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George Hincapie talks about the Spring Classics

Alexander Kristoff, Fabian Cancellara, and Niki Terpstra were the riders who shared the spoils in the first three Monuments of the season: Milan-Sanremo, Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix. In the last weeks, we’ve had some great racing, entertainment, drama, and memorable moments, that make this Spring campaign one of the best in recent years. A former rider with top 10 placings in all these races, George Hincapie agreed to share his opinions on what happened so far in the Classics.

– Mister Hincapie, let’s start with the first big Monument of the season, Milan-Sanremo. What do you think of it?

As always, Milan-Sanremo was a very tough race and the weather played an important part also this year. I was glad for Alexander Kristoff, we were teammates at BMC for two seasons, he is a great guy and deserved to win. For some years now, Kristoff is developing and he’s turning into one of the best Classics riders out there. He’s a complete rider, capable of fighting for the win not only in Sanremo, but also in Flanders and Roubaix.

– Many are saying that the Tour of Flanders was the best one-day race of the year so far. How did you enjoy it?

It was a really exciting race. Fabian Cancellara was good as always, he did a great effort to catch Greg Van Avermaet without help from Sep Vanmarcke, who was also riding very well. At the end, Cancellara even fooled me when I was watching at TV. When he had a gel with six kilometers to go, I thought he wasn’t feeling great, and he also had some trouble closing the gap when the Stijn Vanderbegh attacked. He fooled me, I didn’t think he could be so great in the sprint, but he was. He played some excellent poker.

– Many have criticized Omega Pharma-Quick Steps’ tactics for the Tour of Flanders. Where do you stand?

Tactics is one thing, but real time racing is another. When Van Avermaet attacked, Vanderbergh was on his wheel, and in a moment like that you have to go. You don’t know if the breakaway will stay away, but you have to go. In the pack there were four Omega guys and their job was to send someone in the attack. It wasn’t good for Van Avermaet that Vandenbergh didn’t pull, but there isn’t much he could have done. It’s true that Omega wanted Tom Boonen to win, and you can’t count him out, even if he had all these problems, because he is a three-time winner, but I don’t think it was all or nothing for Boonen, it didn’t seem that way, as Niki Terpstra and Zdenek Stybar were also in that group. And on the Oude Kwaremont, where everybody knew that Cancellara will attack, we could see it wasn’t Boonen’s day.

– One week later, Omega Pharma-Quick Step did a very good team work and landed the win in Paris-Roubaix.

Indeed, they did a great team race, Boonen played a really good team card and went out early, while Niki Terpstra took advantage of this work and also of the other riders hesitation. It’s true that before Terpstra came to the front group, we had Cancellara, Degenkolb, Vanmarcke, and Sagan there, but those four guys, even if they wanted to stay away, they all knew that they have the same chances in a sprint. On paper, Degenkolb was the fastest, but things change after 260 kilometres. They were tired, not so comfortable with each other and the Omega guys were there. When you are so close, only ten seconds behind, you know you still have a chance, mentally it’s easier to come back.

– One of the riders who were in contention at Roubaix, Peter Sagan, was a hot favourite to win a Monument at the start of the season, but he didn’t do it and even failed to finish in the top three. What didn’t work?

It seemed to me that he just raced a lot, he did all the races in the Spring. He raced since January, races in February, in March he again did it, raced all the races before Milan-Sanremo, afterwards he did the first cobbled Classics, then he went in De Panne, and won a stage there. In my opinion, you need every bit of energy possible, and I feel he could have skipped De Panne. Most of the favourites weren’t in that race, there was no reason to ride it. Sagan was in a great form at the start of the season, but he was very tired when it came to the important races. There’s also a mistake of the management, they know he’s a young rider and he’ll do what they tell him, but if they really want to win all the big races, they should do things more wisely, save him a bit for the Monuments, where you need every bit of energy, especially as he doesn’t have a strong team. Sagan is an incredible rider, a very good bike-handler, who can win the Tour of Flanders, Liège–Bastogne–Liège, and even Paris-Roubaix. I don’t see him capable of mixing the cobbles with the Ardennes in a season, so he should focus for now on Flanders.

– Next season, Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen will be 34-years old, among the veterans of the peloton. Can they still win a Monument, with all those young guns around them?

I think so. Cancellara can still blow everybody apart on the Oude Kwaremont, only one rider could stay with him this year. He is still incredible strong. Cancellara and Boonen don’t seem to be slowing down yet. And the experience they have in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix is very important, as the legs.

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