Road Bike Action approached Padraig to write an analysis of the potential for conflict within the Astana team by comparing the scenario Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador face with the conflict between Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault in 1986 on La Vie Claire. Naturally, he needed to talk to someone who had a ringside seat for the fireworks: Andy Hampsten. Padraig used quotes from this interview in the feature, but it was too long to run in print and it was just too good not to give readers the whole thing.
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Padraig: At what point did you realize that Hinault planned to ride for himself? Was there any indication before Stage 12?
Andy: I thought all were on plan for La Vie Claire to tear apart all the other teams before we hit the mountains. Hinault took off on the first mountain stage. On that day we went over the Marie Blanc first, the group had 3 LVC riders and maybe 15 others. Hinault was doing hard tempo in the group to keep it going. I asked LeMond why he would be doing that, Greg didn’t know. So I went to the front and asked Hinault if he wanted me to pull, he grunted something affirmative, his sarcasm was lost on my meager French.
Padraig: It has often been said that only you and Steve Bauer supported LeMond. The French riders all rode for Hinault, while the Swiss riders Rutimann and Winterberg attempted to remain neutral. Is that your memory of the team’s split?
Andy: Very true. The Swiss riders loved everyone and were neutral, Ruttimann was a great and loyal rider who made a career out of being indispensable to Hinault on his traditional bad day in the mountains.
Jean Francois Bernard was Hinault’s lapdog. The younger French rider [Philippe Leleu] was up to his neck just trying to make it through his first Tour. The veterans Alain Vigneron and Charles Berard were lobbied by Hinault to help against Greg, but I can’t think of a thing they could have done to damage Greg. JF would do hard tempo to set Hinault up to attack, like on the day into St. Etienne when Hinault went away with Stephen Roche, and Bauer and I had to chase him down. That hurt, it was the first and last time I had to chase a teammate.
I worried a bit about myself when I had a flat on one of the last days. I was only the third man on the team in GC, so I was a domestique, but i was in the white jersey and 4th place.
When I flatted the pack was going all out on rolling hills. I was able to neutralize any attack I went with, so I had been active and really didn’t want to be left behind with a mechanical.
I was near the front when I flatted, but neither Swiss rider saw me and Steve Bauer didn’t either. I figured I was on my own and knew even with our car being first in line and my legs being good I would suffer getting back to the front, and that made me bitter about the team being divided.
As soon as I got a wheel and was making my way up to speed I saw Alain and Charly right in front of me. They got me to the front of the peloton in record time and I could only give them a quick merci before I was jumping into attacks again.
After the stage I went to their rooms and thanked them for the help, and made it clear that I understood that they were likely going to suffer Hinault’s wrath for helping me out. And that I appreciated them being cool to me with all the fratricide among the team.
They let me babble on for a while and said “No problems. Your prize money for 4th and the White Jersey will come out to be 130,000 French francs, why wouldn’t we help you?”
Padraig: How tense were meal times?
Andy: Tense, we were working hard and having a blast in the first half of the race, the supper table was were we would share tales and young riders like myself could learn a lot.
It was acute on the evening after Superbagneres. Greg had just pulled back his deficit on Bernard that day, and Messr. Tapie had helicoptered in to “take command of the situation.” He met with Greg, then Bernard that night and all of the team was looking forward to the tension being resolved. That didn’t happen.
Tapie sauntered into the dining room with both Izod collars pointing up, the riders were seated with the French guys at one end of the table, the North Americans on another, and the 2 Swiss guys in the middle. It was tense. Greg cannot not have fun for more than 5 minutes. Tapie had been blathering for 5 minutes so we all understood nothing was going to change. Then Greg asked him loudly:
“Hey Bernard. Now that Andy has the white jersey will he get your Porsche if he wears it to Paris?”
(Tapie had very publicly announced that J.F. Bernard would be awarded his Porsche 911 when he won the best young rider white jersey category.)
That sure as hell got some laughs from our end of the table. Needless to say I didn’t get the car.
Padraig: When you attacked on the climb up Superbagneres, how confident were you that the outcome would be a stage win by LeMond with him taking the yellow jersey? Did you fear any reprisal within the team?
Andy: I was sure LeMond would win the stage, and we knew that Hinault had cracked, which happened often to Hinault and was a day his rivals always hoped for.
