Hincapie has sights set on Roubaix victory

With all the top ten places Hincapie has gathered in Paris-Roubaix over the years (2nd last year,...

With all the top ten places Hincapie has gathered in Paris-Roubaix over the years (2nd last year, 4th in 1999 and 2001, 6th in 2000 and 2002, 8th in 2004) the former winner of Gent-Wevelgem, K-B-K and GP Plouay is more than ever aiming for the highest step on the podium in the 'Hell of the North'.

"Last year I finally started believing in myself," Hincapie said in a lengthy interview with Hugo Coorevits of HNB. "My neighbour is my mental coach. I met her last year before a speech I had to give for a multinational company," George explains. "She told me: I can help you. She made me realize that I can win even if I don't feel good; that I should never give up. That's how I won the Grand Prix de Plouay. She turned me into a winner. I've become a bit more selfish. With my mental coach and the birth of my daughter Julia Paris, the pieces of the puzzle fit. I used to do everything just for myself, now I'm taking responsibility for my family."

Hincapie himself is an established businessman and owner of Hincapie Sportswear, a company which his brother Rich started three years ago.

The fact that Hincapie's mental coach completely changed his way of thinking was noticed in the Tour de France last year. As a classics rider, he was suddenly powering up the steepest climbs. He won the stage on Pla d'Adet is now one of America's main hopes for the podium in the next Tour de France.

"Stage 15 in the tour 2005 changed a lot for me. I used to think: I am big, so I can't climb. My mental coach has taught me to think positive. She made me believe I can do things I didn't think possible. I could do it. I train like an animal in the mountains. Most of the time that's tougher than racing. I won the prologue in the Dauphiné Libéré. I consider it a compliment when connoisseurs tell me I can handle all terrain."

Hincapie fell in love with the pavés in '94, when he first saw a cobble stone riding Omloop Het Volk as part of the Motorola team. "In New York no-one knows what a pavé is. They think that we're riding across bricks."

Hincapie is stronger than ever before; and victory in Paris-Roubaix might be within his reach more than any other year. "I was never better than I am now. That's something I experienced in the Ronde last Sunday. I have never weighed less. 75kg for 1.90m. And I never had a stronger team: Hoste, Devolder, Gusev, Hammond...if he recovers in time. When Knaven won in 2001, I was on my own in a group with four Domo-riders."

The strategy for next Sunday? Hincapie's answer is clear and simple: "The same as in RVV: try to create a numerical majority with Discovery Channel and enter the velodrome without Tom Boonen."

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