Andy's Olive Oil & "The Day the Strong Men Cried"
November 05, 2007
This is a good OYB story. Because it's just a big blend of everything, a good half dozen factors, all OYB. [I've also posted it in the Bikes section, but I've re-ordered the story parts. This one is oil > bike. The other is bike > oil.]
Do you know Andy Hampsten? He was a bike race hero of mine when I was a young racer in the 1980's. He was a skinny, nerdy racer on the first worldclass team to come from the USA. He lived in Boulder but was from a small town in the Dakotas. In the preeny attitudey world of pro roadies he was friendly, a regular guy. He liked XC skiing.
He's the only American to ever win the Giro d'Italia, the ancient national tour of Italy. Their Tour de France.
And he did it in 1988 on a weird day that people still remember. It was the hardest stage, over the huge Gavia Pass. There was maybe going to be a snowstorm, but they didn't call off the race. It hit at the halfway point, at the highest pass. It blew the race apart. The other stars could hardly function. But Andy from cold Dakota/Colorado attacked. He was covered in snow and totally trashed but he and one other guy put a ton of time on everyone else and he ended up winning the whole tour. He used a wide range of OYBish skills that day, as it were.
But enough about bikes, when Andy retired from racing he left the USA and lived in Italy on a farm and made wine and olive oil for the local market. ...Whoa! He started a bike tour company, Cinghale ("wild boar"), that specialized in hard rides and great food and wine. Whoa! He started a bike company with his brother---that offered steel, lugs, old-fashioned frame dimensions (a copy of his Gavia bike!) along with titanium or carbon. Road bikes, fender bikes, cross, touring. The most diverse little bike company ever. They were and are generous with their props---to both materials and functions as well as to the people who build their bikes for them. All the people and even-tinier job-shoppers involved on a bike are called out. Classy. --They even advertise their country bike line with OYB.
Andy is back in the states more of each year these days. He brought back a bunch of his olive oil with him. It's really good. High end. He's offering it direct in 5 liter tins. This is the kind of oil that costs probably $50/liter at the fancy store. You can get it mailed to you for $30/liter. Well, total mailed is $135. It's pricey but good. To sell it wholesale he'd have to move it at half that price to the stores but he says he knows the work that went into it and just can't do it. He didn't pick these olives himself; he's in the US too much these days, but they're his olives and his neighbors doing the picking and processing. It's a ton of work to do it right and best. Bright green, peppery. My friends who are fancy oil people said it's good. I got some just so I could have some bike racer oil---I printed out the photo down below and taped it to the tin. I had some last night, which made me think to post this notice, to not hide this little treat from the world---we had frozen chicken'n'garlic pizza---ha!---and I dipped torn pieces of the pizza in Andy's oil. Turning them into more than frozen pizza. My oh my.
The other day I was wanting to dip a little bread in oil after a long day and I accidentally got the wrong oil. I about spit up. Man, just plain "extra virgin" storebought oil is NUTHIN compared to Andy's!
[UPDATE: Did you hear the national news in 2/08? Olive oil is great for your health. Demand is booming! ...And big news item #2: nearly ALL the imported "big company" olive oil is fake, diluted, etc. Andy's is the real deal, baby!]
To me, Andy's story represents a buncha good things. Andy himself is a regular guy, a funny guy. He likes people, but isn't into fans. He likes a good story but that was then this is now. He didn't put his Gavia picture on his oil tin, I did. He just likes the oil. He still rides bikes and is still basicaly in race fitness, but who needs the stress. Nowadays he's the nerd biker, no pose, he wears whatever on his rides and waves to fellow riders like everyone used to do and gets snubbed by the rockstars like anyone else.
To order oil write to: email@example.com
Now, back to the amazing bike story of Andy.
Did you know that the Giro that Andy won was the last major tour to award wool jersies? Apparently because he was a leader in some category, not overall, on that big day, he was one of the few wearing wool. It helped.
It was also a time when, as Andy says, racing was still fun. The big money might have just touched down. (Hopefully he got a bit of it. His teammate Greg made that happen for the sport.) But drugs and super-science hadn't hit. There were no laptops or even heart-rate monitors. Sunglasses just started being worn. Helmets?
It goes on... Andy was known as a foodie even back then. He liked to cook. Like his teammate Bobke, he seemed to keep a sense of humor, to realize that there was more to life.
Here's a recent interview with Andy that gets into his olive oil:
Here's his own story about "The Day the Strong Men Cried":
And another online report of same:
Andy making history on the Gavia in 1988.
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