He was dropped with the initial attacks on the easy slopes below Superbagneres. I followed Robert Millar up to the 5 leaders, and could see LeMond was twitching with energy but everyone else was keying off of him. I was near empty but understood Greg needed things stirred up so he could launch a real attack. Robert and I caught them just as the road turned right onto a steeper pitch. I attacked off his wheel and past the leaders before they really knew we had come back to them. I gave Greg a look without the capital L as we went past so he knew I was going up the road for him.
Breukink and Zimmerman had to chase me, and Greg launched off that to join me. I pulled him as much as I could for a couple of ks then blew.
Interestingly, the team car with the director sportif Koechli came up to me before Greg bridged up. I thought I was going to get an earful and have to explain I was just up the road to help Greg, and started doing so when the car was next to me. I was shocked when Paul told me to stop worrying and ride! “Andy, there is no reason this team doesn’t want YOU to win the Tour! Greg and Bernard are fighting over who gets to win, and having you take the jersey will stop them arguing.”
That was the greatest compliment of my career, and I wasn’t even thinking of winning the stage because I knew I had already been dropped and I was racing with empty legs.
The team was Koechli’s. He explained that all the drama from ’85 when Greg had to wait for Bernard was simply that the team started the day with 1st and 2nd in GC. When Greg attacked and was joined by Roche the team told him could not work with Roche. If he could attack and win solo that was OK. But the team would not allow him to work with Roche and out the team in 1st and 3rd at the end of the stage.
I don’t doubt Greg’s version that he was deceived about where Hinault was during the stage to discourage him from riding hard. But I agree that a racer in 2nd can’t work with an opponent in 3rd to move them both ahead one place.
Padraig: Who was really the head of the team: Koechli or Tapie?
Andy: Koechli, but Hinault was riding his own race.
Padraig: Who was the diplomat who worked to keep things as calm as possible? Koechli?
Andy: Koechli did a great job with a tough situation. Hinault’s aggressive racing destroyed Zimmerman and anyone else who thought they might take a shot at the lead. So the team was free to fight over which rider would win.
Padraig: The ’86 Tour is legendary for its attrition rate, with 38% of the field failing to finish. Notable among them was temporary poka-dot Robert Millar. Compared to other races of the era, did anyone–including Zimmerman–seem truly competitive against LeMond and Hinault?
Andy: Zimmerman was a very strong and consistent racer with a good team. Fignon was amazingly stupid early in the race trying to out Hinault our team by using Hinault’s intimidation tactics. He would have his guys hammer at the front when there would be a hint of cross wind. La Vie Claire would be just behind then snickering. Never swing a small stick.
This was mid ’80s, Italians would stay home or wish they had, and Spaniards were not a big force yet. Everyone else was pretty far back, and I was 4th so it was easy for me to control everyone behind myself. Zimmerman did a great race, but he was completely out gunned.
Padraig: La Vie Claire placed four riders in the top 10 on GC at the race’s finish, making the team prize inevitable. By the race’s end, was there much of a sense of accomplishment or even elation?
Andy: I was happy! We took every jersey but the points. Ruttiman and Bernard won stages to add the Greg and Bernard’s collection.
J.F. Bernard was given Tapie’s Porsche as soon as he won a stage. I guess that is why Tapie was thought of as such a good business manager.
After the race we went to a reception for Greg at the American Embassy, located just behind the finish line on the Champs Elysée. Good food, pleasant interns, very humble French dignitaries, and worth the visit for the 19th century American West art alone. The team then celebrated with a traditional French Spectacle: Steak, frites and poor wine in a club followed by 6 hours of mostly naked, far too energetic dancers performing on stage.
Paris, France, 1986 with the King of Cycling and the Bad Boy Winner. And we celebrate by sitting down watching other people dance until our butts spasmed with cramps. What a wasted opportunity after 26 days of great racing.
Read Andy’s previous BKW interview here.
Images courtesy John Pierce, Photosport International
Who knows what kinds of records Bartali and Coppi would have accumulated without the intervention of World War II? They were 25 and 20 when the war started, 30 and 25 when it ended. But for them the resumption of their rivalry after the war was as though the last episode had been yesterday, rather than half a decade earlier. The 1947 Milan-San Remo classic is a good example. It was the 18th of March, the night before the race, and Bartali was struggling with a miserable cold.
I felt incapable of winning the race, but if I couldn’t win, I surely didn’t want Fausto to win either. But how to stop him? He’d been untouchable the previous year, and then I was well. I went for a stroll that evening, still wondering just how to stop my young nemesis. I hadn’t gone far when I ran into Serse Coppi and another faithful teammate of Fausto’s, Casola.
