Ivanov wins Tour stage 14. Hincapie left seconds from yellow and furious at Astana.

Hincapie missed yellow by 5 seconds.

Hincapie missed yellow by 5 seconds.

George Hincapie almost saw yellow, now he’s seeing red.

The popular Columbia rider got in an early and strong breakaway of 13 riders that made Hincapie the virtual yellow on the road. After a flurry of attacks, Serguei Ivanov (Katusha) made his move at 11 kilometers from the finish. The Russian time trial champion soloed into Besancon for this second tour stage win to go with his triumph in 2001.

For Hincapie however, the finish was hardly gratifying as he missed out on the yellow jersey by a mere 5 seconds. In his post race interview, his frustration was visible but more surprising, he was furious. Hincapie claimed Astana, the team of his close friend and long-time teammate Lance Armstrong had gone out of their way to help AG2R close down his advantage. He couldn’t understand why and clearly felt betrayed.

“I am just extremely disappointed,” Hincapie told Versus. “I don’t know why Astana was riding behind; it’s highly insulting to me.” Armstrong, for his part, shifted the blame to team Garmin for riding in support of their sprinter Tyler Farrar.

In any case, the yellow jersey would have been a fitting and well-deserved reward for Hincapie, so often the hard luck rider. After helping Armstrong win seven tours, he clearly expected Armstrong’s team –and his former director Johan Bruyneel — would not participate in chasing him.

There is an undisputed boss in the peloton that every rider listens to: Lance Armstrong. He had the authority to slow down the chase, no matter who was up front or why. The yellow jersey was his to grant to George. It was a bad karma move before the big mountains.

It was a thrilling and acrimonious day at the Tour. In the sprint finish, Thor Hushovd (Cervolo) accused Mark Cavendish of trying to push him into the barriers. A review by the judges, led to Cavendish being disqualified and Hushovd leading the green jersey competition by 18 points.

Then, as if hating to miss out on the action, Bob Stapleton of Columbia went ballistic about team Garmin and Jonathan Vaughters, claiming it was their fault  Hincapie missed out on yellow. “I don’t know why you’d do that with George. ” said Stapleton. “That would have been a victory for everyone and would have got attention all over the US. An American in yellow would magnify the sport incredibly.”

The dislike between Garmin and COlumbia is even more obvious than the tension between Armstrong and Contador. Vaughters responded by saying, “Bob is always negative about our team and he has been for months now. I really don’t know why but it seemed to start a long time ago.”

Okay, everybody is angry at everybody and here comes a big mountain stage in the Alps. The possibility for all kinds of alliances to settle scores should make things even more exciting.

A professional for 16 years, George Hincapie is not likely to have that chance again. For him it was knife in the back. Armstrong may win the tour but today he lost a good friend.

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  • I’m not sure how I feel about this. Obviously Hincapie thought Astana was part to blame, but Ag2r were picking up the pace near the end. And what about Cavendish!? When it came to seconds for Hincapie and the Maillot Jaune, wouldn’t it make sense not to sprint and better the time of the peloton?

    • walshworld

      My feeling is that Armstrong is the boss of the peloton. He has the power to call off or slow down a chase no matter who is doing what and why. Hincapie only needed a cushion of 15 seconds. It would have been very easy of Lance–and a nice gesture to thanks to George for all his work in SEVEN tours — to grant him that yellow for a day. Yeah, you can point to other teams responsability but ultimately it was Lance who could have given his good friend the reward.

  • I guess Hushhovd would have sprinted though… Interesting news about the Cavendish DQ.

    • walshworld

      Cervelo and Garmin have had just about enough of Cavendish. Partly it’s frustration but they clearly don’t like his brash attitude and some of his sprint tactics. It could get ugly.

  • Giacomo

    I think it’s going to be pretty hard to fix blame for keeping George out of yellow. Clearly there was no consensus in the peloton to let it happen, and I think there may have been a limit to what Lance could have done about it, given the rivalries that were at work.

    I wondered why his Columbia teammates weren’t actively to trying to slow the pace of the chase, even if it would cost Cavendish a few points (which, ironically, he failed to get anyway!) It should have been on them to help their mate, more than Armstrong’s duty to make a “gift” of yellow.

    Vaughters still gives me the creeps, regardless. The fashion eyeglasses, the pencil sideburns (WTH?) and hanging with the commentators at Versus in the middle of the Tour…

    • walshworld

      I hear ya. I agree that COlumbia could also have done the right thing and tried to slow the chase down even if it meant Cavendish would lose a few points toward teh green jersey. Manx already has four stage wins; did he really need another versus putting George in yellow? I think part of Stapleton’s blow-up was he was mad at himself– his team should have done more for a guy that selflessly works for Cav. Hincapie and Renshaw are always the last two guys in the train. A failure on a lot of people’s parts, I think. Both Lance’s Astana and Hincapie’s own team. I really feel for George.

      • Giacomo

        Yeah, after all George’s time working for others, and near the end of his career — he really should have had more than enough support to get a day in yellow. I think the whole thing has gotten pretty heartless.

        It would have made a great story about tradition, honor and sportsmanship — something cycling could have really benefited by. They manage to slow down in protest over race radios, but can’t pull it together for a veteran. Shame on all of them.