Recognition by one's peers for exemplary work is perhaps one of the greatest testaments to a life’s work that one may receive. For the recognized it is a confirmation of one’s artistic vision, the ultimate feedback for insight that rarely begins as more than a hunch. To the audience, seeing a respected master receive the highest accolade afforded gives a sense that all is right with the world, that justice can, on occasion, be served.
If your experience with the movies and watching the Academy Awards is anything like mine, you typically feel a strong connection with one or two of the nominees and on the occasion that they win, such as Marion Cotillard of La Vie en Rose for best actress or Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova of Once for best original song, their victories come as a triumph of the human spirit in the act of creation.
Bissell rider Tom Zirbel would have been a deserving stage winner in the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California. He persevered in a late-race breakaway in conditions awful enough no one would otherwise choose to ride a bicycle. It was a gutsy ride that would have made for a significant win for a little-known rider. It wasn’t to be.
When George Hincapie attacked on the Pasadena finishing circuit’s biggest hill, his acceleraton was an impressive display of strength, the sort of acceleration we expect of our champions, a move we only associate with a true hardman.
Hincapie is America’s most experienced pro rider. The media has repeatedly talked of how until his move to High Road this season he spent the whole of his career at US Postal/Discovery Channel. The fact is, Hincapie began his professional career with Motorola—he’s been a pro since 1994.
Hincapie is the rider whose face you see in the dictionary when you look up the phrase “long suffering.” While he has had his successes, in a career as long and distinguished as his, there don’t seem to be quite enough of them to reflect his ability, his tactical judgment or how he is regarded by the American tifosi.
That Michael Creed kept returning to the breakaway despite his refusal to take his share of pulls and his negative racing tactics had me yelling expletives at the screen. Once Zirbel had been brought back there didn’t seem any just outcome to the day other than a win from Hincapie. And sometimes we find gratification exactly when and where we want.
Levi Leipheimer may have been the rightful overall winner—anyone who witnessed Levi’s intensity in the start house for the Solvang time trial could see his determination—but his previous win in the event makes his achievement less surprising, though perhaps more satisfying than his first win given the refutation to ASO that it provides. This is a victory for pride.
In a race notable for conditions crappy enough to ruin the audience’s belief in California as paradise, it is right that Hincapie, a man who has made his name in Belgium and France, should put the terminal punctuation on the most interesting edition of the Amgen Tour of California. After all, what says PRO more than a win in the rain?
In the wake of the suspicion surrounding his previous team, Hincapie’s association with High Road is a fresh chapter to a distinguished career and a way to confirm what we have always believed: that “Big” George is capable, is hardman strong, and deserves to win.
Photo courtesy of Greg Page/Page 1 Studio.