George Hincapie was the best American finisher in the 267km elite men's road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. Hincapie made the 35-man group that finished 49 seconds off the pace of winner and defending champion Paolo Bettini of Italy. Hincapie was 23rd. Christian Vande Velde finished in the same group in 36th place.
Hincapie, the team's designated leader, admitted afterwards he didn't have the form on Sunday to contend for a spot on the podium. "My legs were not good," he said. "I could feel it about halfway that I was not having a super day, so I told the guys if they were good they can go and I would just try to follow wheels. Once we hit 200 kilometers, I just didn't have the legs."
On the opening lap of the 14-lap race, Tyler Farrar initiated an early but short-lived breakaway that contained four other riders. In 2006, Farrar rode in an early 12-man breakaway for nearly 140 kilometers, but this year, his early breakaway attempt was caught by the end of the first 19-kilometer circuit.
At the 100-kilometer mark, with a three-man breakaway already off the front, the remainder of the 198-rider peloton was split into two main groups with Julich initially making the first 40-rider split. Hincapie also made it into the front group, but believed the effort may have sacrificed his chances later.
"I saw it go and I had to bridge up to it, maybe like 5km by myself, and that might have taken a little bit of steam out of me. But you know it was 40 guys and I figured two was better than one up there."
Once the lead group of roughly 40 riders was established, another split resulted in a 30-rider front group in which only Julich was present. For the next 50 kilometers Julich helped push the pace of the lead group, but thanks primarily to a hard-chasing Dutch squad, the two main groups reconnected for the beginning of the final three laps. Once the peloton was back together, only about 60 riders remained in contention including Hincapie, Julich, Vande Velde and Jason McCartney, who were all still in the main group with three laps to go.
The race of attrition continued as a break containing Italian Davide Rebellin and Russian Alexandr Kolobnev pushed the pace off the front on the penultimate lap while Spanish riders chased.
"I couldn't react, I was just empty there," Hincapie recalled of the decisive split. "All day we were going because we were chasing something down. It wasn't a typical world championships. It was fast. Some days you just don't have it. There was a lot of climbing today and obviously I just wasn't at my best. If you're not at your best on this course there's not much you can do."
The last time the US won a medal in an elite men's World Championship Road Race was when Lance Armstrong won gold in 1993. Greg LeMond is the only other American to stand on the podium (1982-83, 1985, 1989).
David Zabriskie, Tyler Farrar, Bobby Julich, Jason McCartney and John Devine did not finish the race.