time with George. It wasn’t easy.
After many, many phone and text
messages with BMC’s press liaison,
we finally made it happen.
Unfortunately as Tim and I were
camped out in the lobby bar of the
Ibis Hotel in Abbeville, that opportunity was canceled when traffic held up
the team bus and George only had
time to get dinner and a massage.
Drat! However, with more pleading,
we were able to get a second opportunity the following night. And so, as a
rainstorm drenched the French TV
guys outside who were waiting to get
an interview with Philippe Gilbert, we
got exactly 10 minutes with George in
the hotel’s rather drab and vacant
Our initial takeaway from the interview? While George looks forward to
spending time with his family and
developing both his junior development team and clothing company, he
still came across as somewhat
conflicted and less than truly happy
about hanging up his pro cleats. The
following morning a Dutch newspaper
broke the news that again speculated
that George was among the handful of
American riders who gave testimony
about former teammate Lance
Armstrong. As expected, George was
mobbed by a ravenous pack of
scandal-hungry journos. It was
probably then that George could see
a positive side to retiring.
ON THE CLOCK
RBA: After all these years, do you
still enjoy racing?
George: For me, it’s still fun; it’s
still special. The sport has always
been big—now it’s even bigger,
especially in America, and I’ve
enjoyed being part of that growth.
Bike racing at this level isn’t something that comes easy. You can’t
[fake] it at the Tour de France. You
have to be 100 percent committed
and as fit as possible.
RBA: Your career has spanned
decades, teams and all the greatest
races—a special moment of
George: I’d have to say being on
the winning team at the Tour de
France nine times rates above all the
others. Coming on to the Champs
each time gave me a special feeling,
not only for the number of times I
did it, but just knowing that it was
capping off three weeks of suffering.
RBA: So, what now?
George: Retiring was a tough
decision to make. It’s hard to leave
the sport, especially with this team.
I’ve really enjoyed being on this team
due to the level of trust we have.
Of course I have my clothing company and development team to keep
busy, but it’s hard to leave. I know
some guys say that they won’t ride as
much after they retire, but I definitely
plan to keep riding—although I probably won’t be worrying about Strava
segments. I still love to ride, especially with friends when we get together
and just pedal along trash talking.
Another part of retiring is in consideration for my family. I have two kids,
and since racing consumes so much
of life, I often have to second-guess
the things I should be doing with them
if it conflicts with racing. Like
teaching my son to play basketball;
I have to always first ask myself, how
will this affect my training? Or, not
being able to have ice cream with
him. I mean, it’s not really fair to him.
RBA: What about the BMC team?
George: I’ve had a great time here,
especially with Jim Ochowicz as the
team manager. I started with “Och”
back in the Motorola days and rode
for him there for three years. We
always stayed in contact with each
other, and on many occasions he was
like a confidant to me. To go back
with him three years ago was an easy
decision, and it was key in my
decision to come here. I trust him and
believed in his idea to grow the team.
RBA: What about the technology
side? You’ve ridden every frame
material and witnessed some big
changes in components.
George: Yeah, I’ve probably ridden
everything at one point in my career.
It is amazing how far the technology
has evolved. Everything has gotten so
much faster and stiffer—sometimes
too stiff and fast! One good thing
about being on this team is that on
any race day we have three or four
bike options. I’ve always liked getting
on the new stuff and jumped at the
chance to ride the new TMR01. I first
rode it in a hard stage in the
Dauphine, and that was a mistake.
It was stiffer and handled differently
from the Team Machine I normally
ride. It also wasn’t as comfortable, so
I had to take it home before the Tour
to get more used to it.
RBA: What advice would you give
to the next George Hincapie?
George: Do it, and do it at 100
percent! Living the life of a cyclist is
no easy task, and talent will only get
you so far. The bottom line is that, if
you want to be a racer, you have to
live for the bicycle.
The 2006 running of Paris-Roubaix
was the year many thought George
Hincapie would finally prevail at the
Spring classic. Unfortunately, a broken
steerer tube over the cobbles (and the
resulting broken collarbone) left the
disconsolate rider on the side of the
road with nothing to do but watch the
race go on without him.