Of all the teams racing in this year's Tour de France, Team Columbia-HTC may have had the most difficult roster selection to make. The American team has been dominant at races in the lead up to the Grand Tour and manager Bob Stapleton has put together a versatile outfit ready to be competitive on many levels.
Boasting the world's fastest sprinter, Mark Cavendish, and a solid hope for General Classification in Kim Kirchen, the team also includes one of the most experienced riders in the peloton: George Hincapie.
A Classics specialist, Hincapie has raced the Frech Tour 13 times, and will play a key role as road captain and mentor for his teammates. "The team really needs me here, and I hope to do a great job for them," the New York native told Cyclingnews at the team presentation in Monaco's yacht harbour on Thursday evening. "I will help 'Cav' at the finishes and the GC guys for their overall, and I'd like to win a stage for myself."
Hincapie has won a Tour stage before, in 2005, when he was still racing together with seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. Acting as a lieutenant to the cancer survivor, the 36-year-old was a pillar to Armstrong's success throughout the years at US Postal and Discovery Channel, and was happy to see him back - albeit not wearing the same team jersey. "This is my first Tour without him [in my team] in a long time, and I'm excited to see him back. I hope he's back to his normal self and I really look forward to seeing how he does," he said.
Asked if he thought Armstrong was able to win the Tour once again, Hincapie said, "I think so, definitely. He came back from cancer, so this is probably easier."