King of the GC jungle

During last year's Dauphiné Libéré George Hincapie won two stages before heading to France to help...

An interview with George Hincapie

During last year's Dauphiné Libéré George Hincapie won two stages before heading to France to help secure Lance Armstrong's seventh Tour victory; this year, the week-long tour is one of Hincapie's final preparation races before he tackles France in July as one of Discovery Channel’s GC hopes. It was just before the Dauphiné that he spoke to Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes about his new role, life without Lance and that crash in Paris-Roubaix.

The 2006 edition of the Tour de France has the potential to be a very different experience for George Hincapie after spending the last seven Tours in the service of Lance Armstrong, helping the Texan take a record seven wins. But now, with Armstrong retired, the team will head to the race with no clearly defined chief. Instead, they will have a more open look - José Azevedo, Yaroslaw Popovych, Paolo Savoldelli and Hincapie himself will be the team’s potential GC riders, with support likely to be given to whoever is in the best position later in the Tour.

The notion of Hincapie as a candidate for the yellow jersey may seem a strange one.

He’s better known as a Classics rider after all, with victory in the 2005 Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne and second in that year’s Paris-Roubaix to his credit. Improved performances in the mountains in recent years and good time trialling ability have seen his stock rise in stage races, however, to the point where he's being factored into some observer's Tour calculations.

Last year he won two stages in the Dauphiné Libéré, including the prologue, before going on to take a mountain victory at Saint-Lary Soulan (Pla d'Adet) in the Tour de France. With a 14th place finish overall in Paris, 23'40" behind team leader Armstrong, it's prompted some to wonder what he could achieve if he wasn’t always expending energy riding for someone else.

This year, he may get his chance to find out. Around the time of last year’s Tour directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel first discussed the idea of Hincapie as a possible GC contender; now, almost twelve months later, the American is putting final touches to his Tour preparation at the Dauphiné. He’s looking forward to July, but is also a bit nervous about making any predictions.

“I have never been in this position before,” he told Cyclingnews days before the Dauphiné started in Annency. “I'm very excited about it but I'm definitely hesitant to say how well I will do. I just don't know. I'm pretty sure that I can do a lot better than last year, without expending that energy [riding for Armstrong], but how much better I don't know. Hopefully as good as I can be!”

Click here to read the full interview with George Hincapie.

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