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.