U.S. national road champion George Hincapie took a trip to the tarmac Thursday at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and his run at a fourth national championship may be in doubt.
According to a release from BMC Racing, Hincapie “needed 18 stitches to close a cut on his right knee and sustained abrasions to his right shoulder and face.” He did not suffer any fractures in the crash.
Hincapie, riding his first Tour of Utah as preparation for what were to be his last events of the season, two ProTour races in Canada and the national championships in September, crashed hard in a shallow canyon a few miles past the day’s first sprint point.
The four-time Tour de France stage winner swerved to avoid another rider when he hit gravel on the side of the road and washed out. “I rode into a bit of gravel and my front wheel went out,” Hincapie said. “Crashing is never a good thing. I’m definitely concerned with my knee and how much time I’m going to have to take off the bike. It’s not a good time for that.”
Hincapie lay on the ground at the edge of the road, clutching his knee as the caravan drove past.
Stage winner and former teammate Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny’s) was behind Hincapie when the crash occurred. “I think what happened is the side of the road looked like pavement but it was actually gravel,” said Leipheimer. “He didn’t notice and his front wheel slid out. I don’t know how he’s doing, but I hope he’s OK.”
Leipheimer was nearly as surprised as he was disappointed to see his friend abandon the race with three days remaining. “Yeah and I tell you what, that’s a very rare thing to see,” said Leipheimer. “I haven’t seen him crash very much in the 15 years I’ve been around.”
The laceration will keep Hincapie off the bike for 10 days. Team doctor Max Testa will watch the rider in Salt Lake City over the next day and said that the crash may put Hincapie’s hometown title defense in doubt. “We’ll monitor him closely the next 24 hours and then make a plan for his recovery,” Testa said. “We can’t make a determination yet whether he’ll be able to defend his title.”
BMC team director John Lelangue hoped Hincapie would be ready for the Canadian races, but pointed to the national championships in Greenville, South Carolina, as the top priority. “We’ll see how it goes in the coming days and if he has the possibility to race the two ProTour races in Canada, just to get him two more racing days and more training,” Lelangue said. “I hope to see him at 100 percent for nationals because it’s a special race, he’s the defending champion and he’s at home.”
The USA Cycling Professional National Championships take place September 18-19 in Greenville, South Carolina. Hincapie is the three-time and defending champion.