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.