Tearing away on an 80kmh descent was just the springboard American George Hincapie needed to take a dramatic win in stage two of the Dauphine Libere.
Hincapie crossed the line with the bunch snapping at his heels after he took some considerable risks on the treacherous descent into Vienne, before going clear on the final corner around 800 metres from the line.
But the risk-taking and high-speed charge into the last corner proved more than worth it, after Hincapie then kept away on the long final straightaway – running alongside the River Rhone – for his first win in over three months.
Hincapie explained that his attack had come after ?our sprinter Andrei Greipel was dropped on the final climb.?
?We were then allowed to do our own thing and attack as and when we wanted. This was a great result for me, a very special victory.?
15 years a pro, Hincapie?s role in High Road is very much one of elder statesman, advising the young guns like Briton Mark Cavendish – for whom he had nothing but praise during his press conference, as well as predictions of at least two stage wins in the upcoming Tour de France.
?We?re really looking forward to doing the Tour de France with Mark.? Hincapie said. ?He?s a great kid, I roomed with him in the beginning of the year and I was really impressed with how down to earth he is.?
?He?s got a great head on his shoulders and he is by far the fastest rider in the world in the last 100 metres right now. If we can get him to those last 100 metres he?ll get at least a couple of stages in the Tour de France.?
Overall, the favourites stayed close to the front on the break-neck final downhill section. Fastman Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) remains in overall control, but Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D?Epargne) and Levi Leipheimer (Astana), second and third overall, were always close to the action and they will be pushing the burly Norwegian to the limit in Wednesday?s hilly time trial.
?George definitely deserved to win, even though we did most of the work today.? Hushovd, who took fifth on the stage, said afterwards.
?It was a very close result, but he timed his attack brilliantly. There was nothing I could do.?
DAUPHINE LIBERE STAGE TWO: RESULTS
1 George Hincapie (USA) High Road 184km in 4hr 32min 38sec
2 Sebastian Chavanel (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
3 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner
4 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner
5 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole
6 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Bouygues
7 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner
8 David Vigano (Ita) Quick Step
9 Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas
10 Julien Loubet (Fra) Ag2R all same time
115 Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 15 sec
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 2
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 9hr 25min 19sec
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse D?Epargne at 1sec
3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 5sec
4 George Hincapie (USA) High Road at 13sec
5 Maxine Monfort (Bel) Cofidis at 17sec
6 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Ag2R same time
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 18sec
8 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step at 19sec
9 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi same time
10 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner at 20sec
75 Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 48sec
Britain’s Charly Wegelius relaxes before the stage
A race fan gets a good view
George Hincapie outfoxes his rivals on the run-in to the finish line
George Hincapie enjoys being back on the podium
Thor Hushovd retains the overall race lead and the yellow jersey
Photos by Luc Claessen
DAUPHINE LIBERE 2008: STAGE REPORTS
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