By Kirsten Robbins in Sacramento, California
George Hincapie and Lance Armstrong attended the pre-race Tour of California press conference together Thursday in Sacramento, California. The event marked the seven-time Tour de France winner's first race on American soil since he retired in 2005, sitting to the right was his friend and long-time teammate George Hincapie. This year is the first time in more than a decade the two will not be competing on the same team.
"Lance is one of my best friends and he is an incredible rider. I'm really looking forward to this race."
Hincapie is the only rider to play a role in all of Armstrong's seven Tour de France victories. Hincapie joined T-Mobile, now Columbia-Highroad, when their former team, Discovery Channel, folded.
According to Hincapie, he misses his good friend and former teammate, but not the entourage that continues to flock to Armstrong. "I really don't mind not being apart of the all that anymore," Hincapie said. "It's much easier now."
Armstrong announced he would return to competition with the Team Astana, led by his former Directeur Sportif Johan Bruyneel.
"We have a long history together so it was a little strange in Australia that we weren't teammates. But our relationship is not going to change now that we are on different teams."
The pair met in Australia for the Tour Down Under in mid-January. It was the first race of the season for both riders.
"Initially I didn't know what to expect of Lance being back in the peloton, but he fit right back in. He was riding really well and he looked like he felt really comfortable in the group. It doesn't even look like he missed a step."
The Tour of California starts tomorrow and runs through February 22.