CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After 19 years spent traversing the globe, George Hincapie has discovered the simple joys of home, and soon he’ll be inviting fans to come and experience them with him. Hincapie and his brother plan to open a bed and breakfast in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, this August.
The venture, an expansion of the family business already known for its Hincapie Sportswear line, is just one of a number of pending projects for the rider known to fans as “Big George.”
The transition to civilian life has been surprisingly simple for Hincapie, who retired in 2012. He still keeps a daily regimen; it just looks a little different now.
“I take my kids to school every day,” the rider told VeloNews Saturday in Charlotte, North Carolina. “And then I pick them up and I take them to soccer or tennis. You know, those are the kinds of things that I could just never do in the past.”
As for the bike, Hincapie has adopted a significantly less regimented schedule.
“I still love to ride, but I don’t do it every day and I don’t train, so to speak. At this point, cycling for me is going out and racing my buddies. We ride two or three hours, three or four days a week. It’s not structured. I just do it for the enjoyment of cycling.”
After nearly two decades in the pro peloton, Hincapie describes the change as “a relief” — both physically and mentally.
“My whole career I was very diligent about training,” explained the 39-year-old. “And if you ask anyone who rode with me they’ll tell you that training came ahead of everything else. I was always doing intervals and that sort of thing. And that’s very hard, so it’s nice to just go out and ride my bike for a change.”
Hincapie, whose career included a record-setting 17 Tour de France starts, is now past another stressor as well. Lance Armstrong’s longtime road captain admitted to doping throughout his career and provided sworn testimony to the U.S Anti-Doping Agency last September, accepting a six-month ban from competition that, in his case, proved largely toothless. Hincapie retired after August’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
A recent trip to Belgium confirmed the timing of his decision.
“I went to the Tour of Flanders a few weeks back and I found I had no desire to be in the race,” Hincapie said. “I just really enjoyed watching it. So that was a good sign to me that I don’t miss it. I still love racing. But 19 years as a pro is a long time. It required a lot of sacrifice and a lot of time away from my family. It just feels like the timing was right.”
But don’t think that Hincapie’s turned his back on cycling. Could he return as an analyst? What some believed to be a trial balloon on Twitter during Paris-Roubaix garnered much attention. But Hincapie insists his live commentary was unplanned.
“I did that at home. I just woke up and thought, ‘well this might be kind of fun to do.’”
After sending an initial Tweet that got several responses, the Roubaix veteran’s race analysis took on a life of its own, growing more popular with each update.
“You know I have a lot of passion for that race,” explained Hincapie, whose ambition to win Paris-Roubaix was the topic of the documentary film, A Ride with George.
“It’s a race that’s been a huge part of my life for going on 20 years. Every sector reminded me of something that had happened in a past race. It’s really hard to explain to the general public just how brutally hard Paris-Roubaix is.”
Could we hear more from Hincapie? Perhaps this July? From a race he knows better than any human, living or dead? While short on specifics, the rider acknowledged there’s a “good chance” he’ll be visiting the Tour in some capacity.
In the meantime, Hincapie’s got plenty on his plate, including the growth of both the Hincapie Sportswear brand and its successful developmental cycling team. Hincapie was in Charlotte on Saturday to serve as the honorary starter at the USA Crits Presbyterian Hospital Invitational, and to mentor a group of riders whose kits bore his name.
“They’re really making a lot of noise here in the U.S. and I’m hoping that I can help build the program so that three to five years down the road they’ll be a major team,” Hincapie said.
The Hincapie Sportswear Development Team, formed by George and his brother Rich, is one of several projects in the works for Hincapie, including a memoir (currently being co-authored by Tour de France commentator Craig Hummer) and the bed and breakfast.
“I’m really excited about that,” said the budding innkeeper. “We plan to open on August 1.”
Hincapie sees the inn as an opportunity to highlight cycling in and around his adopted hometown of Greenville, South Carolina.
“To me, there’s world-class cycling here and nobody knows it, so we’ve got really big plans for the property,” he said. “We’ve hoping to run training camps out of it along with corporate events and weddings. It’s going to be cool.”