George Hincapie is from Long Island, and as a teenager he used to ride away from the fields in Central and Prospect Park in the very same races that 40-something lawyers pay coaches in order to finish in the top 20 to this day. He also rode for the Toga and Mengoni teams. He’s the proverbial “local boy made good.”
Of course, what we all really want in New York is for George to win Paris-Roubaix, and I don’t have to tell you that we’ve been terribly disappointed year after year. This time, it would appear mechanical problems were to blame. Though some reports indicate George flatted, others indicate it was actually a wheel failure. According to VeloNews:
He was riding at the front on the Bersée section of cobblestones, 53km from the finish, and racing as well as he has ever ridden in the Hell of the North, when his rear wheel broke. “I had great legs,” Hincapie said, “but there was nothing I could do.”
George himself also states on his website:
I am very disappointed with the outcome of the race on Sunday. I had great legs all day and was doing everything right. Unfortunately, I had a mechanical at a very critical moment. I eventually got a new wheel, but the leaders turned on the gas when they saw me stop. I worked hard to get back on, but at this level of competition, there is no room for bad luck.
Note he says “mechanical,” not “flat.”
George was obviously riding well, and as usual he had the form to win. His critics always say that he doesn’t have the winning attitude, but that’s not what seems to have done him in here. After all, can we blame George when his equipment doesn’t carry him to the finish?
You’re damn right we can!
Anyone who’s followed cycling for more than a season knows you come to Paris-Roubaix with 32- or 36-spoke box-section handbuilt wheels. You don’t ride stupid Hed carbon wheels, which is what George did. I only hope they paid him a lot of money to do that. After all, that’s the only possible explanation. Because watching George roll off the line on those things must have been like watching someone heading towards some Class V rapids in a glass-bottom kayak, and unless some huge sums of cash had changed hands I can’t imagine why nobody stopped him. Hed seem to be keeping mum: the only race-related news on their site involves some freak in a half-shirt.
Naturally, Versus did not see fit to broadcast Paris-Roubaix last Sunday, opting instead to show bull riding or something, so I’ve been forced to piece together the events of the race from VeloNews's live internet coverage. Following is a reenactment featuring highlights from the race that I’ve created in order to get some closure on the event, with ducks playing all the key roles:
05:08 AM: The peloton
is still pretty much together, with all of the favorites - Backstedt, Boonen, Hincapie, Flecha, Hammond, Cancellara - in the mix.
(The favorites are together.)
05:40 AM: The pace
in the peloton is high. We see Hincapie, Boonen, Backstedt and the whole CSC crew up there in good position. Flecha, meanwhile is chasing hard... but he may be facing a tough day. He's on the wheel of Pozzato, who was caught in that crash.
(Flecha trailing behind the leaders.)
05:41 AM: Backstedt
looks like he's losing ground... he may not have it today.
05:54 AM: The three leaders are
just 50 seconds ahead of a hard-charging chase group of about 25 or 30. We see Hammond and Hincapie in there. Backstedt is in there. Boonen is probably the big fav' in this mix.
06:25 AM: Section 13
The lead group of 30 is entering section 13 - Beuvry-la-Foret at Orchies, Km 194: 1400 m (3) - and Pozatto is back in the group. We see Boonen, Devolder, Pozzato, Hoste, Ballan, Flecaha, Hincapie, Wesemann, Nuyens, Hammond and Quinziato
06:38 AM: With 56km remaining
the lead group is mostly back together. Hincapie has had a flat... he's trailing.
06:40 AM: Hincapie
has a slow leak and is not getting help from the team car. He's been dropped and is hoping for a wheel. He's finally getting a wheel, but the gap is big. He's got a big, big job ahead of him.