We greeted each other, and to my utter amazement, they asked if I’d like to go to a movie with them. My first thought was that I didn’t like westerns, but in a flash I saw this could be the answer to my prayers. If I could keep two of Fausto’s teammates up late enough, he’d be deprived of their help in tomorrow’s race. So I readily agreed, and off to the movie we went.
We emerged at midnight and Casola asked I intended to go straight back to my hotel. “I’m starving.” Casola confessed. “I know a great restaurant nearby.” This was too good to be true. I readily agreed to join them. All this time, of course, Fausto slept the sleep of the pure of heart. Two hours later the empty plates of superb tortellini and empty bottles of fine white wine attested to our late night pleasure. Then we smoked cigarettes under the stupefied gaze of the other clients who couldn’t believe that on the eve of the most important race in Italy such key characters in that event could break every rule known to the cycling regimen.
Finally we left the restaurant, bid “good night” to each other, and retreated to our rooms. The race was to start in less than six hours! In passing by Fausto’s room I put my ear to the door and could hear his regular breathing.
Puffy eyed and a bit hung over, I was at the start, and glad to see Serse and Casola had the same look. The race began gently, as always, but near the first obstacle, the Turchino Pass, a stick got in my front wheel and took out 8 spokes! This did not go unnoticed by Coppi, who stepped up the pace. Upon getting a new wheel, I chased like a madman and was pleased to catch Coppi by the summit. Those tortellini weren’t so bad for me, after all! I thought to myself, “If you could catch Fausto when he attacked, maybe you’re not as bad off as you thought. Maybe, you should have a go, yourself.” And damned if that isn’t what happened! We won, the tortellini and me!
The following year  I went on to win my second Tour de France, and even though Coppi wasn’t in that race, the win in France did nothing to diminish my reputation. Coppi was not at all pleased. Things came to a head at the World Road Championships in Valkenburg (Holland). We both wanted to win and we both didn’t want the other to win.
At the critical moment in the race the decisive break went away and neither Fausto nor I budged. We rolled along, side by side, and I said to him, “Listen, Fausto, you can’t expect me to act as your gregario. You let everyone else escape and then you want me to chase them down while you sit on my wheel. If you can, go for it, and I’ll quit.”
Fausto replied harshly, “I only want to do one thing, go to my hotel.”
“Very well, you go to the hotel, and I’ll rejoin the break.”
“If you go, I’m coming with you.”
He turned his head, allowing no reply. I understood then that Fausto only raced to make me lose. On the next lap when the group passed by my hotel, I put my foot on the ground, and abandoned the race. I never made it to my room, but was quickly attacked by the press and member of the Italian delegation. While I was defending my actions I saw Fausto quietly pass through the hallway, enter his room, and no doubt collapse in tears. Seeing Fausto also out of the race, I attempted to run outside and remount my bike, but it was too late. Just then I saw the leaders go by with a lap to go. I would have been a lap behind them.
At the Vigorelli track in Milan a few days later the public hissed at us derisively. As you can see, this rivalry placed both Fausto and me in the most awkward positions. We were, in a way, encouraged to do things that neither of us really wanted to do. And not just in the moment. Do you think I would have raced until I was 40 unless Fausto had still been going strong? For the two of us, the others didn’t count. My only adversary was he, and vice-versa.
We were, at bottom, two big children, timid, two children of country folk, both of us modest, who fought for the praise of our countrymen. Occasionally, Fausto even referred to me in the third person, as Mr. Bartali, a sign in our language of the greatest possible deference.
But on the bikes, this was something else. In that same year, 1948, Fausto announced he wanted to win the Tour of Tuscany. Imagine, he wanted to beat me in my home territory in front of all my friends and supporters! What presumption! He wanted to humiliate me in my back yard!
For this race I trained as never before. So Fausto wouldn’t notice, I trained at night and had my wife drive behind me to illuminate the way. He had already beaten me once in this race, in 1941. Never again! I worked on my climbing, I worked on my sprinting, nothing could be left to chance!
In the race itself, Fausto was soon on the attack, but I was always on him before he could take a second breath. I feared that my aggressive defense would force him to find a way to make me lose, rather than for him to win. After 180 kms. of the race had passed, a few riders had gotten away. I rode up to Fausto and asked him, What do you say we chase them down?
