Hincapie shows good form on day one of Tour of California
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Hincapie shows good form on day one of Tour of California

by VeloNation Press at 10:08 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of California
 
Matthews’ fall foils Rabobank game plan

George HincapieLiquigas Cannondale was clearly the most satisfied team at the end of yesterday’s first stage of the Amgen Tour of California, taking a sprint victory plus the first leader’s jersey of the race via the speed of Peter Sagan.

The stage was a mixed one for two other squads, with the BMC Racing Team starting on a good note with two high placings while Rabobank’s plans went up in smoke with three kilometres to go.

Greg Van Avermaet and George Hincapie were the two well-placed BMC Racing Team competitors, netting fifth and sixth in the sprint into Santa Rosa.

Hincapie’s top ten finish came after he dedicated himself to helping Van Avermaet in the lead-up to the sprint. He rode for the Belgian and still had enough left in the tank to nab sixth.

However he revealed afterwards that he very nearly went down in the pileup which took out Rabobank’s sprinter.

"Michael Matthews from Rabobank hit my wheel and crashed right behind me," Hincapie said. "In the sprint, I tried bringing Greg up with a kilometer to go and we were in good position. Then he was on a good wheel, so I just tried to get out of the way.

“I felt pretty good today, especially for my first race since Paris-Roubaix."

The performance is an encouraging one for the rider, who is one of the oldest in the field at 38. He picked up a stage win in last year’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge and will seize any chance he has to do the same in this race.

Meanwhile Sagan had his own drama on the run-in, puncturing with approximately eight kilometres to go and having to chase hard to get back to the bunch. He clearly didn’t burn up too much energy, though, given the ease with which he won the final sprint.

Van Avermaet said that he had suffered on the climbs towards the end. However unlike other fast finishers such as Robbie McEwen (GreenEdge), he was able to hang on and then dispute the sprint.

However the others were simply too quick. "I tried to follow Haussler to have a good result but to beat Sagan wasn't possible. He's in really good shape and looked good on the climbs, too,” he said.

Initial reactions to Matthews’ crash drew comparisons with Robert Ferrari’s wild veer in the Giro d’Italia several days ago, but TV replays showed quite clearly that he had clipped a wheel and lost control as a result.

He hit the deck, putting paid to Rabobank’s chance of a stage win. Directeur sportif Adri van Houwelingen saw it as a big missed chance.

“It was totally his own fault”, he said. “Too bad, because they were all going really well and we had fully banked on ‘Bling’ today. And he was initially pulling it off, because after that last climb when there were only forty guys left over, he was in amongst them.

“We saved ourselves throughout the whole stage until the last hour. We knew what was coming and saw the chance to lose some of the dangerous guys in the sprint. That worked out really well for us.”

However, on this occasion, the team ended up with nothing more than a bruised Matthews and Luis Leon Sanchez in tenth place. Van Houwelingen regrets how things turned out, but does concede that the win would have been tough to take.

“I have to admit that Sagan was really truly impressive,” he said, echoing the thoughts of many.

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