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I’ve long been an admirer of George Hincapie
as a hard-working super-domestique,
plagued by bad luck in the Classic events
he coveted winning, but tireless in his work
for his team leaders in the other events
than made up his annual toil (or calvary, to
judge from his autobiography!)

I was disappointed, but not totally
surprised to find that, like so many others
of his generation, he had feet of clay and
succumbed to the temptations of chemically
enhanced performance – I think as time went on it was increasingly clear
that “team Armstrong” was operating in the same mode as Festina before
it. I personally find it hard to judge riders in that era to a degree – the
choice was to join in the arms-race or not deliver results to a large degree
so it’s not as simple as choosing to dope to get an advantage over
non-doping rivals, though it’s also clear that not everyone doped. But
everyone who doped was complicit in fostering an environment where that
was the norm and the likes of Christophe Bassons and Paul Kimmage who
blew the whistle were ostracised. For that reason this book is somewhat
unsatisfying – I’d have liked Big George to be more equivocal about doping
being morally wrong, but in fact he uses the “everyone was doing it” excuse
though with a high degree of anger that riders with less natural ability were
fighting out the victories while he was suffering at the back. (Jonathan
Vaughters is quoted as saying that he knew Hincapie could perform clean
and that the percentage bump in performance he got from EPO would be
relatively small because he had naturally high haematocrit levels anyway –
George and JV were both tested at the Olympic Training Center at age 15
yrs.) To be fair, in that position I’m not sure what my choice would have
been. More disturbingly though, he seems to suggest that it was the risk

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