He replied, “Sure, let’s go.”
I was relieved. When Fausto and I were in agreement, no one in the world could stay with us. Soon enough we caught the break, and then dropped it. When we had a two minute lead, Fausto flatted. I pedaled gently to let him catch. He flatted a second time. I responded the same again. I didn’t want for him to be able to say that I had beaten him because of his bad luck. And at the finish in Florence I was indeed the victor.
That night, after dinner, Fausto came to my house with a photo of himself as a present for my son, Andrea. Fausto had written on it, “To Andrea Bartali, son of my great adversary, with the hope of meeting you again during the years ahead as I ride against your loyal father on the sporting roads of the world.”
All of Fausto was in those words….
This is the first time I have told these stories to anyone. Believe me, it’s not because I want to create a scandal. There can be no question of scandal between Fausto, my memories of him, and me. But you must know something of this background to fully appreciate what the public saw—the misstatements, the outrageous explanations, the outbursts, our relationship, hot and cold, and all those episodes, human and sporting, that made Fausto a rider unique, and one who impassioned millions of fans.
When Fausto was first engaged by my team [Legnano] for the 1940 season, he appeared to be no more than a skinny kid. I had shaken his hand when he had won the Italian Independent Championship [this was a class between pros and amateurs] the year before, but honestly, if you’d asked me then if I saw a future superman I would certainly have said, “No.” Even after he won the Tour of Italy in 1940 I wasn’t totally convinced. I had been leading until I crashed.
It wasn’t until the Tour of Emilia in 1942 that I realized he was something special. At our team meeting the night before the race, Fausto asked if he might escape early in the race as he was feeling a little sick and wasn’t in good form. If he made others chase and gave me a free ride that was about the best he could do with his limited resources. I told him I didn’t see any problem with that. But come the race it was a different matter. He escaped early, as planned, but when it came time to chase we couldn’t make a dent in his lead. Needless to say, I was furious, and after the race I went to his hotel room.
“So, you’re not in form?!” I confronted him.
“But no one came after me.” he replied, lamely.
“If you were so sick you should have abandoned.”
“But I wasn’t sick. The race made me well.”
“Thanks for the explanation.”
On the way out I noticed a race map well traced by Fausto, himself. In those days race maps were not normally given out to the riders. I picked it up. “So what’s this?”
“This is the profile of the race course.” he responded ingenuously.
“Did you need a map to find which road you were going to exit the race because you were sick?”
“But I outlined it before I became sick.”
“You should have told me that racing is a remedy for maladies.”
“If I hadn’t won our team might have lost.”
His logic was impeccable. But it was he who had won in my place. This was the day I finally understood the danger Coppi represented. Seeing that he hadn’t quit, I ordered the whole team to chase, me along with them. Not only had we not been able to catch him, we hadn’t even been able to stay even. At the finish we were 7 minutes down. “Be careful, Gino.” I told myself that night in the obscurity of my room. This kid is something special. “Be careful! He’s dangerous!”
I wasn’t mistaken.
I will tell you more stories of the intricacies of our rivalry, but it wasn’t always that way, especially as we got older. In 1955 I had retired and was following the Tour of Italy as a television reporter. Early on a quiet stage near Venice he saw me and called me over to the peloton. He held up a picture.
“Gino, look at this.”
I saw the image of a beautiful baby. “Who is it?” I queried.
“This is my son!” he cried out as he continued to pedal.
He was so happy he was practically transformed. I grabbed the picture and said, “I’m going to show everyone.”
“No, Gino! Wait! Wait!”
Too late. My car was already making a passage through the peloton, and holding the picture up for everyone to see, I yelled, “Look at this! This is Faustino, Fausto’s new son!” For 4 or 5 kms. Fausto pursued me, screaming for me to return the photo. Then he gave up the chase and recuperated on the grass at the side of the road where the entire peloton stopped to congratulate him. I was as happy as he. All the racers were happy. Even after they resumed riding no one attacked. The greatest champion of all time had a son.
Image courtesy Foto Locchi
A memory came to mind. It was in 1945, at Ospedaletti, on the eve of Fausto’s marriage to Bruna. During the race there I asked Fausto what he’d like as a wedding gift.
“If you win,” he responded, “give me your bouquet of flowers so I may offer them to Bruna. The would be the most beautiful of gifts.”
Towards the end of the race, Fausto got away and I didn’t have the courage to block his way en route to victory.
