GRENOBLE, France (AP) — Any cyclist hoping to win the Tour de France sure seems to benefit from having American rider George Hincapie on his team.
With Cadel Evans’ victory in this year’s Tour, Hincapie has now been a part of nine winning teams. He helped Lance Armstrong to all seven of his victories, and he was on Alberto Contador’s team when the Spaniard won the first of his three Tours in 2007.
“I do have a lot of experience, and the Tour de France is so dangerous and stressful, it’s important to know how to position yourself well in the peloton and not lose valuable seconds through a crash or a split in the peloton,” Hincapie told The Associated Press on Saturday. “That’s one of my expertises, to keep Cadel away from those.”
The 38-year-old is competing in his 16th Tour de France, and he has completed all except the first one.
When Hincapie signed up for the ambitious new BMC Racing Team last year — before Evans’ arrival — there was some skepticism, but he was happy with his decision.
“I knew that they wanted to one day become a world-class team and they needed my experience to make that happen. That really appealed to me,” he said. “Then once Cadel signed on, it kind of all snowballed and it happened a lot quicker than we expected.”
Hincapie has made a career out of being one of the guys in the background, but he was thrust into the limelight recently in relation to an American doping probe focusing on Armstrong. CBS’ “60 Minutes” reported in May that he told federal authorities he and Armstrong supplied each other with performance-enhancing drugs and discussed them.
Armstrong has always denied doping during his seven consecutive Tour victories from 1999-2005. Hincapie has said he never spoke to “60 Minutes,” but has otherwise declined to discuss the report.
Hincapie has only one individual stage victory in the Tour — a mountain stage in the Pyrenees six years ago — but he says he isn’t unhappy with the way things have turned out for him.
“I can’t win the Tour de France. I’m one of the best helpers in the world to win the Tour de France but I can’t win it on my own, and I am quite satisfied with what that has brought me in my life.”
He’s coming to the end of his career and won’t say whether he will be back with BMC next year.
“We’ll see,” he said.
But before that he’s looking forward to the thrill of riding into Paris as the teammate of the yellow jersey — something he’s done eight times before but his other teammates have yet to experience.
“They’re going to be up for a doozy,” he says. “It’s goose bumps all over.”