By Brecht Decaluwé in Meerbeke
Team High Road's George Hincapie had one of his best performances in a Spring Classic since he was third in the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2006. After his Classics campaign was ruined by a broken wrist in the Tour of California last year, Hincapie's fifth place in this year's Ronde was promising.
Team High Road director Rolf Aldag was pleased, but gave the team room for improvement. "I give my team a 9 out of 10. They worked perfectly, only the win isn't there. Klier was pulling early on, on the ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, to make the race a little harder. We expected the race would be very hard, and big gaps would be created with the predicted foul weather," the German said to Cyclingnews.
Hincapie was in a breakaway that had a good chance for the win for a while, and actually featured the eventual winner Stijn Devolder. Right when that group was caught with 25 kilometres to go Devolder jumped away again, and was never brought back. Aldag felt they couldn't have done it any different. "You might ask what would have happened if Hincapie would've saved his energy for the Muur, but afterwards it's easy to search for an 'if'," Aldag reacted on the chosen tactics.
On the Muur in Geraardsbergen there were three team High Road riders in the big chasing group behind Stijn Devolder, but they were sitting rather far back on the top of the climb. "I had good legs today, but I was just caught back before the Muur, and had a bad moment," Hincapie said. "After the climb there were a lot of attacks in a hectic finale, and I basically had to sit back."
The American managed to save some energy for the sprint where he was only beaten by Alessandro Ballan for fourth place. "Gent-Wevelgem should be a race that suits as even better, with the riders we have. So, I've got high hopes for the race on Wednesday," Aldag looked forward to the races in the near future.