no one line

Hincapie and the Spring Classics
March 29, 2010, 2:26 pm
Filed under: pro crap

For bike racers in New York City, George Hincapie is our hometown hero. He grew up in Queens and cut his teeth racing the roads that still are the Sunday morning battlefields. Stories abound of him shaming 1/2/3 fields at the tender age of 16.

With wins at Gent-Wevelgem and Kurne-Brussels-Kurne, and a physique that’s decidedly suited to he cobbled classics, it’s no wonder that people know him for his goal of winning Roubaix. His best result is a tantalizingly close 2nd to Tom Boonen in 2005; his worst results include the famous snapped steerer tube: watch with a cringe as, in a lead group of 13 (including two teammates, for great odds), Hincapie’s steerer snaps, he rises and rides out of the group, his handlebars snag in his wheels and he’s flipped unceremoniously onto the pave, breaking his collarbone.

Hincapie is the nice guy, the hardworker, the veteran. It’s no surprise that he’s a perennial sentimental favorite for the big spring classics, that every year when Paris-Roubaix comes around people say, “Maybe this year, George will finally get one.” Some additional confidence this year came when he left HTC-Columbia to join BMC Racing, which stocked their roster with well-performing classics riders. But throughout the early part of the season, BMC was quiet and kept well away from major podiums. “It’s hard to consider George a favorite this weekend—and possibly next as well,” wrote Pave Blog in a preview of E3 and Gent-Wevelgem this past weekend. “I’m hoping he’ll have good legs for Roubaix in two weeks—it’s a race where age and experience still mean something—but his current form doesn’t paint an optimistic picture. I hope I’m wrong.”

In yesterday’s Gent-Wevelgem, however, Hincapie was with the lead group, driving the slimming group toward the finish line ahead of the chasers, visible behind them on the road. He opened the sprint too early and was beaten by Eisel, Vanmarcke, and Gilbert, but fourth place is a fine finish in a race of Gent-Wevelgem’s stature.

Now, with E3 Prijs being the day before, some of the Big Guns who entered Gent-Wevelgem weren’t racing, per se. Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen, who finished first and second in E3, abandoned rather than work themselves back to the front when the field was split due to a crash. Maybe Hincapie placed in Gent-Wevelgem but wouldn’t have placed in E3 the day before, if he had raced. Putting two prestigious races on the same weekend meant that the talent made choices, as evidenced by the podium finishers in each race. Cancellara, Boonen, and Flecha topped E3; Eisel, Vanmarcke, and Gilbert topped Gent-Wevelgem.

It’s all Monday morning deskchair speculation. We’ll find out how Hincapie will do in Roubaix in two weeks. Prior to this weekend I was all but ready to toss in the towel of sentimental support for his chances at Roubaix, but his finish at Gent-Wevelgem makes me reconsider.

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