Former pro Andy Hampsten finds life sweet in Italy

Credit: Allsoprt UK/Allsport
Andy Hampsten is the best American cyclist you've never heard of.

He prefers it that way.

A huge star on the European circuit in the late '80s and early '90s, Hampsten is well known to cycling fanatics as the only American to win the prestigious Giro d'Italia, the biggest stage race in bike-crazy Italy and second only to the Tour de France in stature. In addition to his 1988 Giro win, Hampsten placed fourth in the Tour de France twice and won the Tour of Switzerland twice.

The slim rider from Boulder, Colo., retired from the grit and glamour of pro racing in 1996 without reaching his ultimate goal: winning the Tour de France.

But a look at his life today reveals that he might have found an even greater prize.

Hampsten, 38, and his wife, Linda, stayed in Italy after his racing days ended, buying and restoring a stone farmhouse in Tuscany.

They spend their days enjoying the good life in the Maremma hills, drinking in the local culture and the wine they make from their own tiny vineyard. Their 4-acre plot also yields olives, which they press into oil.

Hampsten says being a former campione of Italy's big race is good for a nod of acknowledgement from his neighbors, but the best icebreaker was the birth of his daughter Emma, now 5. "A baby is the best calling card you can have in Italy," he says.

Seven times a year, Hampsten leads bike rides through Tuscany. ''There's no better way to see a place than from the seat of a bicycle,'' he says. ''The emphasis is on the culture and beauty of the area.''

Hampsten and brother Steve own Hampsten Cycles, a small producer of steel-framed bikes. Andy designs the bikes in Italy and Scott builds them in Seattle.

Though he'd like his daughter to spend more time in the USA, it's clear his home and heart are in Tuscany: ''Families here spend time together; they eat their meals together. We are happy, healthy and sane.''

Active Radio: Andy Hamsten talks Tour de France mountain climbing on the Sports You Do Show.

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