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Giro d'Italia: Anglophone Invasion

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Robert Millar has claimed the Giro's mountains jersey while Stephen Roche has won the general classification at the 1987 edition.

Robert Millar has claimed the Giro's mountains jersey while Stephen Roche has won the general classification at the 1987 edition.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Champagne fail for 1987 Giro d'Italia champion Stephen Roche.

Champagne fail for 1987 Giro d'Italia champion Stephen Roche.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Roche's teammate Roberto Visentini has won the stage 13 time trial and reclaims the maglia rosa.

Roche's teammate Roberto Visentini has won the stage 13 time trial and reclaims the maglia rosa.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Stephen Roche would lose the maglia rosa to teammate Roberto Visentini during the stage 13 time trial.

Stephen Roche would lose the maglia rosa to teammate Roberto Visentini during the stage 13 time trial.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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General classification leader Stephen Roche and best climber Robert Millar atop the podium after stage 11 at the 1987 Giro.

General classification leader Stephen Roche and best climber Robert Millar atop the podium after stage 11 at the 1987 Giro.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Giro d'Italia leader Stephen Roche talks to the press after stage 11.

Giro d'Italia leader Stephen Roche talks to the press after stage 11.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Robert Millar decked out in the green climber's jersey at the 1987 Giro d'Italia.

Robert Millar decked out in the green climber's jersey at the 1987 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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No STI shifting yet...Maglia rosa wearer Stephen Roche shifts gears while riding alongside Tony Rominger, center, and Johan van der Velde, right.

No STI shifting yet...Maglia rosa wearer Stephen Roche shifts gears while riding alongside Tony Rominger, center, and Johan van der Velde, right.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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1987 Giro d'Italia winner Stephen Roche laughs off the champagne blast to the face he inflicted upon himself.

1987 Giro d'Italia winner Stephen Roche laughs off the champagne blast to the face he inflicted upon himself.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Stephen Roche won stage 1b of the 1987 Giro, an 8km downhill time trial off the Poggio, while Erik Breukink leads general classification.

Stephen Roche won stage 1b of the 1987 Giro, an 8km downhill time trial off the Poggio, while Erik Breukink leads general classification.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Defending Giro d'Italia champion Roberto Visentini is ready to roll at the start of the 1987 edition's prologue.

Defending Giro d'Italia champion Roberto Visentini is ready to roll at the start of the 1987 edition's prologue.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Stephen Roche prepares to propel the cream of late 1980s aero technology off the start ramp for the 1987 Giro d'Italia prologue.

Stephen Roche prepares to propel the cream of late 1980s aero technology off the start ramp for the 1987 Giro d'Italia prologue.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Stephen Roche awaits his team's introduction at the 1987 Giro d'Italia.

Stephen Roche awaits his team's introduction at the 1987 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Panasonic teammates Phil Anderson, left, and Robert Millar await team introductions at the 1987 Giro d'Italia.

Panasonic teammates Phil Anderson, left, and Robert Millar await team introductions at the 1987 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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1988 Giro d'Italia champion Andy Hampsten congratulates runner-up Erik Breukink. On the left is a young Dmitri Konyshev, winner of the that year's amateur Giro.

1988 Giro d'Italia champion Andy Hampsten congratulates runner-up Erik Breukink. On the left is a young Dmitri Konyshev, winner of the that year's amateur Giro.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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7-Eleven's Andy Hampsten dons the final leader's jersey at the 1988 Giro d'Italia.

7-Eleven's Andy Hampsten dons the final leader's jersey at the 1988 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Roberto Visentini in the leader's jersey for stage 14, the day before all hell broke loose at the 1987 Giro d'Italia.

Roberto Visentini in the leader's jersey for stage 14, the day before all hell broke loose at the 1987 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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A nervous-looking Stephen Roche resplendent in the pink jersey following stage 17.

A nervous-looking Stephen Roche resplendent in the pink jersey following stage 17.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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In the era before team buses in pro cycling the riders were easily accessible, such as Giro leader Stephen Roche.

In the era before team buses in pro cycling the riders were easily accessible, such as Giro leader Stephen Roche.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Stephen Roche has won the 1987 Giro d'Italia en route to claiming pro cycling's Triple Crown.

