The 2011 Tour de France start is still nine months away, but the race has already raised George Hincapie’s heart rate.
The American, attending the Tour route unveiling in Paris for the first time in his long career, had to dash out the door following the presentation to catch a flight home to the U.S.
From Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, Hincapie told VeloNews that he and BMC Racing teammate Cadel Evans sat “back a few rows,” behind the marquee riders in attendance, for a quick escape once the announcement wrapped up.
“We had to make sure we didn’t get stuck any longer than needed,” Hincapie said. “We basically bolted out of there to catch our flights home.”
Coming from a 2011 BMC Racing Team gathering in Milan, Hincapie attended the route presentation with Evans and team managers Jim Ochowicz and John Lelangue.
“The team wanted me to be there (at the route announcement) this year,” Hincapie said. “I never thought about going before, but it was nice, it was a good experience. It’s cool to see the presentation live, and especially how excited the start city (Vendée) is to host the race.”
The American veteran aims on starting his 16th Tour next year, tying Joop Zoetemelk’s all-time record. And though it’s a given that the Pyrenees and Alps will be demanding and decisive, Hincapie said what struck him most about this year’s route is the succession of flat stages during the opening week.
“That will make it more stressful than normal,” he said. “It’s always stressful at the start, and with so many guys with chances, that’s going to be a hard way to start the race.”
One stage of particular interest to the BMC squad is the 23km stage 2 team time trial in Les Essarts.
“I was surprised the team time trial is so short,” Hincapie said. “But I think it will be so high speed, the distance won’t be such a factor.”
Asked to name riders likely to be picked to help Cadel Evans shoot for the podium, Hincapie named himself, Alessandro Ballan, Manuel Quinziato, Brent Bookwalter, and possibly, neo-pro Taylor Phinney.
“Taylor might be too young, but he would be a great asset in the team time trial,” Hincapie said.
With just one individual time trial and no prologue, Hincapie said he saw the 2011 route as suited for climbers, such as the Schleck brothers, rather than time-trial specialists like Bradley Wiggins.
As for Evans, Hincapie said the Australian was pleased with the route.
“I think Cadel learned a lot from 2010,” Hincapie said. “This year he did the Giro before the Tour. I think he’ll race less next year and really focus on the Tour. We’re excited about the team time trial, and he’s excited about the Alpe d’Huez. He seems quite content with the route.”