Is George Hincapie's Tour de France Performance Being Hampered by Low Body Weight?

I think I was one of the many American viewers of The Tour de France who wondered why George Hincapie lost over 20 minutes to the General Classification leaders in the Pyrenees. I wasn't convinced that he would be able to stay with Floyd Landis, Denis Menchov, Cadel Evans, and some of the other likely top finishers, but I didn't expect him to fall so far behind on the disastorous Stage 11 to Pla-de-Beret.

Over the weekend I saw an article on Podium Cafe, Why George's tour is so bad, that quotes an article from The Gannett News Service in its entirety because the article is not widely available on the Internet. The article quotes Rich Hincapie (George's brother) as saying, "We talked to the team doctor, and he said that basically George came into the tour so skinny that his body doesn't have enough reserves to recover day to day. It was kind of a big gamble to lose as much weight as he did. After a while, you start burning muscle."

Further research led me to Rich Hincapie's blog for The Greenville News and a post ominously titled Race is over where Rich said:

Well today {Stage 11} did not turn out well at all for the team.

George looked so strong out there and once again it looked like he just ran out of energy. The team doctor says he came into this tour way too light and it has really made things difficult on him....

OLN hosted a conference call with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen earlier today, so I asked the best commentators in cycling about George Hincapie's weight and whether they'd noticed a change.

Paul Sherwen said that he wasn't sure that Hincapie had lost an excessive amount of weight this year compared to previous Tours, but that George had trained this year to be a Tour rider rather than a classics rider and that he had never been expected to finish mountain stages in the first group of riders on a consistent basis before.

He also said the Hincapie may not have the right mindset to be a team leader in the Tour at this point. He compared Hincapie to Sean Yates, one of the Directeur Sportifs for the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team who Sherwen said was an excellent cyclist when riding on behalf of a teammate, but didn't have the same success when he tried to ride for himself.

I don't think Paul was saying that George Hincapie isn't cut out to be a team leader, but that the pressure of riding as one of the co-leaders of Discovery was unbelievably intense and that may have contributed to his performance in Pyrenees.

Phil Liggett said that he thinks George is very unhappy with his Tour so far. He said that they have difficulty seeing and speaking to the riders in person in between stages. He and the other commentators work "one day ahead", so they leave the finish line rather quickly after the stage is over and travel to the finishing city of the next stage. As a result, he hasn't seen George Hincapie face-to-face since the Prologue and is only seeing him on television like the rest of us.

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