Thursday, March 20, 2008

Twenty Years On

It is simply amazing that twenty years have passed since that fateful May when American Andy Hampsten rode into the books with his historic win at the Giro D'Italia.

BKW's love for the "hardman" winning style makes it easy to admire Andy's win, which was secured by his efforts on the snow-covered Gavia pass. Although his ride brought him over the line to second place, his finishing time netted him the leader's jersey and eventually the overall win. Andy's work that day and his ability to suffer has inspired countless cyclists over the years and pushed many of us deeper into the pain cave than we originally thought possible.

When cyclists think about how brutal our sport can be, we think about riders suffering on climbs through inclement weather and against the tallest of odds. Andy Hampsten's career embodies all of this.

Posing as a legitimate cycling news agency, we managed to pin down Andy to discuss his historic feat and what it meant to be a PRO in the late 80s. We also spoke of the release of Rapha's newest, limited edition jersey that marks Andy's accomplishment and takes many of us back to the heyday and, for some, a return to the birth of our passion for cycling.

Speaking with Andy was an honor. I felt like he had as much fun telling the stories as I did hearing them. His recollection of his racing career is impressive and his love for cycling is evident.

BKW: So much of professional cycling comes down to a rider's ability to suffer more than the rest. Have you ever suffered more than you did in the famous shots of you, white with snow and frozen, crossing the Gavia?

AH: Not more than that day. We had 25 kms of descending in snow and sleet, but we were well-prepared, and that allowed me to stay calm. I am glad no one told me how crazy the descent was.

BKW: How was the win received by the team’s sponsors?

AH: 7-Eleven knew it was primarily an Italian race, and people in the U.S. had no idea about it, they were eager for a Tour win. Hoonved understood the magnitude, they had twenty years of sponsorship under their belt. I gave the trophy to the owner and he was beside himself; he carried it around like a baby. Shimano was very excited, it was their first major tour win. I gave them one of my bikes and it is now in Shimano's museum.

BKW: Rapha seems to pull together all of the design elements that surrounded your place in cycling back in 1988. Does the jersey bring back some fond memories of the time?

AH: I don't wear my pink jersey around too much, for one, it's too small. But Rapha has done a great job of capturing the details, right down to the panel on the front. The original jersey had a panel sewn onto the front of it. The soigneurs took a mussette and cut the side of it out and sewed it onto the jersey. For this reason, it made it tough to wash. I ended up wearing the same jersey for the entire tour. As I get older, companies like Rapha make me snobby. I don't want to wear plastic jerseys anymore.

BKW: What keepsakes do you have from your win at the Giro?

AH: I have the shoes, undershirt, and the Oakleys. I also have the bike. That is my most treasured item.

BKW: Did you have any kind of prep on your legs for the Gavia? Any warming qualities, like today's embrocations?

AH: We used a lanolin prep on everything. Mike Neel had the foresight to advise us to use it everywhere. I had it on my back, arms, legs, butt, everywhere except my hands. We had a meeting before the race and knew we would see rain, sleet, and snow. Some riders preferred to mix the lanolin with Cramer's for heat, some preferred the blazing hot, and others a medium. I applied the lanolin with a little bit of warming so thick to my legs that it was 3-D.

It was a pleasure to speak with Andy and it seems that he still gets a kick out of recounting the tales to cycling fans. Andy's take was interesting. He said that following the win, there was, of course, a celebration, but it was right back to work with the team's sights set on the Tour de France. Now, that's PRO.

Photo Courtesy: Rapha

Check out Andy's insider perspective on the 1986 Tour with the La Vie Claire here.


Anonymous said...

I'll never forget reading about Hampsten's ride on the Gavia and win in the Giro. I had a little Winning centerfold poster of Andy on my dorm room wall and had long admired his billy goat climbing skills. I also knew that few others even understood what it meant, but I was thrilled. American cycling was now more than just Lemond (no disrespect intended at all).

It's so exciting to see all the others now following in their wake, particularly the younger generation of Zabriskie and Cozza. It remains to be seen if they'll scale the same heights as Hamptsen, but they're following in his footsteps.

Unknown said...

Great interview. I have never wanted a pink jersey so badly.

Simon said...
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Anonymous said...

Way to one-up me with a great interview, BKW!

jas said...

Great job. I remember all of us just being shocked with the way he won, by being smarter and tougher than the Europeans... Before that, it always seemed like luck or a trick of some kind when Americans won (except Lemond of course). Absolutely amazing to go back and check out my old velonews and winning (remember that mag?)from then, there is so much white in the faded old B/W photos they look like someone tuned up the contrast way to high in photoshop.

jas said...

I have to add how much I like Rapha gear and esp their catalog. They have pics of riders riding the way we all want to ride - and no helmets!

I don't know if they catch the usual mom style flack "I'll never buy from you because you show blah blah blah", but the website gets updated and no helmets. Gorgeous photography/layout too.

nuovorecord said...

Great post. I never get tired of reading about the '88 Giro and Andy's exploits.

One question arose from the interview. Andy mentioned that he still has the bike he won on. At the recent N. Am. Handbuilt Bike Show, Land Shark was displaying a 7-11 "Huffy" they built, claiming it was Andy's bike he won the Giro on. Did Andy loan it to them for the show? It certainly looked like the bike I've seen in pics. Anyone know for certain?

Padraig said...

I spoke with John Slawta at the show. The bike was definitely Andy's and was on load for, as they say, just long enough.

nuovorecord said...

Sweet. Thanks for the clarification. It was great to look at a piece of history!

Roman Holiday said...

Those riders of the 80's - Greg, Andy, The Badger - inspired me to train/race hard - even to this day. Good article.

CaliRado Cyclist said...

Maybe the single nicest guy you could ever meet.

And quite funny too. An all-rounder so to speak.

bikesgonewild said...

...andrew of THE classiest guys to ever throw a leg over a toptube...

34x18 said...

The biggest compliment I ever received was from Andy, I was pulling espresso shots at the Back Door Cafe for Edge Cycles during Fruita Fat Tire Fest one morning, and Andy had an espresso from my personal blend and said it was one of the best coffee's he has had.

Al things considered I was very flattered.

greenjersey said...

Don't forget that it was Van Der Velde who was first over the Gavia that day (no cape, gloves, arm warmers or hat, he must have been a nutter!)

Mr H said...
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