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Interview with Andy Hampsten, Part Two
By Cathy Mehl
Date: 5/25/2005
Interview with Andy Hampsten, Part Two
What factors entered into your d

Our conversation with the only American winner of the Giro d'Italia continues in Part Two of the Andy Hampsten Interview

What factors entered into your decision to retire?

I had wanted to for years, and my daughter had been born that spring, so I would've had to have incredible reasons to keep racing! And anyhow, I was 34. It was fun racing, it was really nice finishing up with US Postal but I wanted to win the Tour. Certainly for a year I had great motivation working with US Postal. Guys like Aaron Baker, certainly Tyler and some other guys who were really good guys. I liked riding on an American team. It was my little way of putting something back into the sport. You know Eddy B (Eddy Borysewicz) was the coach and I've had fluctuating relationships with him but he was certainly the one who helped me as an amateur and also taught me to coach myself, so to be able to work with him again on both ends of my career was really nice.

Have you ever regretted retiring?

Not once. No. I loved traveling around and I loved the racing and hanging out with the guys. But once my daughter was born, that was it for me. If she had been born earlier in my career that would have been a great motivation for me, but there was no magic card at that point. I couldn't train harder than I was, I couldn't turn the back the clock. It was time.


You've found a way to include cycling in your life after your retirement. Was that important to you?

It has ended up being important. I had the idea to do the tours before I stopped racing when I lived in Tuscany. My mom gave me one of those talks that moms give: "What are you going to do next?" I had to come up with something! I had told myself that for two years I shouldn't do anything. Just be retired and get away from cycling to see if I had other interests that were going to pull me in a particular direction. I loved living in Tuscany. I know it pretty well now. I know about olive oil and wine. I know how to talk to the old timers who are making windows in a little village. It's nice going to a castle or a winery, is so fun showing people (on the tours) what these people are doing and what their lives are like. For instance, when he's going to lunch, he's going to lunch! He doesn't want to stick around to sell you some knick-knacks! It's 12:30! It's fun hanging around with fun people, and my groups are mainly Americans. I have a big range of professionals that come on my tours, some with high powered jobs, but this guy goes home for lunch everyday. And his grandkids are there so there is no holding him back!

Do you do some work with the TIAA-CREF team, and Jonathan Vaughters?

Unfortunately I don't do a lot with them. Well fortunately for them because Jonathan Vaughters has them so well organized that they don't really need me! I go to their events and I'm their little front man whenever they need it. I talk to the riders. A lot of them live in Boulder. I usually miss the Colorado races because I'm in Tuscany . They keep saying, "Please come drive the team car, be the director at a race." It would be really fun. But I do try to hang out and tell them the appropriate little stories. It's how I learned. Both from being a Junior to being a Pro, it's just learning the right thing at the right time. So I just try to pass on what I know to them. They think I'm full of it, but I tell them everything they really need to know as a Pro they've already learned as a Junior or they're learning it right now. And that lesson is: kill yourself for your teammates and they'll do it for you. It just the little, little things. I can tell them all about pro racing and the intricacies of it all, but they get it. And they're getting it from Jonathan Vaughters everyday. They are already there. At their ages some are more advanced physically than others and it's just not important to be winning at that age. Look at Sean Kelly, Miguel Indurain, the super champions; they were not winning at that age.

Off for a day tour with friends

Everything that I've read about you and other interviews you've done, the feeling I always get is that you are well respected as a rider. It seems you are thought of as having a lot of class in the peloton.

(Andy interrupts here.) Oh no, ask around!

Is this a deserved reputation?

I had my moments!

We just don't hear a lot of bad stuff about you! I'm wondering why?

I liked racing. I certainly did my own misbehaving, but I did my best to kick everyone's ass. If someone beat me, I didn't complain. I didn't whine. In my good years I had my good moments. I wasn't trying to win a huge collection of races. And I respected the guys who beat me. I liked doing it. I realized I was lucky to be doing it. It was fun! I didn't assume I was going to do it forever and I was lucky. But I grumbled all the time. Don't believe it if you hear people say I was super nice about it.

Motorola and 7-Eleven were great, great teams. We'd always hire good, young riders that would last a year or two. And I'd do a lot of races for the youth squad. I didn't do a lot of Classics; we had our specialists. The Giro was pretty secondary, but I always had a good potential to win it so I'd have good riders. But with the focus on the Tour, the Classics squad could have a rest while I was at the Giro. It was really fun. I liked racing for training. I liked all the five day stage races and if I was top 10 or something, I liked fighting my way through. I was on a pretty relaxed team, with great mechanics and fully supported. I didn't have huge pressure. I could do the Tour of Italy and my sponsors would be happy. If I didn't win, the sponsors weren't breathing down my neck, "Hey, we're not selling more sausages this year." But I could look at the Italian riders and they could never figure out that the world wouldn't fall apart if they didn't win the Giro. The expectations for us were very reasonable.

