Hincapie caps off U.S. efforts in Stuttgart with 23rd-place finish
The 2007 UCI Road World Championships came to a conclusion on Sunday when George Hincapie
recorded the best finish for the U.S. National Team in the 267-kilometer elite menís road race.
Hincapie placed 23rd, crossing the finish line in a 35-man group 49 seconds off the pace of
winner and defending champion Paolo Bettini of Italy.
Christian Vande Velde finished in the same group in 36th place.
Other U.S. National Team members David Zabriskie, Tyler Farrar, Bobby Julich, Jason McCartney
and John Devine did not finish after assuming support roles for team.
Contrary to a typical world championship race, the pace was fast nearly from the beginning as
the day was marked by several different breakaways that were all ultimately brought back.
The result was a race of attrition in which only a handful of the strongest one-day riders
in the world remained in the final kilometers.
Hincapie, the teamís designated leader, admitted afterwards he didnít quite
have the form on Sunday to contend for a spot on the podium.
"My legs were not good," he said. "I could feel it about halfway that I was not having a super day, so I
told the guys if they were good they can go and I would just try to follow wheels. Once we hit 200 kilometers,
I just didnít have the legs."
On the opening lap of the 14-lap race, Farrar initiated an early but short-lived breakaway
that contained four other riders. In 2006, Farrar rode in an early 12-man breakaway for nearly
140 kilometers, but this year, his early breakaway attempt was caught by the end of the first 19-kilometer circuit.
At the 100-kilometer mark, with a three-man breakaway already off the front, the remainder of the
198-rider peloton was split into two main groups with Julich initially making the first 40-rider split.
Hincapie also made it into the front group, but believed the effort may have sacrificed his chances later.
"I saw it go and I had to bridge up to it, maybe like 5k by myself, and that might have taken a little bit of
steam out of me. But you know it was 40 guys and I figured two was better than one up there."
Once the lead group of roughly 40 riders was established, another split resulted in a 30-rider front group in
which only Julich was present. For the next 50 kilometers Julich helped push the pace of the lead group,
but thanks primarily to a hard-chasing Dutch squad, the two main groups reconnected for the beginning of
the final three laps. Once the peloton was back together, only about 60 riders remained in contention
including Hincapie, Julich, Vande Velde and McCartney, who were all still in the main group with three
laps to go. At that point, Devine was in a group 3:35 back and Farrar and Zabriskie had abandoned.
Over the course of the next three laps, attrition pared the field down even further and when a
two-man break containing Davide Rebellin (ITA) and Koblanev escaped at the end of the penultimate lap,
a Spanish-led chase further splintered the field. Throughout the last 20 kilometers, only Koblanev, Evans, Bettini,
Schumacher and Schleck emerged from the nearly 200 starters - nearly seven hours later - to sprint for the world title.
"I couldnít react, I was just empty there," Hincapie recalled of the decisive split.
"All day we were going because we were chasing something down. It wasnít a typical world championships.
It was fast. Some days you just donít have it. There was a lot of climbing today and obviously I just wasnít at
my best. If youíre not at your best on this course thereís not much you can do."
Tough day for Canada
The three Canadian riders in the menís elite race on Sunday at the world road championships in
cycling in Stuttgart, Germany, did not finish.
Olympic champion Paolo Bettini of Italy successfully defended his title with Alexandr Kolobnev of
Russia second and Stefan Schumacher of Germany third.
Dominique Rollin, Svein Tuft and Cameron Evans withdrew in the 12th, 11th and 10th laps respectively.
There were 14 laps in total.
"The 270 kilometre course was tough and to be honest this was a completely different level of competition,"
said Canadian team manager Kris Westwood.
"Itís as if the guys went from junior hockey to the NHL. It was the first elite race for all three at
the world championships. We knew they wouldnít be in contention for a medal and the question was how
long they could last against such a powerful field. Today nobody had a memorable day."
On the sixth lap, a 40-rider pack took-off and built a two-minute lead. The Dutch team worked hard to reel the pack
back in but without success. With four laps to go, it was the Italian squad that reduced the gap and put its
leader Bettini in a strong position for the finish. The frenetic pace imposed by the Italians proved
to be successful but drained the Canadians.
Rollin learned many lessons.
"I felt comfortable on the course except for one very steep climb," he said.
"I hadnít raced such a long distance since June so I tried to be more conservative. The reason I
stopped was probably due to nutritional issues. After 200 kilometres, I started to have headaches
because of a low sugar intake and dehydration. I hadnít raced the distance in four months so I wasnít
use to eating a recuperating so much."