George Hincapie will sport his team-issued USPro Championship kit for the first time at the Tour of Missouri, set to begin in St. Louis today. The seven-stage event will mark his final hurrah with Columbia-HTC, after recently announcing his move to the BMC Racing Team for the 2010 season
“I have a new team but my focus right now is to race for Columbia-HTC, like I have done all year,” Hincapie said. “This year has probably been one of the most memorable years of my career. Helping [Mark] Cavendish win [Milan] San Remo or six stages of the Tour de France are right up there with anything that I’ve done in my whole career.”
Hincapie won the Tour of Missouri title in 2007, the event’s inaugural year. He went on to help Cavendish win three of the seven stages last year. He hopes to end his two year journey with Columbia-HTC in victorious fashion.
“Right know I prefer to focus on that and try to enjoy my last race with the team as much as possible,” Hincapie said. “Once next year rolls around I will be focused on my new challenges.”
For now Hincapie is looking forward to wearing his well-earned Columbia-HTC USPro Champion jersey for the first and last time this week. “It should be fun,” said Hincapie, who won his third professional title in his hometown of Greenville, South Carolina last weekend. “It was a big goal of mine after the Tour de France to get ready for the nationals. I think I worked as hard as I ever have for that race and it worked out perfectly for me. I’m excited to be national champion again.”
There are seven ProTour teams competing in this year’s Tour of Missouri. Both Columbia-HTC and Garmin-Slipstream are American-based and racing at home is a nice way to finish the season according to Hincapie. “I was really impressed with the fans and the organization in 2007,” said Hincapie. “Even last year when Christian [Vande Velde] won, it was a great race. It was a lot of hard and aggressive racing. We are right in our own backyard so that makes it even more special.”
The International Cyclist Union (UCI) World Road Championship will be held in Mendrisio, Switzerland from September 23-27. USA Cycling has yet to announce its participating riders, which could include Hincapie if he decided to take up his guaranteed position as the current road champion.
Asked if he would be competing in the World Championships, Hincapie responded: “Right now, just Tour of Missouri …I’m undecided right now,” he said. “I started my season in January, which is earlier than I ever have. With my injury in the Tour de France, it has definitely been a tough year for me. I think I’ll decide on the worlds this week some time.”