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

Related Posts

67 Replies to “Unforgettable Rides: Gavia 1988”

  1. Bobke describes this in “The Day The Hardmen Cried” in _BobkeII_. His firsthand account when invited to speak is inspiring, hilarious and frightening all at the same time. Apparently the buildup of snow on his head chilled the visual nerves to his “brain” (quotes intentional) and he arrived at the finish blind and in shock from hypothermia. This after stopping on the descent and turning to go back up hill to try to generate some heat to warm up. Guess the team tossed him in a hot shower at the hotel to bring him bcak to life. He claims he was stripping off the cold gear while the podium was being presented, and this is the only time he’s been naked in front of a podium girl.

    And he said seeing Andy in pink was all worth it. A-Merckx.

  2. Chapeau. This series will be a fantastic addition to the archives. And I can think of few better ones to start with. (I can, though, think of a few which could follow …)

  3. yes, very exiting. but it becomes less exiting when every two month the cycling blogs over the world come with the GAVIA 1988 story. best S.

  4. @Stefan
    True enough. But like great works of art, there is always more that can be said. And some of it is occasionally worth saying. Besides which, the other sites are not THIS site!

  5. On my old Sears tool box, I still have a Cinelli sticker with Andy in pink diving into a corner on his time trial Huffy–bull horns, small front wheel, white shower cap, big Oakley Factory Pilots and all. And it looks like he’s wearing a Dutch orange Swatch.

    Picture may follow late tonight. Must leave for an appointment now. Dammit.

  6. G’phant, excuse me ;) “great work of art” are seldom and very special, something cycling can not reach. just one name/example from many: “guernica”.

  7. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    I had that sticker too. On the binder i kept my training log in. Two divorces and 20 years later who knows where it is.

    Can’t wait to see a pic. Maybe we can make some new ones!

  8. @Stefan
    Cycling is more than the act of pushing pedals (though as a meditation it is an art in itself). It’s about pushing through barriers, about connecting people and places, about surmounting language and cultural barriers, and occasionally, every decade or 2, it’s about looking good in pink, or white, or whatever. Accomplishments like that of Andy’s or Johan’s, or countless other luminaries are indeed special and seldom, and worthy of praise. Watching them compete is watching art in motion, something few of us may ever experience.

    “Something cycling cannot reach”. May Merckx have mercy on you. Such blasphemy…

  9. giacomo2k2,

    “”Cycling is more than the act of pushing pedals”” right, well said, I agree.

    Cycling Tips Blogg Facebook Title: Panache is having a crack at a time where no one else has the balls to do so. Stupidity is making a move that makes no sense. Why do so many people think that Hushovd rode with no “panache” at Paris-Roubaix?

    somebody says:

    “””Eddy would have done what he did best, take more drugs and help kill the sports reputation. Please lets not bring the cheating dopers into and otherwise spectacular 2wks of racing. (Eddy, Pantini, Miguel, Festina, Floyd, Armstrong pre-cancer). I personally will never look at their achievemnts as herioc or legendary, just another dog act tarnishing a wonderful sport””

  10. @Stefan
    Thanks for you input, though I can’t quite make sense of the last one – not sure what’s you and whats others.

    If these pages were to be filled with things that haven’t been covered elsewhere, we wouldn’t have very much to say, would we? I personally have never had an original idea in my life.

    We just like to chat about whatever cycling-related topics come to mind, and for me – today – I stumbled upon this picture of Andy and felt like talking about it. The fact that others write about it every week as you say should only emphasize how remarkable that stage was.

    BTW, if you’re suggesting you only like riders who haven’t doped, I sincerely hope you’re not just basing your judgements on those who have failed a control. I think anyone paying attention knows thats like measuring the composition of the ocean based on a teaspoon of water.

    In case you haven’t checked them out, Wade’s Cycling Tips Blog is about the best one out there.

  11. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    My favorite shot of him is him standing in the start gate of the final TT, with Factory Pilots, just standing there like a badass – all focus. Must find.

    Regarding Davis Phinney, what a stud, and not a small part of the reason I’m so interested in watching Taylor’s development.

