Ah, yes. Time for another of those transatlantic calls to George Hincapie, on location as a bike racing superstar in Europe...
Photo © 2004 Jaime Nichols
Today, we catch up with jet-setting George in Milan, where he is preparing to ride Milan-San Remo, the first of the Spring Classics for 2004, and the first World Cup race of the season.
Despite the fact that he has suffered from some nagging imperfections of the digestive tract in past weeks, I am glad to report that George is in good spirits, feeling pretty fit, and expecting a full and imminent recovery from his recent ailments. Despite the fact that he has been less than 100% in the gastro-intestinal department, Postal's mainstay has been riding strong, as evidenced by his recent fifth place overall in Paris-Nice. Not too shabby!
Here's what Mr. Hincapie had to say for himself today:
So, George, I hear you've been sick! What seems to be the trouble?
Yeah, I've actually still been having some problems, and my tummy is still kind of sore. It doesn't feel normal or perfect yet, but I rode ok in Paris-Nice, so it doesn't seem to be affecting my performance too much.
I guess not! You bike racers seem to have especially susceptible stomachs, don't you? Is that a function of all the work you do?
Yeah, definitely, and we eat at so many different places, so you never know. Also, they did find that I had a bacteria last month, so I had to take a super strong antibiotic for seven days to kill it.
Right, and that is no good for the old stomach, is it?
Yeah. So, they say it's normal, but it's just going to take awhile to get all that flora back.
Well, I hope you feel better soon. I don't like to hear that you're not feeling well!
So, I guess you weren't expecting to be so strong in Paris-Nice, and yet, you did seem to have some strength in you!
Yeah! My stomach was hurting the week before, and I wasn't feeling that great in training. Then I started off in the time trial, and didn't do such a great time trial...
You were 25th, right?
Yeah, but I wasn't that far off the leaders, and then I just rode in the front and I made the right splits; especially on that one day where there were only ten guys at the end. I made a big effort and made that move, so all of a sudden I was high up in the overall.
I felt ok the last couple of days, but on Saturday it was a really hard stage, and towards the end I couldn't go with the final attack on the climb. But, we were able to come back, and then on Sunday there were a bunch of climbs, and I actually felt good, then.
I just made the right moves, and it was good, because I didn't really train for a stage race like Paris-Nice, so I was surprised to be up there.
It seems like you'd be a good man for those shorter stage races, though. You're climbing well, and your time trial has been strong, too. You're really just very consistent. It seems like you could expect to ride with the best in those races... What do you think?
Yeah... I mean, I always thought that might be so, but last year I missed them all. Over the past few years, my climbing's been getting better, and in the tour, especially towards the end, I've been going really great. All that really builds my confidence in my stage racing. So, yeah, definitely.
A question that often comes up from our readers at the DP is whether your improved climbing prowess will take the edge off of your power for the flatter races, or slow you down in the sprint. Any thoughts?
It could definitely take the edge off of my strength. You know, I haven't really been a sprinter, per se, for awhile... but yeah, it could slow me down a little. But lately I've been training for short climbs and power on the flatter days, so we'll see.
This weekend, you'll be riding for Max Van Heeswijk, right?
Yeah. Max is going really well, and I hope we can be there to help him at the end.
...Heading into Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris Roubaix, are you aiming for those races, like usual?
Yeah, definitely! My stomach should be better, or perfect, by then, and even if it's not, I'm going to give 100% on those races. I definitely want to be riding well there. I've worked hard, and my fitness is good, so there shouldn't be any reason why I couldn't be up there battling it out with those guys.
How do you feel heading into those races after missing out last year?
I'm excited! You know, We went there two weeks ago to with Kuurne, and we rode a lot of the same climbs in Kuurne we do in Flanders. I had good feelings on the climbs, and with positioning, which I wasn't sure, because I've missed a year , so you can never be sure if you'll remember the roads, and if you'll be able to position yourself well, and you'll feel good on the cobbles, but I felt good there. Even though I hadn't really felt well before then, as soon as I hit the cobbles, for some reason, I felt really good; so it was a good sign for the weeks to come...
So, there you have it, race fans. The cobbles are calling! Stay tuned... With the Classics season officially underway on Sunday, there will no doubt be more catching up with George on the Daily Peloton soon...