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Yesterday was a special day for fans of American cycling. On June 5th, 1988, a day referred to as “the day the strong men cried,” Andy Hampsten attacked the peloton on the 14th stage of the Giro d’Italia, and took over the pink jersey. He would go on to become the only American to ever win the Giro d’Italia. In a sport where its participants typically fetishize the experience of suffering, Andy took it to a new level on that day.
For those who don’t know, the stage started off with a heavy rain that turned into a raging blizzard. Most cyclists would choose to take it easy. Not Andy. Seeing an opportunity, he attacked on the 8600 ft. Gavia Pass, blowing away all his GC rivals and taking the pink jersey.
It’s a good memory for American cyclists. An American cyclist on an American team (Team 7-Eleven) winning a major Tour. Thinking about Andy’s major triumph made me think of that other American cycling champion that isn’t really considered a champion anymore. They were both on the same team at one point; Andy at the end of his career, Lance at the beginning of his. Then I thought of the most recent edition of the Amgen Tour of California, often considered the premier cycling stage race in the US. This year’s edition made me think that we might finally be able to move on from cycling’s dark era of the 90s, as American cyclists had a really strong showing. Tejay Van Garderen won the overall (he also won the Best Young Rider jersey at the 2012 Tour De France). We also had Americans Carter Jones and Lawson Craddock take the mountains and best young rider jerseys, respectively.
We know the anti-doping systems and tests work, with the positive test results coming out of the Giro d’Italia. These young Americans are winning. These young Americans are clean. They’ve learned from the mistakes of their predecessors. It’s time for a new era of cycling in the United States.
I’m really looking forward to it, and I hope you are too.