While browsing through the names of favourites for the upcoming Spring Classics the name of George Hincapie was almost forgotten by the European insiders. Despite great wins in semi-classics like the Omloop Het Volk, Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and Gent-Wevelgem in the past – without forgetting his runner-up position in Paris-Roubaix and a third place in the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2006 – the USA rider hasn't shown up in Flanders for a while. Brecht Decaluwé took a closer look at Hincapie's preparations for De Ronde.
Team High Road has been showing glimpses of its power during the semi-classics, with successfully breakaway efforts for Andreas Klier and Bernhard Eisel, but the USA-based team seems to lack a man that is able to get on the wheels of Tom Boonen or Fabian Cancellara when they attack on the famous cobbled climbs in Flanders. However, the man to do it could be 34 year-old George Hincapie.
Although nobody really knows how strong 'Mister No Chain' really is for this Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen and the following Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. His 2007 spring campaign was spoiled after a wrist-breaking crash in the Tour of California. This year, returned to California – where he won the ultimate stage – and then on to Tirreno-Adriatico and the first Classic of the season, Milano-Sanremo.
The former Lance Armstrong domestique, who makes his home in Greenville, South Carolina, decided to skip the standard build-up for the big races; he did not start in semi-classics like the E3 Prijs, but chose the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde which ends only three days before the start of the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday in Brugge.
"I missed this race last year because of my wrist. It's important to come back and do some racing in Belgium before the Tour of Flanders. I did California hard, I did Tirreno hard and then Sanremo. If I went to E3 it means that I'm away from home for three weeks, and sometimes in cold and shit weather, so for me it's just better to come here and do De Panne and Flanders," Hincapie explained why he opted to skip the semi-classics.