The Madonna del Ghisallo is one of the most famous climbs in Europe and has played a key role down the years in Il Lombardia, the one-day ‘Monument’ Classic.
It is ridden by thousands of amateurs each year, but how do they compare to the pros?
During this year’s Il Lombardia, we had data trackers on the bikes of eventual race winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and runner-up Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors). Below, we contrast their performances on the Madonna del Ghisallo with a range of levels of amateur rider.
Comparing any two riders on climbs is tricky because their different weights demand different power outputs to achieve the same result. To make it as simple as possible, we have looked at amateurs weighing from 65-75kg.
THE MADONNA DEL GHISALLO
The Madonna del Ghisallo is 8.2km long and averages 5.7 per cent in gradient. It has a maximum gradient of 14 per cent, right at the start, and a 12 per cent ramp just before the finish.
*Il Lombardia organisers count flat sections at the start and end of the Madonna del Ghisallo as part of the climb, hence why their 8.65km measurement is longer than the 8.2km our data is taken from.
THE FULL CLIMB
Nibali and Alaphilippe both ascended the Madonna del Ghisallo as part of the peloton, so they were not riding with maximum effort.
The data below shows how they compared to amateurs on the full length of the climb.
Despite holding back, Nibali and Alaphilippe still climbed at almost twice the speed of an average club rider and produced one-third more power.
Even an exceptional amateur would be dropped by the peloton on the Madonna del Ghisallo and lose about four minutes.
STEEP SECTION ANALYSIS: FIRST 3.4KM
The difference between pros and amateurs becomes even more pronounced on steep gradients. Below is the data comparison for the steep first 3.4km of the climb, which averages 9.5 per cent.
An average club rider would lose 10 minutes to Nibali and Alaphilippe on this section, while the very strongest amateurs would lose about one and a half minutes.
STEEP SECTION ANALYSIS: LAST 1.3KM
The Madonna del Ghisallo has steepens again close to the top. Below is the data comparison for the last 1.3km of the climb, which averages 9.8 per cent in gradient.
Once again, Nibali and Alaphilippe climb twice as fast as the average club rider and produce almost twice as much power.
Exceptional amateurs could maybe match their power output but would still lose up to one minute on this stretch.
The data shows that even the very best amateurs in the world would struggle to stay in the peloton on most climbs.
We have looked at just one climb of the 2017 edition of Il Lombardia, and exceptional amateurs would have lost four minutes here alone. Over the course of the full 247km route, which contained more than 4,000m of climbing, an exceptional amateur’s time deficit to the peloton, let alone the winner, would be huge.
Meanwhile, average amateurs – still strong riders in their own right – are riding at about half the speed and power of pros and would roll through the finish in Como several hours down on the pros, and probably far more exhausted.