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STATELINE, Nevada (VN) – On the eve of the Amgen Tour of California, George Hincapie is back with his BMC Racing team and the squad’s youth movement is keeping him going.
Hincapie, a former U.S. national road champion and one of the most respected riders in the peloton, joined up with Jim Ochowicz’s upstart American squad early in the signing period in 2009. Ochowicz said recently that Hincapie’s signing was the tipping point to attract riders like former world champion Cadel Evans and veteran workhorse Marcus Burghardt.
At 37, Hincapie is likely to close his career with the team that has ascended to the top tier of the sport. But that won’t come until after he makes an effort to tie the record for Tours de France ridden, at 16, held by Joop Zoetemelk, this July.
“A lot of my friends and family are starting to remind me that I’m really close to the record, so it’s definitely in my mind somewhere,” said Hincapie.
Hincapie credited his young teammates like Taylor Phinney and Tim Roe for keeping his fire burning for the sport in his 18th professional season. He has confirmed that he will return for a 19th season in 2012.
“I have a great relationship with the young guys,” said Hincapie. “I feel like I can help them in some aspects of the sport… it really just helps keep it interesting for me. I love being around these guys. They all have great personalities and are fun to be around all the time. This sport’s so hard, it’s important when you get back in the bus that you can have a good time and be able to relax and enjoy yourself.”
Phinney credited Hincapie for his move to BMC Racing after riding as a stagaire with RadioShack in 2010. “George was a big part of that,” said Phinney. “He definitely had a big influence in bringing me over.”
The 20-year-old stayed with Hincapie’s family during the U.S. Professional Championships in Greenville, South Carolina, last September. Phinney won the time trial narrowly over veteran Levi Leipheimer.
“I really loved being around [Hincapie] and thought that what he had going on with BMC was really great,” said Phinney. “That weekend went really well; I won the time trial and here I am.”
Here Phinney is, in Stateline, Nevada, for the start of the Amgen Tour of California Sunday. It will be his first Amgen Tour and both Hincapie and he will be aiming for a stage win – Phinney in the Solvang time trial and Hincapie on the final stage in Thousand Oaks.
“They keep getting younger and stronger and the sport keeps getting harder,” said Hincapie. “I’m glad I have some of the best young guys on the world on my team; it’s been a really good experience for me.”