Hall of fame: Johan Lammerts about June 5, 1988

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14.12.2007/ The legendary Passo di Gavia is often part of the Giro d'Italia and his 2621 metres have marked more than once the Cima Coppi, the highest point of the race. The Gavia became a legend on June 5th in 1988 when stage 14 of the Giro passed the Passo in a merciless blizzard. The legendary stage was won by Dutch rider Erik Breukink, with American and later winner of this Giro Andy Hampsten in second place. Cyclingheroes will publish a series of interviews with riders and team employees who were at the Gavia at June 5, 1988. The second interview is with Johan Lammerts , at that time team mate of Jean-Francois Bernard at the Toshiba team. The interview was made in December 2006.

Copyright TI Raleigh
Johan Lammerts was part of the legendary TI Raleigh squad in 1982 & 1983 (picture: TI Raleigh)

Cyclingheroes: Did you know before the start on June 5, 1988 what lay ahead of you on that day?

Johan Lammerts: No.

Cyclingheroes: Before the Gavia you climbed the Passo Aprica, did you had an idea how things would be on the Gavia?

Johan Lammerts: No, Dutch riders are ofcourse not used to live in the mountains and in the end we don't have a clue what can happen.It was raining and that's it. At the Gavia it was snow. A blizzard. It also was almost 1000 meters higher.

Cyclingheroes: Do you remember how the stage developed until the beginning of the Gavia climb and what was your role in the team?

Johan Lammerts: It was pretty much a closed race. At the Passo Aprica the pace was high for the first time. At the start of the Gavia climb there still was a big group together. My job was to assist Jean Francois Bernard as good as I could. But he lost the overall of that giro on that day.

Cyclingheroes: You could almost see nothing because of the snow and the road had not been paved then. What went through your head during the climb of the Gavia?

Johan Lammerts: At that moment it wasn't that bad. During a climb you are warm because of the effort. The climb as such wasn't the problem. The serious snow storm started just before the top. The descent was the worst.

Cyclingheroes: Johan Van Der Velde was the first rider to get to the top of the Gavia. On the descent he fell victim to the cold and was driven down by bus. How did you arrive in Bormio? 

Johan Lammerts:  I really rode down. After the climb I stopped to get a coat and an additional rain coat and then I rode down. After about 5 kilometers there is asphalt again and there was our soigneur with a hot cup of tea. After that I rode to the finish.

Cyclingheroes: What was going through yur head after you returned to the hotel and how do you look back to the stage now, 19 years later?

Johan Lammerts: I realized at that moment that huge accidents could have happened here. A lot of riders had signs of hypothermia. But I was glad that I pushed myself and finished the stage. I realize now that it was a historic stage. I can't remember other moments, not in the past 14 years [after his career], where the circumstances where so bad as during that day.

Cyclingheroes: Did you experience something similar during your career?

Johan Lammerts: Not really. There ´was one more occasion that it was really bad and that was at Zürich Metzgete, in the year that Rolf Gölz has won [1987]. I believe less than 20 riders reached the finish. I was one of the last ones.

Cyclingheroes: With Colle Delle Finistere, Plan De Corones and Zoncolan the Giro d'Italia has been very tough, spectacular and maybe even dangerous in last couple of years. Is that a good developement and were do you think is the limit?

Johan Lammerts: Grand Tours have to be hard and spectacular. There are different interpertations about the danger. Its difficult to compare different generations. Maybe it was much more dangerous during the times of Binda, Coppi or Bartali. But probebly they would see it different. Every rider calculates the risk he takes and takes decisions. There are brakes and a steering wheel at your bike. Its up to the rider to use his abilities.

Cyclingheroes: In 1992 you retired as a professional. What were the personal highlights for you?

Johan Lammerts: Winning the Tour of Flanders [1984] and a Tour stage in Límoges. Also to be a team mate and sharing the room during [Greg] Lemond's winning 1989 Tour de France.

Cyclingheroes: You are working for the Dutch cycling federation at the moment [KNWU]. You are the coach for the national women- and cross teams. What does a trainer of these national squads exactly do and did cycling chaged a lot since 1992 [The years that Johan Lammerts retired as a rider] ? 

Johan Lammerts: The great revolution in cycling took place in the eighties. Since than there were a few minor changes but not a lot. National trainer: The most important tasks are the selection of the riders and the preparations on championships.

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Hall of fame: Gavia June 5, 1988 interviews

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