Unforgettable Rides: Gavia 1988

Hampsten on the Gavia in '88. Photo via Rapha.cc

I suppose it's just a sign of how rich our sport is and how enthusiastic we are about it that some of the most iconic rides in cycling go virtually unmentioned in these pages. It almost seems as though they are so tightly woven into legend that we take them for granted, these rides. Nevermore, nevermore: enter a new V-Series where we'll do our best to pull these old rides up from the their place in the backs of our collective minds and dwell on their Awesomeness. I'm not saying we're going to be factual or give a history lesson – that would take “work” and “research”. Instead, we'll just touch on a few of the details we find most interesting, fill the gaps in with confidently-asserted assumptions (which are almost as good as facts, and much less work), and let the community do the rest.

There is no better place to start than Andy Hampten's ride over the Gavia in 1988. Riding a Huffy. I understand it was actually a bike built by famed American framebuilder Ben Serotta, but it said Huffy on it and we all know you're not allowed to lie in writing. Growing up in the States, Huffy's were for kids and even by our standards were crappy bikes. At the time, I imagined Hampsten's bike was heavy, felt like spaghetti on two meatballs for wheels, and had a pedal-brake.

Hampsten had found some success in the professional world in 1985 when he won Stage 20 of the Giro while on a one-month contract with Team 7-Eleven. Hot on the heels of that success, Bernard Hinault snatched him up and brought him into La Vie Claire as Mountaingoat Domestique. But by 1987, however, 7-Eleven was in search of a new leader after having sacked Alexi Grewal on account of his consistent violation of Rule #36 and Rule #37, in addition to his highly questionable choice in headgear.

I can only imagine what was going through the team management's mind when they awoke on the morning of the stage over the Gavia, knowing it was cold and raining in the start village and hearing that over a meter of snow had fallen on the passes. Many of them being based in Boulder, CO, they knew a thing or two about snow and they promptly bought up all the cold-weather gear they could find in the local ski shops and made plans to distribute it to the team's riders along the route.

It's good that the management had some inkling as to the ordeal they were in for, since it appears the riders were fairly oblivious:

On the way up I got rid of all of my warm clothes, my legs were bare, no shoe covers. I did have a pair of neoprene diving gloves that I kept on for the entire climb. Along the way my team car gave me a neck-gator and a wool hat.

I wanted to dry my hair before I put it on €“ maybe 4-5 ks before the top, so I brushed through my hair, thinking I was going to wipe some water out, and a big snowball rolled off my head, and down my back.

I thought €“ €˜Oh my gosh €“ I'm really not producing much heat, even though I've been going up a really hard grade.' So then I had my raincoat, a super thin polypro undershirt on, so my arms were covered, but I was NOT warm at the top of the mountain. We could spend a few hours while I figure out how to describe how cold I was€¦

– Andy Hamptsen

Up was cold, but tolerable.  Down was excruciating. For those of us who have descended a mountain on a sunny day, we know that going down is much colder than going up.  For those of us who have done it in the cold or rain know that your body gives up on shivering and moves on to full-body shakes in an attempt to stay warm. I descended once in moderate sleet, and based on that, I hope none of us will ever have to say we've descended in a blizzard.

Chaos ensued. Hardmen wept. Riders stopped at the side of the road and pissed on their hands and legs in a desperate attempt to warm their extremities. A Dutchman flew the coup and won the day, but the big winner was Hampsten, who went on to claim the only American Giro win to date.


Hampsten's Legendary Huffy, in Huangist detail (this is the reason we love to love that Jimmy-boy):

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/[email protected]/Hampstens 1988 Huffy/”/]

Some great accounts of this ride:

Velonews: Andy Hampsten and the 1988 Pink Jersey, Part 1 and Part 2

Bike Radar: True Stories: Andy Hampsten – The Gavia 1988

Pez: Giro Rides: Andy's Epic Day on the Gavia

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67 Replies to “Unforgettable Rides: Gavia 1988”

  1. @Alex

    BTW whatever happened to those cool Avocet computers? They made some good tires too in the day.

