Only one American has won the Giro D’Italia. Some of the biggest stars in the history of American cycling have won stages at the Tour of Italy. The first American to win a stage of the Giro was Ron Keifel in 1985. The next was an American by the name of Andy Hampsten also in 1985, and in those days of the Giro Italian cycling was defined by the rivalry between two great champions. The rivalry that unfolded during the ’85 Giro that made headlines daily was between Francesco Moser and Giuseppe Saronni.
These two greats followed in a long line of Italian rivalries that would end with Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartoli who became stars before World War II and continued their rivalry after the War was over and bike racing resumed all across the globe. Personally, Bartoli and Coppi were best of friends but friendship does not sell as many newspapers as enmity. The polarizing of these two men provided ample fodder for the Italian media to re-ignite the passion the Italian people after years of bitter struggle during World War II. It was so effective that the Italian media continued that tradition of inventing fictitious rivalries between great bike racers right through to the modern era.
There was another American in the 1985 Giro named Greg LeMond and while the Italian media’s focus all of their fervor on Moser and Saronni it was Greg LeMond and his teammate, Bernard Hinault who won that year’s Giro. Greg LeMond believed that the Giro was the ideal race to use in order to get in shape for the Tour de France. The following year, Greg himself, won a stage in the race and used the fitness gained to go on and win the ’86 Tour.
Other Americans of note that have won stages in the Giro include sprinter Fred Rodriguez who beat what was then the fastest man in the world, Alessandro Petacchi, time trialist Dave Zabriskie, and a special note should be made that American team Garmin-Slipstream won the opening stage of last year’s Giro which was a Team Time Trial giving the pink jersey of race leader to Christian Vandevelde from Chicago, Illinois. This year’s Giro also starts with a Team Time Trial and Garmin has brought their very best squad in hopes of repeating last year’s success. This year’s edition has a total of 10 Americans on the start list. Looking to add their name as American stage winners of the Giro D’Italia are a resurgent Lance Armstrong and on form Levi Leipheimer. Also Jason McCartney of Saxo Bank could win a stage as well as Tyler Farrar the designated sprinter at Garmin-Slipstream. It has been since 1988 that Andy Hampsten has won the Giro, and no American has won since. And this year we have the best chance for another American to win. His name is Levi Leipheimer.