Stephen Roche has won the 1987 Giro d'Italia en route to claiming pro cycling's Triple Crown.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Final jersey holders at the 1987 Giro (l-r): Roberto Conti, Johan van der Velde, Stephen Roche and Robert Millar.

Final jersey holders at the 1987 Giro (l-r): Roberto Conti, Johan van der Velde, Stephen Roche and Robert Millar.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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1987 Giro champion Stephen Roche dons the final maglia rosa.

1987 Giro champion Stephen Roche dons the final maglia rosa.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Since pro cyclists are hardly known for upper body strength, Giro winner Stephen Roche goes to plan B while hoisting the trophy.

Since pro cyclists are hardly known for upper body strength, Giro winner Stephen Roche goes to plan B while hoisting the trophy.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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1987 Giro d'Italia champion Stephen Roche with the winner's trophy.

1987 Giro d'Italia champion Stephen Roche with the winner's trophy.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Stephen Roche stamps his authority on the 1987 Giro d'Italia with a victory on the final day's time trial.

Stephen Roche stamps his authority on the 1987 Giro d'Italia with a victory on the final day's time trial.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Robert Millar finishes the final stage of the 1987 Giro d'Italia to secure his 2nd place overall on general classification.

Robert Millar finishes the final stage of the 1987 Giro d'Italia to secure his 2nd place overall on general classification.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Mountains leader and eventual runner-up Robert Millar, left, and Giro leader Stephen Roche would form an alliance of sorts in the 1987 Giro endgame.

Mountains leader and eventual runner-up Robert Millar, left, and Giro leader Stephen Roche would form an alliance of sorts in the 1987 Giro endgame.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Stephen Roches pushes the pace in the 1987 Giro's penultimate stage.

Stephen Roches pushes the pace in the 1987 Giro's penultimate stage.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Giro leader Stephen Roche on the front of the winning break in the 1987 edition's penultimate stage won by Robert Millar, left. Spain's Marino Lejarreta rides in between.

Giro leader Stephen Roche on the front of the winning break in the 1987 edition's penultimate stage won by Robert Millar, left. Spain's Marino Lejarreta rides in between.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Stephen Roche on the wheel of teammate Massimo Ghirotto at the 1987 Giro d'Italia.

Stephen Roche on the wheel of teammate Massimo Ghirotto at the 1987 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Another stage in the books at the 1987 Giro d'Italia as race leader Stephen Roche leads teammate Roberto Visentini across the finish line.

Another stage in the books at the 1987 Giro d'Italia as race leader Stephen Roche leads teammate Roberto Visentini across the finish line.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Giro leader Stephen Roche awaitst the start of stage 18. On the left is Claudio Chiapucci, on the right is Roche's teammate Eddy Schepers.

Giro leader Stephen Roche awaitst the start of stage 18. On the left is Claudio Chiapucci, on the right is Roche's teammate Eddy Schepers.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Andy Hampsten finishes 7th in the closing time trial and has won the 1988 Giro d'Italia.

Andy Hampsten finishes 7th in the closing time trial and has won the 1988 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Andy Hampsten concentrates prior to starting the final stage of the 1988 Giro d'Italia.

Andy Hampsten concentrates prior to starting the final stage of the 1988 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Andy Hampsten, decked out in the pink leader's skinsuit, readies himself for the final test at the 1988 Giro d'Italia.

Andy Hampsten, decked out in the pink leader's skinsuit, readies himself for the final test at the 1988 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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The calm before the storm - Andy Hampsten in the Intergiro jersey one day prior to the stage over the Gavia Pass.

The calm before the storm - Andy Hampsten in the Intergiro jersey one day prior to the stage over the Gavia Pass.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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7-Eleven teammates Dag Otto Lauritzen, Jeff Pierce and Andy Hampsten await the start of stage 12 at the 1988 Giro.

7-Eleven teammates Dag Otto Lauritzen, Jeff Pierce and Andy Hampsten await the start of stage 12 at the 1988 Giro.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Stage 18 winner and Giro leader Andy Hampsten celebrates on the podium.

Stage 18 winner and Giro leader Andy Hampsten celebrates on the podium.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Giro leader Andy Hampsten stopped the clock with the fastest time for the stage 18 time trial.

Giro leader Andy Hampsten stopped the clock with the fastest time for the stage 18 time trial.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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A dangerously under-dressed Johan van der Velde, the Giro points leader, would crest the Gavia summit first but would lose 40 minutes on the descent.