Does your daughter realize what you've accomplished in cycling?

Yeah, we ride a Tag-a-Long. It's fairly hilly in Boulder. She's not a competitive girl, but if anyone passes us she gets all antsy and starts pedaling real hard and says, "Dad! Go! Go! Go faster than you ever did in any bike race!" I have videos, but I don't watch them of my bike races and she doesn't want to watch them either. But if her friend's parents ask her something, she'll start to tell about it, and then she'll say, "What was that race you won, Dad? Did you win the Tour?" No, no, not the Tour, dear....

Where do you see your career fitting in relation to other cyclist's careers?

Just in a time line. There were some cool guys ahead of me that kicked every door down so the rest of us could come in. Now there is certainly Lance and the Discovery team is doing wonderful things. There are a dozen other guys that are Americans that are pretty big players. I was there for the opening. I didn't open the door, but I was there when it opened.

Can I ask you a few questions about Tyler? I know you have a friendship with him. How do you think he's doing right now?

I think he's doing phenomenally well. The burden of examining the test by default is Tyler's. I think it's just amazing the job he's doing with it. Obviously he wants to prove his innocence but he's not vindictive about it. He's angry. But he realizes now that it's personal. It's just him against the guy that thinks the test is ready to go. But with all the emotional pressure and financial pressure to deal with, he's taken this bad apple and he's going to open it up just to defend himself. He has to prove it in a really ugly legal situation. Like you or me getting a call from a judge who says, "You were clocked driving 120 mph in Kansas last night and the fine is $1000." So I say, "But I wasn't in Kansas." The answer comes back, "You were driving 120 mph in Kansas last night and the fine is $1000."

It's insane when you start looking at how non-just the lack of justice there is in the whole process he's dealing with. He's been an amazing gentleman. And it's pretty amazing to see how he and Haven are working together. It's pretty cool. Talk about being mashed down. It's not like he's got it all figured out. He has to know all sorts of things about science now. I think any other bike racer would have gotten mad and loud and then just given up. Not Tyler. He's putting up a great fight. And he's fighting decades of complacency. Now they are saying, "See, we're doing our job. We're cleaning up cycling. We got one."

Prior to this year's creation of the Pro Tour which requires teams to race in all Grand Tours, why do you think the Giro was often skipped over by teams?

It's too hard. It will rip you apart. It used to be in the '80's that you could ride it, recover on the easy days and finish the race 5th. It's too hard now. All but 5% of the riders burn their motor in the Giro. If you're on a team that's going to sort of let you take it easy, you can do it. But you can't start low on fitness. You'll kill yourself making the time cuts. So for most team it's probably only 20th as important as the Tour, but it's 98% as hard.

I hope to someday go to the Giro. It seems like a good Grand Tour to start with for someone who has never been to one.

It's fun. Except for some of the mountain stages, there aren't the huge crowds (you see at the Tour). It's not the manic feeling the Tour seems to have now. If you go, you can stay in every village that it finishes in. You'll see the riders cruising around the hotels. It's very cool.

Chef Andy cooking up a feast

Okay, a few last questions that friends and fans submitted for you:

Was the Badger's personality the same on and off the bike?

Absolutely! Although as his teammate, he couldn't be nicer. He treated me like family.

In your opinion, what are three of the greatest moments in cycling that don't include you?

Sean Kelly chasing down Moreno Argentin on the Poggio in Milan-San Remo. He became King Kelly that day.

Anything Merckx did, let's not even touch it. Everything about Merckx.

Bernard Hinault winning Paris-Roubaix when he hated it. I think that was '81. Hit that dog, crashed got up off the cobblestones, didn't even take it out of his twelve, just hopped on and kept going.

Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay?

Can I wait for the reds?

How about Oso Bucco or Bar-B-Que ribs?

Definitely Oso Bucco. I miss Tuscany, especially around mealtime.

Hot climbs or cold descents?

Hot climbs!

6 AM or 6 PM?

6 PM.

What is the first thought or feeling that comes immediately to mind when I say the words Maglia Rosa?

Relief! And proud. I'm really proud of that.

Thanks, Andy. Thanks for spending so much time with me today.

I had the immense pleasure of spending part of a week in the company of Andy, his brother and sister-in-law Steve and Julia Hampsten and various other friends of his. We dined, we wined and Andy even cooked a fabulous venison stew one night that was to die for. Andy and Steve are the proud owners of Hampsten Cycles, specializing in racing and road bikes ( You can inquire about Andy's private tours in Tuscany at Something tells me that after spending a week cycling around Italy in the company of Andy Hampsten, the words "Tour of Italy" would take on an entirely new meaning. Ciao.

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