Hincapie heckling sours superb victory
In Sunday's GP Plouay, Discovery Channel's George Hincapie once again found himself king of the cycling jungle, outsprinting Alexandre Usov (Ag2r Prevoyance) and Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) in a 65-man bunch sprint to claim his fifth victory of the season. However, the lack of applause at the presentation ceremony, coupled with a number of unnecessary jeers and whistles - no doubt spurred by the L'Equipe revelations surrounding former team-mate Lance Armstrong - soured the day.
The parochial Breton crowd had come out in force to hopefully see another French victor after Andy Flickinger and Didier Rous' wins in 2003 and 2004, with an estimated 100,000 people lining the 14 kilometre course, some since last Wednesday. However, it wasn't until the final lap that the local riders managed to place themselves in a few moves, with Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) going in a three-man break with Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile) and Yoann Le Boulanger (R.A.G.T Semences), and when that was caught, Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) and Freddy Bichot (Française des Jeux) joined forces on with around 12 kilometres to go, which was the last breakaway of significance before the inevitable bunch sprint occurred.
The end result was awfully close, with both Hincapie and then Usov allowing themselves half-hearted victory salutes, before the race jury awarded the win to the 32 year-old American. When Usov heard the news, the 28 year-old from Belarus was bitterly disappointed, saying: "I was on Ullrich's wheel and asked him to move to the left because I was afraid of [crashing into] the barriers. I'm really disappointed, because I'm sure I was going at least five kilometres an hour faster than the others [Hincapie and Rebellin] at the line."
"I raised my hands maybe too early," Hincapie admitted. However, the New Yorker also said he amazed himself: "With two laps to go, I was gonna drop out because my legs were finished. Everybody was so tired but I'm very happy to be winning."
Asked about the accusations made about his former team-mate and best friend in L'Equipe, Hincapie answered: "I'm Lance's biggest supporter. He's my best friend. He's a hero to billions of people including myself. It's a shame that some people don't like him but he's a hero to me."