Ok, so I know I haven’t posted in a week, and I shouldn’t have the chutzpah to criticize anyone, but come on – asking Tom Boonen “Are you the next George Hincapie?” I realize that’s not a direct quote, but the idiocy of sentiment remains. How can Boonen “follow in the footsteps” (that is a quote) of a guy who has always been and will continue to be miles behind him? Baby-face Tom made this perfectly clear on a fateful afternoon in 2002, and drove the point home with authority three years later. Hincapie’s tried to win Tour sprints, tried to snag a day in the maillot jaune, tried to win Flanders, and tried to win Roubaix. He has failed on every occasion. In only two years, Boonen’s triumphs in all but one of these areas have been manifold – and I wouldn’t bet against his chances of completing the set next month. Until last July, there simply was no comparison to be made between these two riders.
Of course now, the buzz is all over that Hincapie’s gonna be the next big Grand Tour rider on the Discovery Channel squad. I think, for a guy whose GC resume consists of wholly of winning a Tour stage (from a breakaway well after the GC race was decided), and hanging marginally closer to the front than normal during some one-week stage races, Hincapie has claimed and been given way too much respect as a legitimate overall contender. But let’s pretend for the moment that Gorgeous George’s recent change of focus will turn out better than Brad McGee’s or Danilo DiLuca’s (search “fluke”); You still don’t ask someone who’s consistently and soundly beaten the crap out of everyone over the past two years whether he’s gonna model his career after one of his victims. It’d be like asking Lance Armstrong if he planned to “follow in the footsteps” of Alex Zulle, or quizzing Michael Jordan on whether he was the next Patrick Ewing.
I dunno, maybe it’s some deep, self-infatuated corner of the American psyche that moves us to such impertinent things; from sophomoric questions, to Grand Tour pretensions, to snipey weblogs. Or to racing a seven-day stage race at the highest level of an international sport, throwing down in the time trial, then making a slow, chatty plod to the top of one of the most revered mountains in the world the next day, without so much as breaking a sweat. I’m just glad the leader’s jersey was on less pretentious shoulders. Sure, Lance was single-minded about the Tour, and may have played possum once or twice, but he also went balls out for the classics, and snagged a few Dauphine wins to boot. I can’t think of a single occasion where Big Tex rolled in as limp-wristedly as Floyd did last week. Levi Leipheimer might be the worse for it come Tour time, but he scored some serious points with me by being the only American at the Dauphine (rider or journalist) to do his job, and do it well.