Sunday's downtown Denver time trial saw George Hincapie race his bike for the final time as a professional cyclist. And judging by the warm reception he received throughout the Colorado tour, with his name scrawled on the pavement all across the state and some of the biggest cheers raised in his name, he'll be sorely missed.
In 19 years as a pro, Hincapie became one of the most decorated American classics riders in history, with wins at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Gent-Wevelgem, and consistent finishes throughout the spring season, including several near-misses at Paris-Roubaix. He won three National Road Race Championships, but the 39-year-old will probably be best remembered for his Tour de France performances, completing a record 17 races and guiding three leaders (Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador, and Cadel Evans) to nine separate victories.
Hincapie strived to hold up that exceptional domestique record in the USAPCC, where he and the BMC Racing Team worked tirelessly to guide American upstart Tejay Van Garderen to the win. "We've been working really hard to try and win this one, to try and get the win for Tejay," he told a packed ballroom at a gala fundraiser in Denver the night after the race. And though Van Garderen fell to second in the final two days, that didn't diminish the homage paid to Hincapie, with numerous riders lamenting the popular racer's retirement and this poignant video tribute from the race unveiled. "You've done so much for me," Van Garderen said with Hincapie by his side. "I really don't want you to retire."
But Hincapie said it was time. "I've had a long career, and I'm really proud of what I've done," he said. "I'm going to miss it. But I'm looking forward to spending more time with my wife and my kids."