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Nine North American riders to watch in this year’s Tour de France

George Hincapie (BMC Racing)

Greenville, South Carolina
Going into his 17th and final Tour de France, George Hincapie will once again work as a key helper for an overall contender. “Big George” has watched the backs of three previous Tour winners over nine victorious campaigns — more than any rider in history — and will look to make it 10 as he shoulders road captain duties for defending champ Cadel Evans.

Hincapie’s absence from the upcoming London Olympics means that he can devote his full energy to helping Evans through the typically tumultuous opening week, which last year saw favorites such as Alberto Contador — on suspension from this year’s Tour — lose valuable time before the key mountain stages.

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Although Hincapie was briefly slated as a Tour contender following Lance Armstrong’s first retirement in 2005, he has again settled most comfortably into his familiar role as a lead helper. Last year he was notably absent from Evans’ side once the race hit the high mountains, but his shepherding of the Australian champion through the crash-laden first week allowed Evans to do his best work in the mountains against the likes of Andy Schleck and Thomas Voeckler.

Hincapie, the winner of stage 15 to Pla d’Adet in the 2005 Tour, will likely once again be a force at the front of the peloton as he looks to end his 19-year career on a high by delivering the maillot jaune to BMC Racing for the second year on the trot.

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