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George Hincapie (BMC Racing) announced on Monday that this will be his final season of professional cycling. The three-time US national road champion said the Tour de France and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in August will be the last two races of his 19-year career.
Hincapie said his decision came after much thought and discussion with people closest to him - particularly his wife, Melanie, whom he met while competing in the Tour de France.
"This is definitely not a decision that has been easy," Hincapie said. "I came to the conclusion that I want to go out while I can still contribute and make a difference. To be able to compete for 19 years as a professional cyclist has been something I would have never dreamed of doing. But at the same time, it's also going to be good to spend more time with my kids, who are getting to be the age where they miss me when I'm gone."
The soon-to-be 39-year-old has played an integral role in helping teammates like Cadel Evans, who was third at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and Alessandro Ballan, who was third at Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, to success. The Greenville, South Carolina resident said he hopes to stay involved in the BMC Racing Team and the sport in some capacity.
"I don't want to get completely out of cycling," he said. "My company, Hincapie Sportswear, obviously revolves around cycling. So I want to see it grow while putting in more time with the people I love. But also know that I'm still feeling strong and healthy and ready to make a contribution to the team these last two months. I'm 100 percent motivated to help Cadel win another Tour."
Evans, the defending Tour de France champion, said he was saddened to hear one of his most trusted teammates will only be at his side one for one more edition of the world's greatest race.
"I'm hoping that he'll change his mind, probably like many other cycling fans around the world will do when they hear the news," Evans said. "George is incredible. He's the core of the BMC Racing Team and not just on the road as a captain, but also in the structure of the team. He's a part of so many aspects of everything we do because of his tremendous leadership." Evans said he would like nothing more than to have Hincapie lead him onto the Champs-Élysées for a repeat Tour victory. "It's a dream at this point, but it's a dream that I'd like to deliver to George to thank him for all the sacrifices he's made for me over the past few years."
BMC Racing Team President Jim Ochowicz said Hincapie has cemented his legacy in the sport with unselfish teamwork and a tireless work ethic. "George was the first big rider to believe in the BMC Racing Team," Ochowicz said. "He's led us through the past three years of the Classics and Grand Tour seasons as both a leader and a teammate. I am very proud that he was able to start as a professional with me on the Motorola team in 1994 and that I'm still with him at the end of his career. It's been an honor to bookend the career of one of the nicest people and one of the greatest cyclists America has ever produced."
BMC Racing Team Sponsor Andy Rihs said he was disappointed to hear the news, but respected Hincapie's decision to go out while still being a crucial component of the team's success.
"We'll really miss him," Rihs said. "He's a great champion and while I'm saddened, I understand everything must come to an end. We wish him well and hope he stays involved in the sport because he's always been the guy I call the champion's champion."
Hincapie is a five-time Olympian (1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008) and past Tour de France stage winner, who has been bettering longevity records this year in races like Paris-Roubaix (17 finishes) and the Tour of Flanders (17 finishes).
A start at this year's Tour de France later this month would bring another: 17 participations in cycling's greatest race. He shares the record of 16 Tour starts (to go along with 15 finishes) with Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk and a record nine times, he has helped a teammate win the three-week race.