    Aaaah…the Avocets! I got an Avocet 30 for xmas one year…It stands out as the best xmas present I got during my childhood. I carried the box around for a few weeks before installing it on my 70’s Weissman-equipped Raleigh.


  2. Then there was the 1985 Paris-Roubaix when 7/8 of the field DNF’d and riders were unrecognizably covered in filth at the finish. First win for Marc Madiot & LeMond came second – only his lips are recognizably flesh…

    Inimitably narrated by Phil Liggett in one of his first CBS broadcasts with John Tesh’s (shockingly fitting) music. Video Here

  3. Epic ride and I hate to rain on the parade but, I think I heard Bob Roll once say that Andy did not split the Giro Winning money with his team that year. Can anyone confirm? I never looked at Andy the same, after hearing that info. Back in those days domestiques didn’t make much of anything unless the team won a Tour.

  4. Telebyte :
    Then there was the 1985 Paris-Roubaix when 7/8 of the field DNF’d and riders were unrecognizably covered in filth at the finish. First win for Marc Madiot & LeMond came second – only his lips are recognizably flesh…
    Inimitably narrated by Phil Liggett in one of his first CBS broadcasts with John Tesh’s (shockingly fitting) music. Video Here

    I do not think that Lemond was 2nd that year, pretty sure he was 4th. Big George is the only American to podium at P-R, unless I am mistaken. But I agree, that year was EPIC! I believe that Jeff in Petro-Metro’s avatar is Lemond from that year’s P-R.

  5. @mauibike
    Wow! I have never heard that, but that does not mean it isn’t true. Very hard to believe from all I have heard about Hampsten, though. There’s another classic (and classy) story about Hampsten after that Giro win: He was getting on an airplane trip back to the US after winning the Giro and he sat down on the plane next to some older American woman. She asks him what he had been doing in Italy and Hampsten supposedly told her that he had just been biking around the country and left it at that. He never even mentioned that he had been in the Giro, say nothing about winning it. Class act.

  6. @Buck Rogers

    Yeah, BR, I’m pretty sure you’re right.

    1 Marc Madiot (FRA)
    2 Bruno Wojtinek (FRA)
    3 Sean Kelly (IRE)
    4 Greg LeMond (USA)
    (thanks to Wikipedia)

    Funnily enough there’s someone on eBay selling the Paris-Roubaix 85 – 89 on DVD which I picked up a copy of. They’re obvioulsy from old VHS tapes that have been copied from the original CBS sports broadcasts someone has had at home. Complete with some old ad’s that have been missed through editing. Quality is a bit dodgy in parts but overall pretty good.

    Great epic race, don’t know about Tesh’s music though? 80’s synth rock I’d call it. Aunty Phil’s dyed jet black hair is a scream.

  7. ok, so, not to self promote, but if anyone would like, I recorded a podcast with Andy a while back, and we talked a bit about this ride. You can find it at packfiller.com, in the ‘previous posts’ section.

    If this seems like self promotion bs, don’t hesitate to tell me to STFU.

    A great guy, and pretty damn humble for a guy with his palmares.

    [Update from Frank: Podcast can be found here.]

  8. “But I was in a period of my life when I didn’t like crashing due to mystery bike failures, so I went with the sure ride I knew Land Shark would build for me.”

    I am at that period in my life as well. I wonder, does one ever move beyond this period and transcend to a different state?

  9. Question of the day:  Choose one ride for ultimate epicness, and why.  1) Stelvio 2) Mortirolo 3) Gavia.  Discuss…

  10. @sgt


    Yep, no sense rehashing topics that have already been covered, especially in art.

    Manet (1863)

    Bow Wow Wow (1981)

    Man am I bored.

  11. @Forza Ciclismo

    Question of the day: Choose one ride for ultimate epicness, and why. 1) Stelvio 2) Mortirolo 3) Gavia. Discuss…

    Gavia. Hampsten and Bruekink and Delgado. Oakley and Vaseline.

    Jersey and shorts only.

  12. Imagine chasing after only two distinctive sets of tyre tracks in the snow. (photo above)

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