    Via @TaylorPhinney‘s twitter feed:

    I had to do 1600 watts to just barely beat @davisphinney in a town sprint today… He got me on 3 separate occasions. Comeback?

  12. I love that old Dura-Ace group. Those brake levers were stunning, the shifters just the right size; the cam on the brakes art.

    I also love how in the main shot, his bike looks white.

  13. At the risk of upsetting Stefan – or is that Adrian- I remember reading an interview with Hampsten where he said the only reason he made it to the finish line was that his hotel was on the other side of it. If his hotel was in town before the line he would have packed and gone straight there.

  14. Frank – great article, and looking forward to the continuation of this series… oh, and welcome back Adrian.

  15. frank :
    @Jeff in PetroMetroMy favorite shot of him is him standing in the start gate of the final TT, with Factory Pilots, just standing there like a badass – all focus. Must find.

    Frank: It’s on page 71 of Watson’s “Visons of Cycling”. I also love Watson’s photoscript on the page about how Andy looks all arrogant and that it is so out of character for him. Super photo!

  16. @Stefan

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

    Manet (1863)

    Monet (1865)

    Cezanne (1906)

    Picasso (1907)

    Yep, no sense in that…

  17. Jeff in PetroMetro :
    On my old Sears tool box, I still have a Cinelli sticker with Andy in pink diving into a corner on his time trial Huffy-bull horns, small front wheel, white shower cap, big Oakley Factory Pilots and all. And it looks like he’s wearing a Dutch orange Swatch.
    Picture may follow late tonight. Must leave for an appointment now. Dammit.

    Great attention to detail. Just checking out the TT start house pic and what is that watch that he is wearing? So bizarre. Pink band with orange face housing. but then again, it WAS the ’80’s!

  18. Marko :
    Ay, this is Stefan. His name is Stefan. Hey, Stefan, harden the fuck up.

    Un-fucking-believably well played! Totally lost some soda out the nose on that one.

  19. @Jklash

    Excellent work. Obviously you’re a Velominatus. Indeed you’re right:

    Though it wore the red, green and white livery and labels of official team sponsor Huffy, Hampsten’s bike was actually a custom made rig crafted to his specifications by famed US builder John Slawta of Land Shark after a team-issued frame broke beneath him earlier that spring at Fleche-Wallone. That failure was eventually sourced back to an errant shipment by the builder’s tubing supplier but still, Hampsten says his confidence was shaken and he wanted to go with something tried and true.

    “I felt bad about not using a Serotta [the company that actually built the team ‘Huffys’] and sticking with the team supplier,” Hampsten told us. “It wasn’t Serotta’s fault. 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.

  20. This post is Gold, Abolutely Gold. Love the story and wouldn’t want the facts to get in the way. Facts do not make legends, fans make legends.

  21. Nice one frank.

    A moment in (Cycling) time that has gone down in history to become part of legend. Like all good legends should, they get rehashed over time and with each re-telling, details start to blur and verisimilitude comes into its own.The beauty of this is that it then allows those re-telling or, in this day and age, re-blogging, the liberty to use ones own imagination or that part which is interesting to ones own benefit. This blog being case in point. Part of the reason I love coming to this site.
    I also think that Verisimiltude lies at the heart of what you have achieved through these pages. I admire you and the other Keepers and contributors for that. The fact that it also starts with the V isn’t a coincidence!
    Great idea for future articles, look forward to them. As for art, to use that well worn cliche – “don’t know much about art, but I know what I like” and I like cycling, ergo it’s definitely art to me!

  22. A great story about Davis Phinney and his Serotta built by Dave Kirk, now of Kirk Frameworks:

    Once a year, Davis Phinney, leader of the Coors Light professional cycling team, would come to the Serotta factory for a few days to boost the morale, get his hands dirty, go for a ride with the shop guys and visit the birthplace of his bikes.

