Cyclist George Hincapie on Biking, Doping, and Lance Armstrong

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

American cyclist George Hincapie was a “domestique,” making tactical decisions on the course, helping shepherd the team leader through the peloton — the pack of riders — and keeping him in a strong position. Drafting behind another rider can save up to 20% of a rider’s energy.

In this interview, the record seventeen-time Tour de France participant, Olympian, and key witness in the Lance Armstrong doping case gives an account of his career and a sports era defined by performance-enhancing drug use.

Hincapie started using the performance-enhancer Erythropoietin (EPO) in 1996, on and off. “I went from barely being able to survive in the peloton to surviving.” He began riding clean ten years later. “I never saw any indication of doping on the teams that I was on from 2007 on.”

He retired from cycling in 2012, in part because he knew he faced suspension from the sport because of his earlier doping. 

On his relationship to Lance Armstrong:

We grew up racing bikes together. We never expected being thrown into that world. It’s not like we decided together that we were going to dope. It’s like we were thrown into a world that we felt like, at the time, we didn’t have a choice.

On widespread use of doping in cycling:

There was a time in ‘95, ‘96, where the speeds got incredibly faster. And all of a sudden you go from being one of the best guys in the world to being barely able to hold on to the guy who’s the most out of shape in the peloton. ... My value systems then, in my 20’s and early 30’s, were different than they are now…At the time, I truly felt like I wasn’t doing wrong.

George Hincapie's book is The Loyal Lieutenant: Leading Out Lance and Pushing Through the Pain on the Rocky Road to Paris.


George Hincapie

Comments [6]


I can't help but consider the scolding by other posters as a bit naive especially coming from people that apparently follow and know the sport. Doping was a systemic problem..yes each person ethically should have made other choices, but to say that clean riders would have had success if not for the dopers is ridiculous. The best were all doing it, and would have crushed the fee clean riders with or without doping. Holding to moral convictions despite the harm to one's career is commendable, but it sure doesn't make you a better talent than Armstrong et al...

Jun. 01 2014 02:42 PM
MikeInBk from Clinton Hill

I had the privilege of racing with George in Prospect Park in his early days. George was a phenomenal athlete, beating older men much older and experience than him. It is sad that he found it necessary to use PEDs to stay competitive. But my recollection of him is as a gentle, humble soul that never let his successes get ahead of him. You would be hard to find anyone from the NYC peleton who will speak badly of George.

May. 28 2014 12:43 PM
David B from Los Angeles, CA

How in the world is this guy's reputation intact? Get back under a rock, you jerk!

Think of all the great American cyclists who DIDN'T dope and who didn't get a chance to ride the tour because of people like Hincapie.

Looking forward to seeing your book on the remainder pile, Georgie!

May. 28 2014 12:41 PM
Russell from East 20's Manhattan

Great interview, Leonard. Despite all the sport's drug history, watching a rider like George for many years, you always knew having a teammate like him was a great asset. For those who can't process any of it beyond the doping, I'd ask them to be a little more honest with themselves as it relates to similar scandals in track & field, baseball, football and soccer. The piqued hypocrisy seems to accomplish little. Mr. Hincapie was always one of our favorites and we wish him well.

May. 28 2014 12:39 PM
Krystina Mahoney from Maplewood NJ

I am disgusted by this athlete. I loved watching professional cycling followed from 2003 on. Watched live as I nursed my babies. The race got me through long nights of new borns. Loved the drama, the athleticism the History, The competion. When the drugging came to light it was like finding out your best friend was married to the devil. So disappointing. My feeling is that there should have been line up WHERE ALL OF the cyclists lined up to get the dope. Then the reace would be even and that I knew the athletes were DOPERS. and could cheer my favorites. THEn let the games begin. Bunch of lyers and cheats!!!!

May. 28 2014 12:24 PM
Ken from UWS

I've been told that entire teams were doping and that this had to happen for the star, like Armstrong, to succeed. Could you ask him about this?

May. 28 2014 12:13 PM

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