“I don’t know the answer to that question,” Hincapie told Cyclingnews. “I do think that, from what I know, cycling is doing probably more than any other sport to make it a clean sport and I’m proud of the way they’re handling it. I do think we’re on the cutting edge as far as testing goes and other sports will try to follow our lead.
“I know there are a lot of riders out there who work very hard and win races clean, so I don’t want fans to think you cannot do that.”
Hincapie was a member of each of Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France-winning teams and their former US Postal Service squad is understood to be at centre of a federal investigation into alleged doping practices in American cycling. Hincapie declined to comment on the ongoing inquiry, led by FDA agent Jeff Novitzky, but he said that he was not affected by speculation linking him to the matter.
“I think if you ask anybody that’s close to me, they’ll all say that I’m a good person and that I have a good character and at the end of the day, my family and close friends are what matter to me,” he said. “If they were to say I was a bad person or had a bad character, then that would affect me. But the other stuff [media and internet speculation], I’m not going to let that affect me.”
Hincapie’s erstwhile leader Armstrong has been at the eye of the storm in recent weeks, as a lengthy article in Sports Illustrated featured fresh allegations against the Texan in late January. Hincapie explained that he has not been in touch with Armstrong in the intervening period.
“I haven’t spoken to him recently,” Hincapie said. “He just had a baby, so obviously I say congratulations. He’s got a growing family and is obviously very busy with his foundation and with racing and I really hope that he’s doing well right now and it looks like he is.”
Indeed, in spite of the mounting and persistent accusations that have been levelled against the US Postal Service team, Hincapie believes that there is a new generation of young American talent that will continue to attract people to the sport.
“There are still sponsors coming in,” he explained. “We have four American ProTeams now, which is unheard of in our country, so I think the future looks bright. The young riders that we have, like Taylor Phinney and riders from other teams, have huge potential and I think they’ll continue to gather interest from the US media and fans.”
An Olympic farewell in 2012?
At 37 years of age, Hincapie is aware that he is in the twilight of his career, but winning Paris-Roubaix remains his overriding ambition, even if he recognises that the window of opportunity is narrowing.
“[Winning Paris-Roubaix] is becoming less likely as I get older but it’s definitely possible,” Hincapie told Cyclingnews. “I know that on my good days, if I’m fit and healthy and 100 per cent motivated, I can still ride with the best in the world, so if that happens, I definitely still have a chance.”
Hincapie also revealed that he envisages ending his career after the 2012 season. The American is on course to participate in a sixth consecutive Olympic Games in London, although he admitted that the possibility of bowing out with such a landmark had not entered into his thinking.
“Until you said it, I didn’t even consider it,” he smiled. “It would be nice, I’ve done five of them. To do a sixth Olympics would be pretty cool. It’s pretty crazy actually to think of that.”
On retirement, Hincapie hopes to stay in the sport and preferably in a role with the BMC team, albeit one with less travel than the life of rider. Regardless of when he finally does hang up his wheels, Hincapie said that his work ethic will remain intact until the end of his career.
“When I first started [in 1994], my goal was to do ten years as a professional cyclist and that’s come and gone a long time ago, so I’m definitely very appreciative of the position I’m in,” he said. “I don’t take it for granted at all, I continue to work hard. As long as I’m going to be racing a bike professionally, I’m going to be doing it at 100 per cent of my capabilities.”