He may be 39 and heading into the last few months of his professional career, but George Hincapie didn't give any indication he is taking his foot off the gas when he ripped around the 6.4km prologue circuit in Liège on Saturday. He finished 22nd on the day, just three seconds down on his BMC Racing Team leader Cadel Evans, and in doing so established a new record for Tour de France appearances. This is his 17th consecutive start in the race since he made his debut in 1996.
"It's great to beat the record. When I was getting on the podium I should have been thinking more about my effort, but I was thinking how incredible it is that this is my 17th Tour," Hincapie said just after completing his prologue ride. "I think the keys to getting this far are to take of yourself – and I've had 20 or almost 30 years of doing that – and to feel that you are still enjoying yourself.
"Motivation is not so much of a problem as it's easy to stay motivated when you're making history. My priority is to help Cadel and I was honoured to make history last year in helping Cadel become the first Australian to win the Tour de France. Now I want to help him make it two."
Asked about the possibility of 15-Tour veteran Stuart O'Grady eventually beating his record, Hincapie responded: "I know that Stuey is not too far behind me. The first thing I would say about him is that he's a good friend, but he's also a very hard worker and he's been a great champion. Whichever one of us ends up with the record is certainly going to deserve it."
Following his retirement from racing, Hincapie is likely to stay closely connected with the top level of the sport via his eponymous clothing company. Hincapie Cycling Apparel already supply BMC with team kit and leisure clothing.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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