COMPIEGNE, France (AFP) — Evergreen American George Hincapie has admitted that this year could be his last Paris-Roubaix as he prepares to compete in the famous spring classic for a record-equaling 17th time on Sunday.
Now 38, the likeable Hincapie arrived in France fresh from taking part in his 17th Tour of Flanders last weekend, an outright record which he described as “an honor” afterwards.
Now he will repeat that impressive feat in the race known as “The Hell of the North,” a classic in which he first competed in 1994 and in which he finished second in 2005.
However, Hincapie will share this latest record with Fréderic Guesdon, the last French winner of the race, in 1997, and it was no surprise to see the latter grab much of the attention from local fans and media at the eve-of-race presentation in Compiegne.
“To win the Paris-Roubaix you have to be a hard worker and you can never afford to take your position for granted,” Hincapie said in a nod to Guesdon, who at 40 is two years Hincapie’s senior.
“You have to live for cycling. You can’t just train for the money at the end of the month. Somebody like Frédéric, that is what he did and you have to respect him for that.”
When asked if he could be tempted to return next year for an 18th crack at the famous race, Hincapie said: “I haven’t decided yet. This could be my last one.”
If this is to be his farewell, then the BMC rider will hope to bow out on a high.
A fairytale win may just be beyond him, but Hincapie could have a key role to play in helping his teammates and former world champions Alessandro Ballan and Thor Hushovd in their quest for victory in Roubaix.
Tom Boonen — the man who edged out Hincapie in a sprint for the line in 2005 — is rightly seen as the outright favorite, but Hushovd sees no reason why a BMC rider cannot cross the line first.
“Yeah I think we have a strong team,” he said. “Personally, this is a race I dream of winning and I just hope that I can do it this year.”