At the finish line he came to me with an unhappy look. “It was all arranged. You were supposed to win. I only wanted your flowers.”
I had a hard time convincing him that on this day he was too strong for anyone to have beaten him.
This was the real Coppi, my friend, Coppi, with whom, during 20 years, we fought each other across all the roads of Europe … under the sun, under the rain, under the snow … and I assure you I always did my best not to be beaten by him. But if I couldn’t win I did everything possible to see that he didn’t win. We were, him and me, two unchained rivals, animated by a struggle without comparison. But never did our deep appreciation for each other suffer. We preferred to be in train with each other at the head of the peloton, making sure that neither of us got away. We almost made a race of two, so little did we worry about the others.
Coppi, for me, was always a big kid, even when he turned 40. He never had the time to become an adult. He was only afraid of the day when he could no longer race his bike. It was the same for me. My only preoccupation was to race, and race well. I never had the time to think of anything else. “How do you have the courage to quit?” I once asked Fausto. This is a courage I never had. I could never see farther than the saddle of my bicycle.
And now this terrible illness he brought back from Africa. [Coppi had joined a number of other riders for a racing and hunting trip to the Ivory Coast in December of 1959. He got malaria, which was misdiagnosed, and he died a few days after returning.] Without his passion for racing, wanting to still be one of the boys, he would never have made this fatal trip to Africa.
Fausto was truly the greatest rider of all time. Of that there can be no doubt. I am proud to have been one of his most loyal rivals. In my long career I have had many adversaries, but none have measured up to Coppi, none had his class. He went beyond everyone; he was superior to them all. He was even superior to me … he even went beyond me.
I was an excellent climber and I could be faster than him in the sprint. But Fausto, not at all bad in those two specialties, was unbeatable on the flat and as a pursuiter on the track. I’m not embarrassed to say that I needed help, a teammate, to stay with him on the flat. But not Fausto. For him, victory was at his door on every kind of course. This was not my case. He was, taken as a whole, more complete. We had two different physiques, although our motors were always revved up.
On his bike, he was beautiful, like a god. When he descended from the saddle he became again an ordinary mortal. But while he pedaled he presented a picture of surpassing beauty. No matter how hard the race, he always seemed to be a man out for a ride on his horse. He had this suppleness, this form, a sort of moving plastic that made a perfect spectacle. One can understand how the crowds, during so many years, were so excited to see him pedal.
But fatigue even marked his organism, leaving certain traces that didn’t escape my critical eye. During the times of our first clashes I studied ever centimeter of his hide. I knew him almost better than myself. Having once been on my team, and knowing all my weaknesses, I was forced to minutely study him to find his weak points.
This story began during the 1940 Tour of Italy, where Coppi, supposedly my gregario [water carrier], was the winner. In my position as leader of the team I had explained to everyone my vulnerabilities so they could help me when I needed it most. I had naturally taken Fausto into my confidence, along with the others. At that time I was far from supposing he would become my greatest rival. You know, it’s like I gave state secrets to the enemy!
I could hardly ask him to return the favor. So I studied him, I looked at him, I scrutinized him, passing all I observed through a sort of sieve set to catch the least eccentricity that would imply fallibility. And then, one day, my tenacity was repaid. I perceived something. Finally, I had it!
Behind the right knee a vein inflated along 5 or 6 centimeters, apparently under the pressure of ridding his leg of toxic waste. This apparition made itself obvious between 160 and 180 kms into a race. At this moment Fausto became vulnerable and he lost a bit of that fluid plastic motion he normally displayed.
One day, in the 1948 Tour of Italy, the stage to Naples, I decided to see if I could profit from my research. I told my lieutenant, Corrieri, to survey the hollow behind Coppi’s right knee and let me know if he saw any change. Sure enough, right about the time I expected, Corrieri came rolling through the peloton crying at the top of his voice, ‘The vein! The vein!’ Of course no one knew what he was yelling about, least of all Fausto, but I knew and I slid through the group to verify the good Giovannino’s spy operation. One look and I could see the vein was indeed inflated!
’Go! Go!’ I yelled to Van Steenbergen, to Koblet, to Kubler, and anyone else around me. ‘Coppi is in difficulty!’
‘Are you nuts?’ queried Van Steenbergen.
’Follow me!’ I yelled. Everyone attacked, and at the finish Fausto had lost four minutes!
Image courtesy Foto Locchi