A dangerously under-dressed Johan van der Velde, the Giro points leader, would crest the Gavia summit first but would lose 40 minutes on the descent.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Andy Hampsten rides his way into Giro d'Italia lore and legend on the Gavia Pass.

Andy Hampsten rides his way into Giro d'Italia lore and legend on the Gavia Pass.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Johan van der Velde alone at the head of the race, nearing the Gavia summit.

Johan van der Velde alone at the head of the race, nearing the Gavia summit.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Giro leader Franco Chioccioli fights his way up the Gavia Pass, but would surrender the jersey to Andy Hampsten.

Giro leader Franco Chioccioli fights his way up the Gavia Pass, but would surrender the jersey to Andy Hampsten.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Stage 12 winner Andy Hampsten takes the stage with race leader Franco Chioccioli.

Stage 12 winner Andy Hampsten takes the stage with race leader Franco Chioccioli.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Andy Hampsten solos to victory on stage 12 at the 1988 Giro d'Italia.

Andy Hampsten solos to victory on stage 12 at the 1988 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Andy Hampsten awaits the team introductions prior to the 1988 Giro's opening stage.

Andy Hampsten awaits the team introductions prior to the 1988 Giro's opening stage.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Greg LeMond at the 1985 Giro where he would land his only final podium appearance (3rd) for the Italian Grand Tour.

Greg LeMond at the 1985 Giro where he would land his only final podium appearance (3rd) for the Italian Grand Tour.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Andy Hampsten has just won stage 20 at the 1985 Giro d'Italia in 7-Eleven's first Grand Tour.

Andy Hampsten has just won stage 20 at the 1985 Giro d'Italia in 7-Eleven's first Grand Tour.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Race leader Roberto Visentini is not sure what to make of neo-pro Andy Hampsten at the 1985 Giro d'Italia.

Race leader Roberto Visentini is not sure what to make of neo-pro Andy Hampsten at the 1985 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Andy Hampsten braves a blizzard while climbing the Gavia Pass.

Andy Hampsten braves a blizzard while climbing the Gavia Pass.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Amazingly, specatators braved the Gavia ascent where they witnessed Andy Hampsten riding his way into history.

Amazingly, specatators braved the Gavia ascent where they witnessed Andy Hampsten riding his way into history.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Andy Hampsten rounds a switchback on the Gavia Pass climb.

Andy Hampsten rounds a switchback on the Gavia Pass climb.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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And away he goes...Andy Hampsten has started the final stage time trial at the 1988 Giro d'Italia.

And away he goes...Andy Hampsten has started the final stage time trial at the 1988 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Andy Hampsten is a 43km individual time trial away from winning the 1988 Giro d'Italia.

Andy Hampsten is a 43km individual time trial away from winning the 1988 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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1988 Giro leader Andy Hampsten preps for the final stage time trial.

1988 Giro leader Andy Hampsten preps for the final stage time trial.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Race leader Andy Hampsten and stage 20 winner Paolo Rosola on the podium at the 1988 Giro.

Race leader Andy Hampsten and stage 20 winner Paolo Rosola on the podium at the 1988 Giro.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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It's the penultimate day of racing at the 1988 Giro d'Italia for race leader Andy Hampsten.

It's the penultimate day of racing at the 1988 Giro d'Italia for race leader Andy Hampsten.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Andy Hampsten adds another maglia rosa to his collection at the 1988 Giro d'Italia.

Andy Hampsten adds another maglia rosa to his collection at the 1988 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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1988 Giro d'Italia leader Andy Hampsten salutes the crowd after stage 18, a time trial won by the American.

1988 Giro d'Italia leader Andy Hampsten salutes the crowd after stage 18, a time trial won by the American.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Stephen Roche resplendent in the maglia rosa after his Carrera Jeans-Vagabond squad won the stage 3 team time trial at the 1987 Giro.

Stephen Roche resplendent in the maglia rosa after his Carrera Jeans-Vagabond squad won the stage 3 team time trial at the 1987 Giro.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Race leader Andy Hampsten recovers after stage 16 at the 1988 Giro d'Italia.

Race leader Andy Hampsten recovers after stage 16 at the 1988 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Mexico's Raul Alcala, a teammate of Andy Hampsten, climbs the Gavia Pass.

