Big George is a big supporter of the Breakaway from Cancer Initiative (breakawayfromcancer.com), and so is AMGEN, the mega-big drug company that’s also behind the Tour of California (tourofcalifornia.com). The weather gods were smiling down on George and the hundreds of cyclists who rode in this event. 60 degrees, no clouds, no wind…in December? It’s gotta be divine intervention!
Hincapie leads the field along San Francisco’s Great Highway, next to the Pacific Ocean, in the Breakaway from Cancer ride.
Before he rolled away to lead the 25-mile ride, George sat down and shared his thoughts…on the current and future status of the Discovery team…his goals for 2007…and his reasons for coming to San Francisco.
PEZ: I have to ask…how did you get out of the team training camp in Texas?
GH: I haven’t gone the last couple of years. It’s more for the new guys on the team, and guys who don’t have good places to train. I’m actually going later, but just for one day.
PEZ: What’s your involvement with this event? Tell me a little bit about why you’re here, and what this means to you.
GH: The Breakaway from Cancer Initiative is a great cause. I had the opportunity to help promote it, and be a part of it, and that’s really special that I’m able to do that. I’m really honored… What Amgen’s doing for the sport of cycling, and to support people with cancer, is really important.
PEZ: Many of us have friends or relatives who have been cancer victims, and aside from Lance Armstrong, is there anyone else in your life who has been touched by cancer?
GH: I’ve just lost an uncle to cancer, and my sister-in-law has ovarian cancer. She’s currently in remission. I’ve known others who’ve been affected by it. Obviously Lance, too, and so many others. Probably everyone here is affected by it, in some way or another. It’s a disease that touches everybody.
The special sunglasses, the Disco jersey…it’s gotta be Big George.
PEZ: As you look back on 2006, you had a great Tour of California. Tell me a little bit about your experience in that event, winning the two stages, having the leader’s jersey, and what you expect for this next year.
GH: The Tour of California was great. The organization was super, the fans were awesome, the roads were great, the Europeans really loved doing that race, and for us it was really important. Lots of us don’t really get to race much in the United States. We had some of the best guys in the world going for it, and the Americans were winning! I really wanted to win the overall, but I was happy winning two stages, and getting fourth place as well.
(Note: At this point in the interview, a strange looking man with an odd Euro-trash accent approached George, and interrupted our conversation)
How’s this for a Sunday ride lineup? Robin Williams, George Hincapie, Andrea Peron and Freddie Rodriguez. One of these things is not like the other ones!
Stranger: You are George Hincapie? I love you! I want an autograph…George HinCAPie! George is so macho! We macho! Hello, George…you big, big rider! Hello, George HinCAPie!
(Upon further review, we realize that this strange, furry man is actually Robin Williams. Yes, the Robin Williams)
GH: Can you hold it down?
RW: Yes, like most women.
PEZ: So where were we? Looking back on ’06, the thing that people probably remember most is your experience at Paris-Roubaix (when the steerer tube on his bike broke, and left him holding handlebars that weren’t attached to the bike). When you think back on that, was it just a surreal experience?
GH: It was definitely a disappointment for me, to be in such a good position, and then watch it all just taken away. So it was tough, but at the same time, I’ve done 11 Paris-Roubaixs, and to come away from that with only a separated shoulder is not bad, either.
PEZ: Is winning Paris-Roubaix a stated goal, and will you go out and try to really go after it?
GH: Yeah, definitely. I’ve really got to be at my best for Roubiax.
PEZ: Are there other classics that you want to win next year?
GH: Flanders or Roubaix…those are the two that are most important.
Roubaix 2006: Anyone watching the race knew George was on top form and was destined for the podium… until destiny changed her mind.
PEZ: With the addition of Levi Leipheimer and Ivan Basso to the Discovery Channel team, does that make Discovery the strongest team out there?
GH: It definitely points toward that. Basso and Levi are two of the best grand tour riders in the world, so it looks like that will be the case.
PEZ: Do you see yourself riding in support of them? There was talk last year that you were “the guy” but now one of them will be “the guy”…how do you feel about that?
GH: Well, I’m going to focus on the Classics. I still want to do well at the Tour, and hopefully win stages at the Tour, but I just don’t know what my role will be on the team. That’s something that will be decided in the next couple of months.
PEZ: Is it disappointing at all when they bring in these big stars, to see yourself having to ride in support for them, or do you still see yourself on par with Basso and Leipheimer?
GH: I think it’s pretty obvious that Basso will be the leader for the Tour. So for me, it’s just part of life. It’s part of the sport. It’ll be time for me to focus on the Classics more than I did last year, and then see what I can do at the Tour.
PEZ: Any thoughts about riding the Giro d’Italia?
GH: No! (laugh)
• Get more info at George’s website