyclists, then back down to the lake to the finish. The peak is crowned by the church, a small chapel filled with the donated bicycles and jerseys of the great champions. Only in Italy could there be a Chapel with a statue, not of the Christ, but of Il Campionissimo, Fausto Coppi. This is the Cooperstown of cycling - and, for a small fee, you can get your cycle blessed.
This is the Ghisallo medal on the back of my bike. I'm not a religious person, but it can't hurt - a little like the whistles people used to put on cars to warn the deer away - you never know if it works or not.