Mexico's Raul Alcala, a teammate of Andy Hampsten, climbs the Gavia Pass.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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To say the conditions on the Gavia Pass were abysmal is an understatement.

To say the conditions on the Gavia Pass were abysmal is an understatement.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Race leader Franco Chioccioli spends his last day in the maglia rosa at the 1988 Giro.

Race leader Franco Chioccioli spends his last day in the maglia rosa at the 1988 Giro.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Dutchman Erik Breukink would win the stage over the Gavia Pass, but not the 1988 Giro's general classification.

Dutchman Erik Breukink would win the stage over the Gavia Pass, but not the 1988 Giro's general classification.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Andy Hampsten, in the blue Intergiro classification jersey, on the attack on the Gavia Pass.

Andy Hampsten, in the blue Intergiro classification jersey, on the attack on the Gavia Pass.
(Image credit: Sirotti)
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Andy Hampsten speaks to the media at the 1988 Giro d'Italia.

Andy Hampsten speaks to the media at the 1988 Giro d'Italia.
(Image credit: Sirotti)

As the 2011 Giro d'Italia draws near, Cyclingnews breaks into the archives with a look back at the last four decades of racing – the dominant performers, personalities, controversies and memorable moments. We follow the Merckx years of the 1970s with the late 1980s triumphs of a pair of Anglophones, Stephen Roche and Andy Hampsten, two great champions of an era when the demographics of the European peloton were undergoing change.

Pros from outside the realm of Continental Europe, countries such as Australia, Ireland, Great Britain, United States and Canada, really began to make their presence known in the pro peloton in the 1980s. Wins soon covered the full gamut, be it stage race stages, one-day races, Classics, shorter stage races before Greg LeMond broke the Grand Tour ceiling with his 1986 Tour de France victory.

The Giro d'Italia followed in this vein as the only two victories by native English speakers occurred in consecutive years in the late 1980s.

1987: Roche vs. Italy

What does it feel like to vie for victory in a Grand Tour where an entire nation hates every fibre of your being and freely expresses their sentiments roadside stage after stage? Where your directeur sportif loathes you? A race in which all but one of your teammates despise you? And all this after you're leading the race?

Just ask Stephen Roche.

The 1987 Giro d'Italia was supposed to be the coronation of native-son Roberto Visentini as the first repeat champion since Franco Balmamion's back-to-back Giro triumphs in 1962-1963. Roche, a teammate of Visentini on Carrera Jeans-Vagabond, had other ambitions, however.

"Since the beginning of the year I'd proved myself to be a good leader: I'd got good results and always handed my bonuses to my teammates so that when I needed their help later in the season they'd be there for me," Roche told the Guardian. "Then we got to the Giro and Visentini is made leader despite having done nothing all season. I wasn't happy."

Roche had started his seventh year as a professional on good form, highlighted by his third win at the Tour de Romandie and first overall at the Vuelta Ciclista a la Communidad Valenciana. The Irishman also finished second at Critérium International, a heartbreaking second to Moreno Argentin at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, plus claimed a stage win in Paris-Nice.

Things started swimmingly at the Giro for Visentini, as the 27-year-old Italian won the prologue time trial. Dutchman Erik Breukink supplanted the Italian as race leader for two stages only to have Roche take over the maglia rosa after stage three, a team time trial won by the Carrera Jeans-Vagabond squad.

Roche defended the leader's jersey through stage 13, a 46km individual time trial, where he was pummeled by stage winner Visentini. Roche was still feeling the effects of a crash suffered on stage 10 and found himself now in second place overall, 2:42 down on his teammate.

But not for long.

Two days later Roche would invoke the vitriol of a nation by engaging in a coup d'etat on the 224km 15th stage.

The Irishman bridged to a break early in the stage and defied team orders to stop working, which resulted in the bizarre scene of Roche's teammates chasing full-bore at the head of the peloton to defend Visentini's lead. Visentini ultimately cracked in the chase effort, losing 6:50 to stage winner Johan van der Velde and 3:12 to Roche, resulting in the Irishman taking over once more as the Giro's leader.

Roche would gain strength in the final week of the Giro and never rescind the maglia rosa, sealing his first Grand Tour triumph with a win in the concluding time trial. Visentini would ultimately abandon after the penultimate stage, having fractured his wrist in a crash.

