News feature, April 6, 2005
Puts Flanders behind him and looks forward to Paris-Roubaix
Cyclingnews caught up with Discovery Channel Pro Cycling team's classics leader George Hincapie on the Monday after his solid result in Sunday's Ronde Van Vlaanderen. It was typical of Hincapie, truly one of the most personable pro riders anywhere to give us some time, even though we weren't sure he felt much like talking after a "disappointing" Flanders.
Admittedly "exhausted" after his determined seventh place at Flanders, Mr. Nice Guy Hincapie took some time out from relaxing with his wife Melanie and baby daughter Julia Paris after dinner to chat about his Flanders flop and his coming cobbled classics quests.
Cyclingnews: George, we saw you shake your head yesterday as you crossed the finish line in Meerbeke at the end of the Ronde. What did that mean?
George Hincapie: I was just frustrated; since I got the flu just before San Remo, it pretty much wiped me out for eight days. So being sick, I lost some confidence about my form. Last weekend, I rode a race [Brabantse Pijl] and I was just trying to get to the finish line. I was in no position to win. [Hincapie was 6th-Ed]. But I hadn't done more than a three hour ride in weeks, so it was a pretty good sign. Then I just took it easy at De Panne and didn't make any all-out efforts.
CN: Where were you at Sunday morning in Brugge?
GH: I had good legs but I wasn't 100 percent. The team was strong and this year was the first time I didn't have to do a lot of efforts to cover the moves. Our plan was that I would stay back in the first 20 or 30 riders and make a big effort on the Muur. So when the move went on the new climb, the Valkenberg, I was too far back. With guys like that [Boonen, Van Petegem, Klier], it's tough.
CN: How would you say you felt Sunday compared to how you were in 2002 when you were fourth?
GH: Oh, I felt better then; even on Sunday I decent legs and got a result. But it's not the best situation to get sick three weeks before Flanders. I had a temperature and then some respiratory problems and felt really weak. But I think I'm getting better now.
CN: What was it like to have Lance Armstrong on the team at Flanders?
GH: He was pretty impressive, considering he's only raced in two real races this season; Paris-Camembert and Brabantse Pijl. For him to be up in the front all day was great; finally at the end, Johan and Dirk told him to stop pulling at the end. It's a shame I couldn't take more advantage of having one of the best riders in the world working for me.
CN: What happened in critical moments of Flanders?
GH: We let our guard down when the [race-winning] move went; now we're kind of kicking ourselves for it. In a race like Flanders, you have to be ready on every hill. Lance pulled hard until the Tenbosse, but no one would work with him; T-Mobile and Lotto were covering everything. So at that point, I felt like I had no morale left and it was tough for me to stay in front. But Lance and Johan and Dirk said, "Just try to get a result", so I went hard on the Muur.
CN: What other impression do you have now that it's over?
GH: Oh, I have to say Boonen was really super on Sunday. And Monday I rode two hours really easy; I was really exhausted! My mind is focused on recovery and getting ready for Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix. In years past, I might have done too much [at Gent-Wevelgem] and not saved enough energy for Paris-Roubaix. But hopefully I'm getting my form back after being sick, so I'm going to race hard [at Gent-Wevelgem] and do what I can there.
CN: George, I hear you may have a special bike for Paris-Roubaix on Sunday?
GH: Yeah, Trek has a cool bike that I've tested over the winter and will ride it on the cobblestones later this week to get a better feel. So I'll probably ride it Sunday.
[Tech editor's note: Hincapie is referring to Trek's prototype OCLV Carbon frame with SPA rear suspension, a micro-cellular spring with a 1/2-inch of travel. First seen on '04 Klein road bikes, Trek has been testing proto's since last fall and Max Van Heeswijk used one on Sunday at Tour of Flanders. Cyclingnews will have a preview this bike soon.]
CN: Will you be looking for some revenge from Flanders at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday?
GH: No, not really. It's a great race, we have a really strong team and hopefully I'll have a big result. I can't wait! It's something I've been dreaming about... but after Sunday, I'll probably be watching the other guys more closely.
We left Hincapie with his family to focus on recovering from Flanders fields and to focus on the big races ahead of him and dreams of Roubaix glory. They may be closer than he knows.