July 23, 2003
The Daily Peloton checks in with their daily "Golden Hams" and "Ham-gazers".
The biggest Golden Ham today is, of course, Tyler Hamilton, but also among the Golden Hams is:
George "Big Rig" Hincapie (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). Men who are preparing for the Fall Classics and the World Championships take note: The "Big Rig" has rebounded from his early season illness, and he is coming for you. George was on point of the peloton over both Cat 1 climbs today, and on the 2nd climb (the Col de Bagarguy) the big Hink had shredded the peloton to about 20 guys. He was rubbing wheels with men like Ullrich and Vinokourov…and they both had looks of discomfort on their faces. He is highly motivated, and will come out of this Tour with amazing form. He has yet to win a World Cup race, but he will by the end of the year. And frankly, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see George win a stage in the Vuelta and go on to wear the Rainbow Jersey next year. Doubt me? Rewatch the Tour tapes, and look at him ride. He's one of the strongest guys in the peloton, and he's been on a leash. When the Tour is over and Postal lets him off the leash again, the rest of the riders had better watch out.
Among the Gazers:
Erik Zabel (Telekom). While Cooke (FDJeux.com), McEwen (Lotto-Domo), and Hushovd (Credit Agricole) were off the back in the gruppetto, The German Champion was able to stick with the Yellow Jersey group. He took 2nd on the stage, and moved up into 3rd in the race for the Green Jersey where he only trails Cooke by 13 points now. Still, his team's fierce chase couldn't catch Hamilton, and he is still without a stage win in this Tour. But with the legs he's shown over the climbs, he should end this drought soon… maybe even as early as tomorrow. Whatever happens, he has turned the Points Competition into a three-horse race again.
I thought this was a little unfair, as Zabel had what it took to ride with the big men, while the other sprinters (minus O'Grady) stayed in the laughing group.
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