And while the 25-year-old Irishman prevailed in the quest for the maglia rosa, Scotland's quixotic Robert Millar joined Roche on the final podium for an even more unusual spectacle. With Millar as runner-up on general classification, 3:40 behind Roche, for the only time in history two native English speakers claimed first and second in a Grand Tour.

It would prove to be Millar's finest Giro d'Italia, with his only podium finish, his only stage win (late in the race on the penultimate stage) as well as his sole mountains classification title.

Much to the dismay of Millar's Panasonic directeur sportif Peter Post, for whom winning was all that mattered, the Scot allied himself with Roche when the Irishman had only Belgian teammate Eddy Schepers to rely on as a domestique in the final week. Roche feared for his safety in the mountains and Schepers and Millar frequently rode shotgun on either side of Roche to provide a buffer from taunts, phlegm and physical assault at the hands of enraged tifosi.

Despite Panasonic riders in Millar and Breukink finishing second and third overall, plus Millar's stage win and mountains classification title, Post was peeved that the maglia rosa was not claimed by his team.

1987 would continue to be a monumentally magical season for Roche as he would out-duel Pedro Delgado in dramatic fashion to claim the Tour de France, followed later by a surprise world championship in Villach, Austria. As Roche donned the rainbow jersey he became one of only two riders to complete professional cycling's Triple Crown: wins in the Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and world championships in a single calendar year. Eddy Merckx, of course, is Roche's companion on that very short list.

1988: Hampsten's tour de force

Andy Hampsten rounds a switchback on the Gavia Pass climb. Photo: Sirotti

The word "epic" should have been forever stricken from the parlance of cycling reporting following the absolutely legendary 14th stage of the 1988 Giro d'Italia. While the peloton traveled a mere 120km from Chiesa Val Malenco to Bormio, the riders had to traverse the Gavia Pass before descending to the finish line.

A Gavia Pass beset by blizzard conditions. "The day the big men cried," said Bob Roll, 7-Eleven teammate of Andy Hampsten.

Three years prior, Andy Hampsten, 23, could hardly have been a more neo neo-pro for 7-Eleven, itself a novelty on the Euro road scene, as the American's first professional race happened to be the 1985 Giro d'Italia. Nonetheless, Hampsten parlayed his ample climbing skills into victory on stage 20.

Fast forward to 1988 and Hampsten had since finished fourth in the 1986 Tour de France while on La Vie Claire with Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault and had won the Tour de Suisse twice - once in 1986 and again upon returning to 7-Eleven in 1987.

Hampsten had already won one stage of the 1988 Giro on stage 12, 205km between Novara and Selvino, and was high on general classification behind maglia rosa holder Franco Chioccioli.

And then Hampsten rode into cycling lore and legend on June 5.

While strength, courage, grit, and willpower fueled Hampsten upwards through the snow over the Gavia Pass on stage 14, logistics and foresight by his 7-Eleven squad saved the day.

"Everyone was freaked out. I mean, I'd already been shivering uncontrollably on one of the earlier descents. There was no sunshine – it was nothing but rain and snow all day long," Hampsten told Cyclingnews in a 2008 interview.

"I attacked right at the base [of the Gavia] because I could see that a lot of people were worried. I went over the top with [Erik] Breukink and it was snowing for about the first 12km of this winding 25km descent. And that's where our team made the real difference. Other teams just weren't prepared; the first guy over the top, Johan van der Velde, got so cold he stopped halfway down the descent and ended up finishing 40 minutes back.

"7-Eleven were the only team that had adequate warm clothing. We had a guy waiting at the top with a musette bag full of warm clothes for every rider. The team had gone shopping at ski stores before the stage and got wool hats and Gore-Tex ski gloves or diving gloves. They bought every useful item you could think of."

Dutchman Erik Breukink (Panasonic-Isotar) would win the stage, but Hampsten finished seven seconds behind to claim the maglia rosa.

Over the next eight stages Hampsten fought off the challenges of Breukink and Switzerland's Urs Zimmerman, who eventually finished second and third respectively, 1:43 and 2:45 back.

Hampsten would win one more stage, stage 18's 18km uphill time trial, en route to becoming the second straight native English-speaking Giro d'Italia champion, and still the only non-European maglia rosa winner.