George Hincapie (Columbia-HTC) is back in his own backyard and prepared to contest the stars and stripes jersey once again at the USPro Championships, held on Saturday and Sunday in Greenville, South Carolina.
“I didn’t have the most ideal preparation because I haven’t been able to race in the last five weeks,” said Hincapie, who broke his collarbone during stage 17 of the Tour de France in July. “My collarbone is feeling better and I’m able to ride fairly normally now. I’m looking forward to racing the national championships right here in my home town and hopefully I can put on a great show.”
Hincapie lost his only Columbia-HTC team-mate scheduled to contest the race, Craig Lewis, to the H1N1 virus – otherwise known as swine flu - a few days ago. He will once again race alone amongst an array of full squads registered to participate in the championship event.
“Its tough,” Hincapie said. “My only hope is that I get lucky and get in a good break away and I have the legs. Even without a team of 10 or 15 riders, we’ll see. You can never give up hope before the start of the race. If everything goes well I should be there amongst the best guys and hopefully be able to finish it off at the end.”
The USA Cycling USPro Championships will celebrate its fourth year at the Greenville location. Hincapie won the prestigious stars and stripes jersey in 2006. The race has since been shortened by one lap to 177 kilometres. It opens with three short circuits followed by four large circuits, that includes the challenging Paris Mountain, concluding with three short circuits in downtown Greenville.
Hincapie was a marked man at last year’s race, forced to chase down attacks from a select breakaway of five riders on the last lap. In the end it was Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing) who claimed the national title after he out sprinted Blake Caldwell (Garmin-Slipstream). Hamilton tested positive early this year for the banned substance Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and sentenced an eight-year suspension from the sport.
“It was probably a lot more selective [in 2006] but now a lot more tactics that come into play with it being four laps and there are more people left at the end of the race,” Hincapie said. “It just depends on how we race the first three laps up the climb. If we race slow than there will be a lot of guys left at the end. If we race hard then there won’t be as many guys.”
Greenville will likely be the only east coast city to earn the League of American Bicyclists silver status for being a cycling friendly city, according to mayor Knox White. The organisation is working toward a bicycle friendly America and recognises Greenville for a project to bring 18-miles of bike paths throughout the city.
“It’s very important and I feel really honored to be apart of this community,” Hincapie said. “Like mayor White was saying earlier, we are a bike friendly community and each year we are building on that greatly. For me, this is the best area to train in the United States and to have one of the biggest race in the United States right here in my own backyard is huge for our community.”