George Hincapie once wore a yellow jersey on a bike in France. Donning a particular color that doesn’t agree with most skin tones might not sound like much to a casual nonconsumer of endurance sports, but to those who follow cycling, this accomplishment is worthy of a bow at his feet.
Hincapie was teammates with Lance Armstrong when he won his (since redacted) seven Tour de France titles. Considered one of the greatest domestiques in the game — yes, he once wore the coveted maillot jaune for a spell at the Tour and won a stage — and one of the most-liked personalities in the peloton, Hincapie has since started his own cycling clothing line and has his name attached to one of the country’s biggest cycling events: the Gran Fondo Hincapie.
In the lead-up to Fort Worth being one of four cities hosting this year’s fondo — taking place March 30 — we sat down with Hincapie to chat about the excitement around the event, his storied career and who he’d pick in a race between Armstrong and Cadel Evans.
What inspired you to start the Hincapie Fondo? The original one was more of a retirement party for me during 2012. We just decided that was my last year, and we were gonna do a party and call it a fondo, and it became really successful. One-thousand people showed up, and then we asked, “Why don’t we do this every year?”
It started in South Carolina but has since expanded to other cities. Why did you choose Fort Worth? We had some interest from some of the local influential bikers in town. We went to the site visit. Our fondo here is very demanding, very elite. This is kind of a nice middle ground, no major mountains, in the middle of the country obviously. It seemed like a good place to go expand to.
What else do you have in store for Fort Worth? What can Fort Worthians expect? We’re doing a really cool celebrity chef dinner the night before the event. It’ll include Jon Bonnell, Lanny Lancarte and Biju Thomas, who’s been around the cycling world a long time. He’s just a really amazing Indian chef, has a couple restaurants in Denver, has a couple books, and he’s one of the most well-known sort of cycling chefs out there.
You’ve maintained a great relationship with Lance Armstrong, who’s riding in the event. Can you just tell me what that relationship is like? Lance and I have been friends now for 30 years and, of course, we went through some hard times a couple years ago, but our friendship kinda withheld throughout that, and I know him very, very well personally. People seem to think he’s very stoic, very serious, and has a very cutthroat personality, but his personality is quite laid-back and funny. In fact, if you watch some of his podcasts, you’ll see his true personality come out now and then. He’s just a good guy. He grew up not too far down the road, so I’m super excited to be able to ride with him in it.
Can you describe the influence people like you and Armstrong had on the sport of cycling in the United States? The fact that we were a majority American team racing in the Tour de France and, obviously, how well Lance did at the time brought a lot more attention to the sport and helped grow the sport here in the country. Those are some of the positives that came from all that stuff. Now, unfortunately, there’s maybe three Americans, four, five maximum, riding in the Tour. I’d love to see an American team with majority American riders back in there racing.
What would you say is your greatest career achievement? The one that sticks out the most is winning the national championships here in my hometown [Greenville, South Carolina]. Just being able to race in front of friends that never saw me race before but always kinda just heard what I did and wondered why I was never able to hang out because I was always riding my bike. To be able to win a big race like that in front of them is something that stands out.
In a head-to-head race, you got Cadel Evans or Lance Armstrong? Right now, I would say definitely Cadel Evans. I think he’s gained like 500 grams since he’s retired. He’s super-fit, while Lance and I have definitely put on a little bit of post-professional career weight. I’d say Cadel right now.
Check out more of our interview with George Hincapie and his time with the U.S. Postal Service Team at fwtx.com. And register to ride the Hincapie Fondo at hincapie.com/granfondo