Triple USA national champion Hincapie brings a 19 year pro career to a close
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Monday, August 27, 2012

Triple USA national champion Hincapie brings a 19 year pro career to a close

by VeloNation Press at 9:47 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
American BMC Racing Team rider retires with record number of starts in Tour de France

George HincapieOne of the longest careers in cycling came to an end yesterday in the final metres of the USA Pro Challenge, when George Hincapie raced across the line, saluted the crowd and pulled the brakes literally and metaphorically.

The three time US national champion and former Tour de France stage winner announced in June that he would compete in just two more races; the Tour de France and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

"This is definitely not a decision that has been easy. I came to the conclusion that I want to go out while I can still contribute and make a difference,” he said then. “To be able to compete for 19 years as a professional cyclist has been something I would have never dreamed of doing. But at the same time, it's also going to be good to spend more time with my kids, who are getting to be the age where they miss me when I'm gone."

Since that point in time he started a record seventeenth Tour de France, helping Tejay van Garderen and Cadel Evans to top ten overall finishes, then returned to the US to ride the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Again, he helped van Garderen, who won stage two and finished second overall to Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Sharp).

“It's been a long career for me, a good career and I'm proud of it,” he said yesterday. “I'm sad to leave, but at the same time, I'm excited to spend more time with my family and start a new life.” He added that he wasn’t planning on losing all contact with the sport; aside from being part of the Hincapie Sportswear company, he will continue to ride. “I'm going mountain biking with a buddy of mine on Tuesday,” he said.

Hincapie turned pro with the Motorola team in 1994 and quickly made an impression, taking two stages and the points jersey in the Tour of Luxembourg plus stage three of the West Virginia Classic. He moved to the US Postal service team in 1997 and the following year landed the first of his three US national road race titles. He remained part of that setup until the end of 2007, being the only rider present on the Tour de France squad for each one of Lance Armstrong’s yellow jerseys in Paris.

Hincapie also helped Alberto Contador to his 2007 triumph then, after two years with High Road, transferred to the BMC Racing Team in 2010 and aided Cadel Evans in his successful yellow jersey quest last year.

Speaking in January, he hinted that he could continue in the peloton until the end of 2013. “I am kind of on a month to month basis,” he revealed then. “I am just really focussed on the now. This team is so cool…it has been a real pleasure just riding with them, the best riders in the world.

“For me, it is so exciting to see how far this team has come. I know I have played a big part in how big it has become, so right now I just want to enjoy that. I’ll make a proper decision and announcement sometime in the middle or towards the end of the year.”

Amid reports that he was one of USADA’s witnesses in the US Postal Investigation, Hincapie later said that he had decided that 2012 was the right time to stop. He stated that he had taken advice from many people, including his wife Melanie, prior to making his mind up.

In addition to those three national road race titles and helping team leaders to Tour de France wins, Hincapie also clocked up four stage victories in the event and also won races such as Gent-Wevelgem, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the Three Days of De Panne and the Tour of Missouri.

In that time, he made an impression on fans and team-mates alike. “George is incredible. He's the core of the BMC Racing Team and not just on the road as a captain, but also in the structure of the team,” said Evans earlier this year “He's a part of so many aspects of everything we do because of his tremendous leadership.”

Others on the team were similarly complementary, and indeed some hoped that he’d change his mind and continue. He’s stuck to his guns, though, finishing up when he said he would and now ready for what comes next.


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