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By VeloNews Interactive
American George Hincapie got his season off to a strong start this weekas the U.S. Postal Service rider took third overall in Portugal’s Tourof Algarve, which ended Wednesday in Loule.Hincapie finished fourth in the 166.8km fifth and final stage of theearly season race. The American nearly pulled off the overall win, whenhe escaped from a lead group that had included the race’s overall leader,L.A. Pecol’s Candido Barbosa. Hincapie started the day nearly seven minutesbehind the overall leader.At one point in the final stage Hincapie’s escape group of four enjoyedenough of an advantage to make the Postal rider leader on the road, triggeringa furious chase by Barbosa and others. Though finishing 6:30 ahead of hispursuers, Hincapie was denied the overall win by a scant 13 seconds.”I was giving it everything,” Hincapie said. “It looked prettygood at one point but the problem was the last 25 kilometers were intoa head wind and two of the guys in the break wouldn’t take a pull – itwas basically me and (Milaneza-MSS’ Fabian Jeker). Plus, the lastfive kilometers were uphill into the head wind. Barbosa’s group closedone
minute in the last 10 kilometers. It was close.” Postal’s Christian Vande Velde, in the lead group for most oftoday’s stage, finished in Barbosa’s group in 14th place and placed 17thoverall, 6:30 back. For the five-stage event, Hincapie placed inthe top five in three stages (fourth in stage four and fifth in stage three)while David Clinger finished in the top five in the opening stage,
placing fourth.Despite the near miss, Hincapie was very pleased with his and the team’soverall effort and praised the new Postal riders that joined him in Portugal.”The team is awesome,” he said. Big Mo (Gianpaolo Mondini) andPavel (Padrnos) were great. They are like motors; you just followthem on the flats. We look like a football team out there – theymake me look small. I am really excited about the acquisitions wemade in the off season.”Hincapie added that the Tour of Algarve served as a test to gauge hisfitness after an extensive winter training program. “I’m well ontrack,” he said.
TOUR OF ALGARVE, STAGE FIVE
1. Jan Hruska (Cz), ONCE-Eroski, 166.8 km in 4:06:48; 2.
Rubens Bertogliati (I), Lampre-Daikin; 3. Fabian Jeker (Swi), Milaneza-MSS;
4. George Hincapie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, all s.t.; 5.
Samuel Sanchez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:42
14. Christian Vande Velde (USA), U.S. Postal Service, at 0:42; 63.
David Clinger (USA), U.S. Postal Service, at 16:11; 68. Matthew White
(Aus), U.S. Postal Service, s.t.
1. Candido Barbosa (P), L.A. Pecol, 20:37:08; 2. Alex Zülle
(Swi), Team Coast, at 0:06;
3. Hincapie, at 0:13; 4. Sanchez, at 0:29; 5. Rui
Miguel Sousa (P), Milaneza-MSS, at 0:31.
17. Vande Velde, at 6:30; 23. Clinger, at 16:15; 80. White,