Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Andy Hampsten

I just read this on CyclingNews a minute ago. It was less interesting to me for the bike (though it is cool and a great bike with details that fit the rider perfectly), but for the rider.

Andy Hampsten was one of the few riders who really captured my imagination and inspired me when I was racing as a junior. Andy is in his mid 40's now and isn't all that much older than me, but he was that generation ahead of me that I watched going on to worlds I was dreaming of one day reaching.

Andy's Giro d'Italia win in 1988 was probably more significant to me than Greg LeMond's first Tour win in 1986. Probably because Greg was the heavy favorite and was a dominant champion of the time- and had simply decimated the domestic scene here before jumping to the other side of the world to win bigger races. Andy wasn't that guy- he wasn't the dominant or expected winner. Sure, he couldn't ever be ruled out if there were hills... but he just wasn't thought of as THE guy in a grand tour.

All that said, Andy was one of the riders who I really admired. He was a great rider- a climbing specialist. He was a great team rider and rode excellently in the service of LeMond while at La Vie Claire. As a young rider, I was built much like Andy and had a similar riding style- a skinny climber who just tried to stay out of trouble until the hills.

After winning the '88 Giro, Andy remained one of the most humble champions of the sport and became one of the most legendary champions of the race. The stories of his epic ride into history are many, but he always remained the quietly humble rider who happened to win one of the most epic editions of the Giro.

In retirement, Andy has run a tour company that takes riders on glorious rides through Italy to experience the fantastic roads, scenery and food of the country that truly placed him in the pantheon of cycling champions. His name also graces some incredibly beautiful bicycles too. He and his brother Steve have worked with some of the best builders around to craft the frames.

From time to time I've gotten a comment/ email from Steve over the past few years; if you happen to read this Steve, please pass along my best to Andy. This 20th anniversary of his historic win is a great time to thank him for inspiring a skinny kid from Alabama to keep riding and racing. Heck, if Andy's willing (or both of you), I'd be honored to do a little Q&A/ interview... and I promise I'll do my best to not sound too much like a fawning bike nerd.

Bravo Andy!



iworedettos said...

lemond brought me into the sport and i'll always be inspired by him (warts and all). andy kept me coming back to cycling. there hasn't been a classier american rider in the pro peleton.

nice post and hope yer on the mend.

bikesgonewild said...

...nice tribute to basically a great unsung cycling personality (i don't like the word 'hero')...if cycling were only represented by honest gentlemen like andrew hampsten, we'd be much better off...

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more about the piece on Andy. I remember reading about his ride in 1988 as a kid. I never actually knew that much about him, and after reading that bike review I came away simply thinking, what a champion. It is too bad there aren't more riders like him now. - Scott

Anonymous said...

You should go back and look at the bike again.
You actually already have a basic chassis in your Speciale Commuter that, with some tweaks could provide a really nice bike for all the guys that used to run straight blocks regardless of the terrain that now just want a nice ride for the brevets, randonneurs, and commutes to work they now do.

The spirit of that model, which is exemplified in Any's current ride, really has a lot of potential, if a little energy was given to it.

- Ryan