    The rides were a ‘no one gets dropped’ type of ride and they were a good time to hang out on the bike and talk. We were heading back to the factory at a casual 15 mph when one of our builders, Richard, started taunting Davis. Richard called him names and told him that he didn’t think that Davis could stay on his wheel. Richard then sprinted up the road ahead of the group and Davis just smiled and laughed. After Richard got a good 200 meters up the road Davis asked, “Should I reel him in?” We were approaching a corner that I knew was full of gravel and sand but before I could give a warning Davis flew out of the group and up the road. I’ve ridden with some very strong riders but I’ve never seen anyone accelerate that quickly before and he was going an easy 35 mph when he passed Richard and dove into that dirty corner. I thought for sure he’d go down in the gravel and imagined the huge road rash he’d have. Yet Davis counter-steered into the corner, laid the bike way over and two wheel drifted through the corner in complete control – gravel spitting out from under the tires. The look on Richard’s face was priceless.

    This was remarkable in two ways. The most obvious was that Davis had no trouble at all carving around the corner with so much junk in the road. He never backed off or stopped charging – he just railed it. The second was he did it on a bike I designed and built for him. Prior to racing Serottas he raced on ‘crit’ bikes with silly steep angles with short front-centers. While racing in Europe Davis realized that a solid stage race bike was the bike of choice for both long and short events and we built him stage race bikes from then on. I can’t tell you how cool it was to see my work put to that cornering test. It was rewarding to know that he trusted the bike so much. I’ll never forget that.

    This is from the Smoked Out section of the Velocipede Salon website.

  23. frank :
    Woops. Meant to use this picture for the Alexi jab, not the one I posted.

    Hey, did he accidentally put someone else’s teeth in by mistake?

  24. Jklash :
    Not to be a pedant, but the bike was actually a John Slawta built Land Shark and not a Serotta.

    Whaddya mean? Of course that’s pedantry. Brilliant pedantry. The sort of pedantry that is most welcome around here. We rely on it (i) to add to our store of cycling knowledge and (ii) to counteract Frank’s inability to distinguish (or even care that it is polite to distinguish) between fantasy and reality. Marvellous effort.

  25. Great stuff, Frank! I was about to point out the Serotta/Slawta thing but I see it’s all taken care of already, and I understand a lot more about your writing methods now thanks – I don’t feel so inclined to pull you up on every little detail now I know you’re just riffing off the top of your head most of the time. Top article, thanks.

  26. A fine introduction to a well conceived new series. I fully endorse the method, which brings to mind Krabbe’s Anquetil water bottle anecdote and its encounter with “reality.”. The relevant point being that reality cannot hold the wheel of a confident assertion.

  27. @Nate
    A venerable professional gave me two very good pieces of advice early in my working life:
    1. Son, you may be wrong, but never let yourself be in doubt.
    2. Eh young fella, we have dogs, let them bark (when he saw me sending a fax myself – remember them?).

  28. sgt:
    Yep, no sense rehashing topics that have already been covered, especially in art.
    Manet (1863)

    Monet (1865)

    Cezanne (1906)

    Picasso (1907)

    Yep, no sense in that…

    sgt, Manet and Monet are not my favorites, no doubt that they are great painters. from Cezanne or Picasso until today things get interesting. many deep, incredible work, not comparable with the plain “art of pedal pushing”. I love cycling, cycling had and has great exiting moments, nothing to with “great work of art”.

    my feelings, no need to share them.

    best S.

  29. Yeah great post, its always nice to see this story told over and over so thanks. I do think that over time Breukink’s great ride to win the stage has slipped well into the background but Andy’s did define the Giro overall.

    What a great piece of kit that 7400 series Dura Ace was, I’ve always wanted that ever since I first saw it.

    @Jklash +1 !

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

  30. @Marko

    Can someone with the know how attach a clip of where Harden the fuck up Stefan comes from please? Absolutely hysterical Australian comedian. Particularly obtuse reference on an international cycling website, but complete gold.

    Nice one mate.

  31. !!!!! Wicked, cheers Bretto.

    Every painting is a composition of individual brush strokes: The colour, position and orientation of each brush stroke are the result of conscious decisions made on the part of the artist: The result is the work of art.

    Each pedal stroke made by a skilled practitioner is the result of every piece of knowledge and ability they have. The series of decisions they make turn what they do into something else. It’s called sublimation. There’s nothing wrong with admiring the work of people who are good at what they do irrespective of the medium, and that’s part of what makes this website great. Adrian.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.