When Andy Hampsten, the only American man to ever win the historic Giro d’Italia, was about to retire from professional cycling, his mother asked what his plans were. Hampsten, who calls Boulder home but spends part of each year in Tuscany, recalls thinking, “Everyone that comes to visit me in Italy loves meeting other people that I know, and riding bikes around Tuscany is a really good way to have exchanges with people in the culture, either just riding bikes or doing cooking lessons or visiting a winery, or visiting what [Italian] people do.”
Soon, Cinghiale Cycling Tours was born, with its name nicked from the moniker some Tuscan locals had given Andy. The idea was to alternate long-distance cycling tours (attracting experienced riders eager to slay iconic mountain passes with a legendary cyclist who raced many of those passes during his 1988 Giro victory) and more vacation-oriented tours that combine cooking lessons with more moderate cycling.
Twenty-plus years later, Cinghiale is still thriving, with the help of Andy's wife, Elaine, and an incredible team of guides and mechanics made up of Italians and expatriates. COVID-19 forced Andy to cancel Cinghiale’s 2020 tours, but Andy and Co. were back at it this past summer and fall, beginning with a beastly 450-mile ride through the Dolomites for cycling lunatics and ending with a foodie-focused cycling-and-cooking week of bliss aimed at vacationing couples.
“We asked everyone to just accept the fact that we are the travelers going to another country, so there’s an onus on us to not bring in more cooties,” Andy explains in a recent interview. “We felt comfortable asking all of our guests to be vaccinated, and I thought everyone appreciated the chance they had to do something exceptional, that was so much fun, with other people that were just feeling the same vibe.”
What has the pandemic taught Andy?
“Not to push things in a business direction to make up for lost time.”
Andy, who also has small custom-bicycle and olive-oil businesses, says that the pandemic has, if anything, strengthened his passion for putting on Cinghiale’s tours, and his love for Italy.
“It’s better than ever,” he beams. “I think the feedback I got reflected what I was feeling: that we all just went through hell. Italy certainly did, and they were so happy to have guests. As a guest, and hosting other guests, it was just special.”