What's Cool In Road Cycling

Hincapie Disappointed with 4th – Wants Win at Roubaix

Reported by Dan Osipow of Tailwind Sports –

Despite matching his top career placing at a World Cup event, the United States Postal Service Pro Cycling Team’s George Hincapie felt he let one get away yesterday at the Tour of Flanders in Belgium. Hincapie placed fourth in the event – matching his finishes at the 1999 and 2001 editions of Paris-Roubaix – but thought only about victory yesterday.

Hincapie finished among a group of four riders 21 seconds down on winner Andrea Tafi of Mapei in the nearly seven hour race. The five leaders finally formed the winning break with just 15 kilometers remaining in the 264 km event. The only rider with a teammate in the final break of five, Tafi went away for good just four kilometers from the finish line as the remaining riders couldn’t get together and bring the Italian back.

“Everyone was super strong in the lead group,” Hincapie said of Tafi, three time Tour of Flanders winner Johan Museeuw of Domo, 1999 Tour of Flanders winner Peter Van Petegem of Lotto and Tafi’s teammate, Daniele Nardello. “Everyone was capable of winning. I felt very confident I could win the sprint from the others. I was definitely sure of myself. When Tafi attacked (and rode clear), I was defeated in my head and it blew my morale. I felt I let the opportunity slip by.

“I need to forget about it and take advantage of my state of condition at the moment. I felt really great – I was really sure of myself. I never had felt that sure of myself before.”

At the team’s pre race meeting, Hincapie said teammate Lance Armstrong made a huge difference for himself and the rest of the team. “He said we need to ride this race like we race the Tour de France – with one leader and that everyone gives everything they have for that leader – no exceptions.”

Armstrong rode strong in defense of Hincapie and was able to help launch Hincapie into the lead group with just under 60 kms remaining on the difficult Koppenberg climb – the seventh of race’s 16 climbs, all of which appear in the final 113 kms. “I felt he (Armstrong) could have been with me at the end but he made that huge effort to help close the gap.”

Armstrong eventually placed 59th, at 2:59.

“(The Tour of Flanders is) arguably the hardest race on the calendar,” Armstrong said. “It has a lot of difficult elements – wind, hills, cobblestones, world class field, etc. I loved the race and was glad to try and help George. I think he was one of the three strongest, without a doubt, but things did not fall his way. Perhaps he could have been a little more aggressive in the final five kms but he was totally confident in his sprint versus Musseuw and Van Petegem. I don’t blame him for thinking this way.”

“The team was strong as well. Matt White and Toni Cruz were excellent, as well as Pavel Padrnos. Tom Boonen (24th in a group at 2:37) proved he will one day win a big Classic, as he was in the front and he’s only 21!”

The Classics continue on Wednesday with Gent-Wevelgem, a race Hincapie won last year, followed by Paris-Roubaix – where Hincapie has placed in the top six the last three years – on Sunday.

“We’ll see what happens (on Wednesday),” Hincapie said. “In my mind, I am already thinking of Sunday. But because I have not raced that much this year, I need to race and race hard and take advantage of my form and fitness. Sunday will be a big day. I will definitely give everything I have and not leave it to any “what ifs”. I will risk everything on Sunday and risk even getting a result if it means not leaving anything to chance.”

As for Sunday, Armstrong added, “My money will be on Hincapie in Roubaix.”

TOUR OF FLANDERS
1. Andrea Tafi, Mapei-Quick Step; 264 kms in 6:53:00
2. Johan Museeuw, Domo-Farm Frites: at :21
3. Peter Van Petegem, Lotto-Adecco; s.t.
4. George Hincapie, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
5. Daniele Nardello, Mapei-Quick Step; s.t.
***
24. Tom Boonen, U.S. Postal Service; at 2:37
59. Lance Armstrong, U.S. Postal Service; at 2:59
87. Christian Vande Velde, U.S. Postal Service; at 12:25
88. Pavel Padrnos, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
89. Matt White, U.S. Postal Service; s.t.
DNF – Antonio Cruz, U.S. Postal Service
DNF – Floyd Landis, U.S. Postal Service
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