American veteran George Hincapie has announced that he will retire after taking part in a record-breaking 17th Tour de France.
Hincapie will join the BMC Racing team for one last Tour de France at the end of June, where he will assist team-mate Cadel Evans in defending the Australian’s 2011 Tour title. He will retire directly after the Tour.
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Hincapie turns 39 on June 29, the day before the start of the 2012 Tour de France in Liege, Belgium. He equalled Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk’s Tour participation record last year at 16 starts – including riding as team-mate with Lance Armstrong during all seven of the Texan’s Tour wins. He also helped Alberto Contador win in 2007 and Evans in 2011.
Hincapie will retire to spend more time with his family and help run his sports and casual attire business, Hincapie Clothing.
“This is definitely not a decision that has been easy,” Hincapie said in a statement.
“I came to the conclusion that I want to go out while I can still contribute and make a difference. To be able to compete for 19 years as a professional cyclist has been something I would have never dreamed of doing.
“But at the same time, it’s also going to be good to spend more time with my kids, who are getting to be the age where they miss me when I’m gone.”
Hincapie said he’ll give everything for his final Tour to help Evans: “I’m still feeling strong and healthy and ready to make a contribution to the team these last two months. I’m 100 percent motivated to help Cadel win another Tour.”
George Hincapie and Lance Armstrong at the 2003 Tour de France
The New Yorker made his professional debut in 1994, taking part in his first Tour in 1996. He hasn’t missed one since. Along the way, he’s won the American road race national title three times, ridden in five Olympic Games, and taken a host of wins including Ghent-Wevelgem (2001), Three Days of De Panne (2004), Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (2005), Tour of Missouri (2007), and stages of the Tour de France, Dauphine Libere and Tour of California.
He contested many of the spring classics, and placed second behind Tom Boonen in the 2005 edition of Paris-Roubaix. Hincapie has also finished Paris-Roubaix on 17 occasions.
Hincapie also became one of Mark Cavendish’s key lead-out men at the HTC-Columbia team, before Hincapie joined BMC for the 2011 season.
In May 2011, Hincapie found himself at the centre of controversy after CBS show 60 Minutes claimed that he told federal authorities that he had seen Armstrong taking banned performance-enhancing substances. Hincapie swiftly denied having made any such statement, and the federal investigation into Armstrong has been subsequently dropped.