Despite finishing a creditable sixth in the Tour of Flanders, George Hincapie (BMC) cut a disappointed figure as he crossed the line and rolled to a standstill after six and a half hours in the saddle.
The veteran American believed that he had the legs to follow Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) and Tom Boonen (Quick Step) when the pair attacked on the Molenberg 40 kilometres before the finish but failed to go with them.
“I’m disappointed,” said the American, who recorded his sixth top ten result in the race of his career. “I had good legs on the Molenberg and I hesitated when Cancellara and Boonen went. That was a big mistake because from then on it was just everyone watching each other. Those guys where gone.”
Cancellera attacked just as a group of four riders were brought back and while Boonen was the first and only rider to respond, it caused the bunch behind to split and was the decisive moment in the race.
Hincapie had already shown he had form when he was able to respond to Boonen and Matti Breschel’s move with around 80 kilometres to go. He was one of six riders to go with them, along with Fabian Cancellara, Lars Boom, Juan Antonio Flecha, Steve Chainel, Leif Hoste and Thor Hushovd. At one point it looked like the race winning selection had been made but the escape began to watch each other and the move was reeled in.
“I had really good legs and was at the front all day. I got caught behind the guys who were chasing and that was a big mistake,” he said.
Asked if he’d been able to get across to the Boonen and Cancellara, how would have unfolded, Hincapie said: “There’s no telling. It would have been tough but I was on a super day. The team was good. We had three guys there and not many teams did. But that’s Flanders, you’ve got to be 100 per cent focused at all times and I lost it there.”
Hincapie put part of his hesitation down to Team’s Sky riding on the front. “I was surprised because I thought Sky were doing a lot of work and that’s another reason I didn’t think it was a big deal because right before the Molenberg they had five guys but by the top they only had two and they were done pretty much.”
Hincapie briefly tried to jump across later in the race but by then it was too late and after he was caught he resigned himself to wait for the final sprint for fifth place. He was strong but finished sixth, behind fellow American Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions).
The BMC captain will head into Paris-Roubaix with obviously good form and believes, even despite all his near misses in the cobbled race, which he can still come up with a big result.
“My form’s good. I’m getting better and barring any bad luck I should be there. I think so I’m on the upwards spiral. I’m coming around and I’ll be ready for Sunday.”