By Gregor Brown in Roubaix, France
George Hincapie's 2009 Paris-Roubaix slipped away Sunday on the Warlaing à Brillon cobbled sector when his rear tyre punctured immediately prior to a surge in pace by Team Saxo Bank.
"It was a terrible tactic by Saxo Bank because they did end up doing nothing," said the Columbia-Highroad's American to Cyclingnews after the race.
Columbia-Highroad played its cards well in the 259-kilometre cobbled Classic known as the 'Hell of the North'. Hincapie made the finale with teammates Bernhard Eisel, Marcus Burghardt and Edvald Boasson Hagen, winner of Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem.
Hincapie's race started to unravel due to a rear flat tyre on the Warlaing à Brillon sector, some 73 kilometres from the finish.
"I could not get my wheel out after the tyre flatted, it got stuck. It would have been a pretty normal change, but my spoke was stuck in the pulley and I could not get it out. I was relaxed when we got going, but I did not expect the surge by Saxo Bank."
Eisel and Boasson Hagen escorted their captain back to the front. As Hincapie worked his way back through the group, Saxo Bank started to hammer on the straight bit of road leading to the Beuvry-La-Foret feed zone.
His 44th place finish Sunday did not end up being his best. The South Carolinian claimed second behind Tom Boonen in 2005 and fourth in 1999 and 2001.
Is it his last Roubaix appearance? "I don't want to go out like that. I thought about it at the end of the race with 20 kilometres to go, and I still feel good and I know that I can go with the best in the race."