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Monday’s Eurofile: A conversation with George Hincapie; Ullrich contemplates future

George Hincapie is scraped and bruised after a dangerous spill in Saturday’sClasica San Sebastian race, but he’s quietly relieved because he knowsit could have been much worse. Hincapie suffered perhaps the worst spill of his career when he slippedon a wet portion of asphalt while descending at speeds topping 70 mph offthe Jaizkibel, a Category 1 climb late in the race. He actually slid under a U.S.-style traffic guard rail, disappearedoff the road, avoiding very serious injuries by inches. “I just hit a slippery patch on the road and that was it,” Hincapietold VeloNews on Monday. “There

By Andrew Hood

George Hincapie is scraped and bruised after a dangerous spill in Saturday’sClasica San Sebastian race, but he’s quietly relieved because he knowsit could have been much worse.

Hincapie suffered perhaps the worst spill of his career when he slippedon a wet portion of asphalt while descending at speeds topping 70 mph offthe Jaizkibel, a Category 1 climb late in the race.

He actually slid under a U.S.-style traffic guard rail, disappearedoff the road, avoiding very serious injuries by inches.

“I just hit a slippery patch on the road and that was it,” Hincapietold VeloNews on Monday. “There was no time to think or to correct.I remember seeing that guard rail coming and thinking it could be reallybad. Luckily I went underneath it.”

Hincapie said he fell hard on his right side and simply skidded underthe metal traffic guard. The back of his right calf muscle hit the guardrailhard as he spun off the road.

Hincapie was transported to a local hospital for X-rays, which fortunatelyrevealed no broken bones. Hincapie said he suffered serious cuts and scrapesto his right knee, hip, shoulder and elbow and that his calf “hasa big hematoma and is swollen twice the size.”

On Monday, Hincapie was waiting at the U.S. Postal Service team hotelin Burgos, Spain, while the team rode the first stage of the five-day Vueltaa Burgos. It’s still too early to tell if he’ll be able to race again thisseason.

“Right now I still can’t walk normally. I really hope I can get backon the bike the next couple of days and suffer through the Tour of Holland(Aug. 20-24),” he said. “The GP Zurich (Sunday) is definitely out. HopefullyI can come back in time for San Francisco. I was feeling really good. I’venever been in the first group over the Jaizkibel before.”

Local television crews taping the race missed the crash but caught thedisturbing image of a U.S. Postal Service team Trek bike on its side inthe middle of the road as rider after rider swept past it. There was noracer in sight and everyone knew it either had to be Hincapie or teammateLance Armstrong, both of whom cleared the Jaizkibel in the lead group ofabout 20 riders.

It was a frightening moment for anyone watching the race and broughtback memories of Fabio Casartelli, who died when he crashed into a concretetraffic barrier in the 1995 Tour de France.

Rain had stopped earlier in the day, but roads were still damp whenHincapie crashed.

“Lance was chasing and was trying to help. We fly down descents allthe time. It wasn’t like we were taking any more risks than we normallydo,” Hincapie said. “It was just bad luck.”

He said he’s been swamped with e-mails and phone calls from friendsand family, many of whom were watching the race on TV.

“People were worried at home. It’s nice to have everyone calling meto make sure I’m OK. It helps,” Hincapie said. “Crashes don’t normallyhappen. When it does, you gotta deal with it and stay positive.”

Hincapie said he will make a decision by the end of the week whetheror not he’ll be able to continue racing this season. If not, he’ll returnto the United States and his season will be over.Ullrich might call it quits
Former Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich, banned this summer after taking ecstasy on a night out, has questioned his ability to make a full competitive comeback.

“I don’t know whether I’ll be cycling again. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to motivate myself again,” he told Tuesday’s edition of the Bild newspaper.

Germany’s 1997 Tour winner was suspended for six months after testing positive at an out-of-competition control on June 12 at a clinic where he was recovering from knee surgery. He admitted that he had taken two ecstasy tablets in an attempt to overcome depression at the length of time his recovery was taking. The 28-year-old was told last month that he would have to go without pay from his team Telekom while he served out his ban. Despite his fears he told Bild that if he did manage to return to the saddle he would do so “stronger than ever”.

Grabsch wins opener at Vuelta a Burgos
German rider Bert Grabsch (Phonak) won the opening stage of the 2002Vuelta a Burgos on Monday, taking the bunch sprint in the 155-km stagefrom Burgos to Medina de Pomar in northern Spain.

The five-day race is one of the final warm-up races for the upcomingVuelta a España (Sept. 7-29) and many of the Vuelta favorites arepresent.

The race continues Tuesday with the 172-km second stage from Frias toMirando de Ebro, which features three climbs early in the stage and endswith a flat finish over the final 50 km. Stage three is a flat, 18-km individualtime trial while the 165-km stage four takes the racers up the “especial”climb to Lagunas de Neila high in the Sierra de la Demanda.

The race finishes Friday with the rolling 172-km final stage from Castrajenizto Burgos. A special ceremony paying homage to Tour de France greats isalso scheduled for the final stage. Scheduled to appear are Eddy Merckx,Bernard Hinault, Pedro Delgado and Miguel Indurain.

Frigo wins Urkiola
Italian Dario Frigo won the Subida Urkiola race Sunday in Spain’s BasqueCountry, a difficult 160-km race featuring two climbs up the Urkiola climbfeaturing ramps as steep as 9 percent.

Frigo (Tacconi Sport) crossed the line ahead of Carlos Garcia Quesada(Kelme) and Danilo Di Luca (Saeco), who came across third.

There were plenty of escapes early in the race, a popular one-day eventfollowing the Clasica San Sebastian every year, but it was the final humpup Urkiola where the race was decided. Lampre’s Pavel Tonkov attacked earlyoff the lead bunch of 60 riders. Tonkov was reeled in and it looked likeGarcia Quesada had the victory in his hands until Frigo came bolting past.

Absent riders lose World Cup points
Fourteen riders with World Cup points forfeited them when they didnot race at the Clasica San Sebastian on Saturday. Among the 14 racersis Mario Cipollini (Acqua & Sapone), the winner of Milan-San Remo whocame into the Clasica sitting fifth overall in the standings. Riders mustcompete in at least six World Cup races to be classified.