By Les Clarke in Adelaide, Australia
George Hincapie lined up with Lance Armstrong for the first time in three years this week at the Tour Down Under, but he is no longer on the same team of the rider he helped win seven editions of the Tour de France.
"We've been racing together for 20 years, we're friends and have been on the same team in the past," said Hincapie. "We have a lot of history together – being on a different team won't change that."
The Americans are riding the Tour Down Under for the first time, so there's no precedent to compare their experiences to; come July, however, Hincapie said racing against Armstrong will evoke different emotions.
"That will be strange, for sure. We haven't really discussed that, although we're both professionals and we'll do our job."
Another race the pair will ride as opponents is the Tour of California, February 15 to 22, which Hincapie agrees is similar in some ways to Australia's premier stage race. "Obviously there's a lot of hype, and it's certainly the biggest race in the US, and we've got American riders, so it's important for our team, which is American. It's going to be a big deal for us."
Later in the season the veteran will have another crack at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and as a perennial challenger, he's hoping to finally get the win. He explained that part of the reason he began his season is Australia is so that he will have "more depth" in the April Classics.
Given his goals for the year, Hincapie added that he'll look to peak at least twice during the season. "Always in April and July, and actually, I want to be strong in the Tour of California as well. This is definitely possible, and I've done it before. ... I think I'll be even better this year."