Hincapie emotional as he closes out final Tour de France
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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hincapie emotional as he closes out final Tour de France

by VeloNation Press at 6:00 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
“It is tough. It is not an easy decision to take”

George HincapieGeorge Hincapie has admitted to being a little torn about the thoughts that today represents his final day ever in the Tour de France.

The BMC Racing Team veteran will race into Paris today for the sixteenth time, equalling the finish record of Joop Zoetemelk. He already holds a different record of starting the most Tours, seventeen.

The Tour is his second-last pro race. As Hincapie outlined when he announced his retirement in June, he will hang up his wheels after riding next month’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge, and so a nineteen year career is very nearly at a close.

Reflecting on that, the 39 year old admitted to having very mixed feelings. “It is tough. It is not an easy decision. Every day I even question my decision at times,” he told journalists at the finish line of yesterday’s time trial. “But at the same time it is so hard on the body, so hard on the family. Everything has to come to an end eventually.”

One thing that makes his decision a little easier to take is the fact that the race is so tough. Riding the race is undoubtedly a special experience in a rider’s career, even when you’ve done it multiple times, but the pain of extreme effort is good at putting romantic notions about the race into perspective.

“This was a hard Tour. They are always hard – they never seem to get any easier, in fact they get harder. It is impossible to describe how tough the Tour de France is. Like a day like yesterday [Friday], 230 kilometres in four hours 45 minutes. Everybody is completely exhausted but they still pushed themselves to the limit. It was torture, just torture.

“In that sense, I am glad I was able to finish this one and I did a good job for the team. Sure we didn’t win it, but we got a new emerging star in Tejay. I was proud to help him along, I was his roommate this whole Tour. He is a really great guy and I am excited to see how far he will go in the sport.”

The original goal was for defending champion Cadel Evans to return and win the race for the second time, but he became ill during the race and wasn’t at his best. Had he taken and held yellow, Evans said that he wanted Hincapie to lead the peloton onto the Champs Elysees for the first time; it would be, he said, an acknowledgement of all Hincapie had done for him.

That would have been memorable, but the American states that he will be moved regardless. “I think it will be emotional to see the Champs, to see the Eiffel Tower, in a sport and a race which has brought me so much. It will be sad to leave it,” he said.

“The Tour de France brought me my wife and now my two beautiful children. I am looking forward to seeing them on the Champs Elysees. One day I will be able to sit down with my son and daughter where they will be able to really understand what I have done in my career, and hopefully they will be proud of their daddy.”

He seems set to stick with his decision to stop this year, even if he admits that the thoughts of doing one more have crossed his mind at times. “Sure it does,” he said. “Even the team occasionally mentions it to me very nonchalantly. So yes, it is tough. It is not an easy decision to take.”

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