Santa Rosa, California with Andy Hampsten

Words: Joe Staples | Photography: Brian Vernor | Date:

Film: Droptree Productions

How you ride is who you are.

As we climbed, two-up on a 13mile climb somewhere outside of Santa Rosa, Scott Nicol, founder of Ibis Cycles, turned to me and asked “You guys aren’t just going to ask Andy about the Gavia are you?”

Scott was referring to the conversation we were going to have at his house that evening with Andy Hampsten, after we got this pesky 8-hour ride out of the way.

In a defensive, gut response, and not wanting to appear superficial or flippant I responded in a totally flippant and superficial way.

“Nope. We weren’t even going to mention it.”

For the rest of the ride, I tried to justify the situation I had got all of us into. I tried to think what I was going to say to the other guys as some sort of reasoning.

This is how my thinking went….

Does what someone do as a job make them what they are? Does some action, some thing they have done define who they are? Is being an electrician, or a doctor or teacher or a bike racer as important as being a parent or simply an interesting person?

If someone asked,“what do you do?” what would you respond?

And then I argued this, again, with myself.

If people want to hear about the Giro or the Gavia, they can do what we all do, google it.

This made me think about Andy differently, what could we learn without asking him questions? What can you tell about someone just by being around them, by riding with them?

Here are some things I learnt.

Andy Hampsten will point out pot-holes and cattle grids. He will ride next to you, with his bars a perfect hand span away from yours and never try to smash you. He will descend smoother and safer and faster then you can imagine. If some food pops out of your pocket and you don’t realize, he will stop and pick it up and ride back to you and quietly hand it back without a fuss. He will smile a lot.

Here are some things he won’t do. Complain, moan, talk about himself or drop famous names.

This thinking made me far more comfortable about not mentioning the Gavia that evening. What now seemed more important were the intricacies, the finer brush strokes. There is clearly more to Andy Hampsten than what he has previously done.

On this inspiring evening Andy talked about getting his start in bike racing in England — Ben Lieberson says we Brits can now claim him as our own — about riding a century just to taste a single piece of cheese and about his utter admiration of Columbian bike racers (one of whom attacked on a 15mile climb with flat pedals!!).

We met some of his family and friends and tasted olive oil from his farm in Italy.

Then, when we left and headed back to town to the apartments that Andy and Scott had lent us. All we could talk about was how privileged we were to ride with Andy Hampsten, the person, and his amazing friends.

This day we learned many things, one being that if you have the chance to meet someone you have looked up to, take that time to fill in the gaps between the things you already know.

Andy Hampsten was one of the greatest bike racers. But, as we found out, he was and always will been an amazing, fascinating, and compassionate person.

Thank you Andy, Scott and your families and friends. We had an amazing time.

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