By Bryan Jew, VeloNews Senior Writer
George Hincapie scored a huge victory on Wednesday, becoming the first American to win Ghent-Wevelgem and the first American to win a European classic since Lance Armstrong won Fleche Wallonne in 1996. But now Hincapie turns his attention to his biggest personal objective of the season, Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix.
“It gives me good confidence,” Hincapie said about his win in Wevelgem. “I knew I was riding well. Obviously I’m going to be more marked now, because I’ll be one of the favorites. But it’s a good confidence booster for Sunday.”
And despite the hoopla surrounding his win, Hincapie remains relaxed and keyed in on Paris-Roubaix.
“It’s been nice, hearing the support from everybody,” he said about the aftermath of his win, which included numerous phone calls and e-mails of congratulations. “It’s definitely been a positive thing.”
Now, with the focus on Sunday, Hincapie will try to find a little bit of good fortune, something he didn’t enjoy last year when he finished sixth at Paris-Roubaix.
“Last year, it was just terrible conditions for me,” Hincapie said. “I had the worst luck, crashing, broken ribs, flat tire at the end. That was just heartbreaking. But it did motivate me, because I saw with what condition my body was in, and the luck I was having, I was still able to have a good race. Things like that do motivate you more. It’s kind of hard to deal with, but it makes you strong afterward.”
On Friday morning, directeur sportif Dirk Demol surveyed the course, which includes several sections of cobblestones buried under water or mud. And with rain expected tomorrow, and a forecast of showers on race day, Demol said the race could resemble the epic 1994 Paris-Roubaix when Andrei Tchmil won in cold, snowy conditions.
That 1994 edition also happened to be the first Paris-Roubaix for a young Motorola neo-pro — George Hincapie.
“Roubaix has definitely been a dream of mine ever since I was a child,” Hincapie recalled. “I remember when I first did Roubaix, I was 20 years old, and it was snowing and cold and I didn’t care, because I was so excited about actually doing Paris-Roubaix, and I think only 40 people finished that race, and I finished 31st. Tchmil won and when I saw that I said, ‘I want to be that person one day.’ I hope to do it this Sunday, but if I don’t, I’m still going to keep trying year after year.”
If conditions are as bad as expected, Hincapie knows he’ll need more than just good form to succeed on Sunday.
“Obviously it’s going to be difficult, because when there are bad conditions, there’s a lot of crashes, so I hope to have good luck,” he said. “But as far as the conditions, I think I handle my bike very well, so that’s normally good for me. I just need to have some good luck.”