Reigning US national road champion, George Hincapie (BMC Racing), is aiming for a stage win in several stages of the Amgen Tour of California set to begin on Sunday in Nevada City. The eight-man team is highly motivated to start racing Stateside after watching their teammate and world champion Cadel Evans capture a hard-fought victory in the muddy seventh stage of the Giro d'Italia.
"I feel good," Hincapie told Cyclingnews. "I trained really hard at home. It's important to race here in the US and it's important for our team. I'm very motivated for a stage win. I don't know how hard the mountains will be but I've been climbing at home. Obviously, it is always hard against these guys and there are some big mountains here. My priority is definitely stage wins."
The Amgen Tour moved to May this year in order to utilise the warmer weather and bring the peloton into the Sierra Mountains that couldn't be ridden on during the cold and snowy conditions in February. The challenging terrain has made the eight-day race a suitable preparation for the Tour de France in July.
"The team is awesome and I am really looking forward to the Tour de France this year," Hincapie said. "It will be really exciting and Cadel's got to be one of the biggest favourites for the Tour. Obviously the Giro is his priority right now and he is doing an incredible job."
Moving to May also meant the event would overlap with the Giro d'Itali, forcing ProTour and Professional Continental teams with wildcard status like BMC Racing team to divide and send riders to each event. BMC Racing's US squad received a boost of motivation from its Giro d'Italia counterpart when Evans won the seventh stage.
"We were watching Cadel win at the breakfast table, the whole team, and that win was really good," said the outfit's directeur sportif, Mike Sayers. "Cadel sets a great example and gives the riders a rallying point. We've been here a week and the atmosphere has been fantastic and everyone is in a really good mood."
"We have key guys that want to do certain events like George Hincapie wanted to do this event and we fill in the riders around him as the foundation," he added. "It's always good for the American guys to race at home. When you are an American guy in Europe for too long, you always want to come home. This is the biggest race in America so we will always participate in it."
Hincapie arrived at the Amgen Tour from a solid Spring Classics campaign where he placed fourth in Gent-Wevelgem and sixth at the Tour of Flanders, won by Bernhard Eisel and Fabian Cancellara respectively.
"I was happy to be up there in the mix with the best guys, also in the Tour of Flanders," Hincapie explained. "Obviously, I wanted to do better than fourth and sixth but it was nice to be able to be there and feeling good amongst the favorites most of the time. Cancellara was unbeatable anyway and even at my best, maybe I would have been better, but not winning.
"I feel like I was still strong and as good as ever in the Classics," he added. "In Paris-Roubaix I had a really bad day and just bonked at the end. I was definitely disappointed about that one but the races after that I was pleased with."
Hincapie believes he still has a few good years of racing left in him and has no plans of retiring. He made assurances that he'd be back to race the Spring Classics next year.
"I'll definitely race those one more year," he said. "I still feel good and sometimes with luck you can do a lot more than in the past. I know that I'm getting older and that I can't race as hard all year long as I have in the past but this team affords me the time to be home, to train well and really prepare for the races that I am motivated for."