Hampsten on the Gavia

There are those days that don’t just define a man or even a race, but an era, days that rise to the status of myth even as they are happening. June 5, 1988, was one of those days. The Giro d’Italia was finishing its second week, subjecting riders to the Dolomite Mountains in Northern Italia, and when the sun rose, conditions were ominous.

The upstart American 7-Eleven Team prepared in the way you do when you’re terrified of what’s about to take place. Soigneurs coated riders in lanolin and they made hot tea by the gallon.

Bob Roll, possibly the funniest pro cyclist in history, called that day, “The day the big men cried.” No one laughed.

History shows that in the closing kilometers Dutch rider Erik Breukink won the stage, but that’s not what everyone remembers. What Americans and Italians recall is how Andy Hampsten rose from striking distance of the lead to wearing the leaders maglia rosa—pink jersey. The stories told in the Netherlands might be a little different.

Part of the beauty of that day is how the famously nationalistic Italian cycling fans took to Hampsten, adopting him as though his soul was Italian enough to be worthy of their adulation.

This video is crazily edited, beginning with the ending and then working backward through the day.

Next time you question going for a ride on a winter day, just give this a watch. And heck, this was June.

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