Monday, August 10, 2009

Part III: Andy Hampsten and the Gavia (and a few other Passes)

Part III, and last, of Buzz Yancich's story of riding with Andy Hampsten.

Andy Hampsten and the Gavia (and a few other Passes), Part III

Alleghe, continued

As important as the riding is there is also the food, wine, story telling and camaraderie. We all enjoyed Andy’s wine tasting on the deck of our hotel overlooking the picturesque lake in Alleghe as much as that day’s riding.

Wine tasting and a few more stories

Not only did Andy make his own history racing in Europe but also had a front seat to it. We enjoyed his insights into Lemond and Hinault during the 1986 Tour and many other revelations about the world of professional cycling.

Culinary diversions:



Local Pear Grappa

Hampsten’s crew is hand picked from diverse backgrounds and they really add a great dimension to the trip. Journalist Bruce Hildenbrand who is a walking encyclopedia of cycling history, a former mountain bike racer now turned Lute maker, the lovely Elaine, amongst others and our “patron saint” Gerardo – an Italian bike shop owner who doesn’t speak any English and yet can seemingly communicate with you on a telepathic basis in the most humorous way imaginable. A sort of modern day Harpo Marx – brilliant.

Topping it off are the riders themselves. We had a great collection of folks including my now dear friends Bob and Susan Long, Ken Whiteside, Susie and Corey from Alaska and my riding pal Andy Bowdle. If you want inspiration, try riding and sharing great meals and many bottles of wine with folks who are curious by nature, have a constant smile on their face and know that with PERSISTENCE any obstacle in life can be conquered. That’s the way to live. Isn’t that why we all love cycling?

Dinner time - Salut!

Of course, any trip to ride in Italy is bound to be a unique experience whether it is booked through a cycle touring company or a solo effort. The riding is sublime but what sticks with you in the months after your return home is the hospitality, the respect towards cyclists, the food and wine culture and that daily espresso made by the local guy who makes you feel like an old friend.

Getting the opportunity to ride with Poli and Hampsten took the experience to another level. It is interesting that they are so different in their physical make up and personalities and yet they are very similar in their love of cycling and now showing others the joy of riding in Italy. It also struck me that both of these men put themselves in the right place at moments in their racing careers and then had the courage to seize the day under the most difficult conditions. Hampsten on the Gavia and Poli on Mt. Ventoux. It is a lesson for all of us. When your moment comes dare yourself to go beyond your comfort zone.

In this media driven sports celebrity age, it is also refreshing that such historical figures in the sport are frankly such decent guys who genuinely seem interested in making sure that your experience is the best one possible.

It is fair to say that I never expected the Italian cycling experience to be so indelible. We all became so enamored of our time in Italy that our group is headed back this September for another go at it.

To paraphrase Eros Poli: “I know everyone in America thinks that the best riding is in France because of the Tour, believe me I love France but, please, let’s be honest, the riding in Italy is better…the roads, the food, the wines…I mean, please, it’s just better.”

Agreed. Better yet, go find out for yourself!

Back in Verona at trip’s end with some of the crew for one last Aperol Spritz in the Piazza del Erbe before flying home.

Buzz and friends rode Hampsten S&S Coupler bikes designed by Steve Hampsten at:

Trips to Italy with Andy Hampsten are found at:

Most importantly, directions for making an Aperol Spritz can be found at:

Part I of Buzz Yancich's story:

Part II of Buzz Yancich's story:

Stories, including cycling trip stories, for the Italian Cycling Journal welcome; contact veronaman@gmail.

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