The "BIG HINK" takes a stage
Much to the delight of those of us who follow the Tour De France, George Hincapie - Lance's good friend and faithful Lt. - won his first ever Tour stage; the hardest stage in this years competition.
If ever there was a deserving winner, it is George. For the past 7 years, George has faithfully done his part to set Lance up so Lance could win stage after stage and Tour after Tour. For George to be a faithful Lt. he's had to sacrifice his own hopes and dreams of winning the Tour. And the reality is that though George is a great, world-class bike rider, he would never be able to take a Tour away from Lance - who may be the greatest ever. Eddie Merx, Bernard Hinault and our own GREG LEMOND, could have ridden with Lance in their prime but who knows if they could have beaten him. But George is not in that league.
Discovery Team has not ridden particularly well in the moutains this year so the strategy today was to send George out early with any decent breakaway; build up a lead and then drift back to Lance when they came to the last mountain stages. This would guarantee Lance had team support when and where it would be most difficult; the last couple of climbs.
Basically it went like clockwork. George went out with an early breakaway that at one time was 18 minutes ahead of the main Peloton. When the breakway was that far ahead, the Discovery Team managers began to wonder if maybe George could actually win the thing. The key to letting George stay ahead was Lance. As long as Lance had his main rivals in sight ( Ivan Basso, Jan Ulrich and Michael Rasmussen) George would not be needed. But if Lance were to begin losing time to his 3 rivals, George would have to drift back to help Lance out.
Well inevitably the group of elite riders began to reel in the breakaway. Finally only George and an Italian rider were left on the break and they were 5 minutes ahead going up the last climb. Luckily, Lance had done his part keeping his main competitors in view so George had the green light to try and win the stage. He finally took the lead from the Italian with 300 yards to go and sprinted to victory. We, the American Tour Fans, are ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTED that faithful George Hincapie just won the biggest race of his career.
Sometimes great things happen to good people! JB