The long-time Lance Armstrong lieutenant stayed with a chase group that powered over the steepest mountain on the course — Sierra Road — then had enough energy left to beat two other former Armstrong aides de camp: Levi Leipheimer and Floyd Landis (Phonak).
At the finish, it was Hincapie beating Chris Horner and Josep Jufre Pou, both of Davitamon Lotto. Hincapie trailed Leipheimer by 6 seconds coming into this stage; the 10-second time bonus for winning the sprint put Hincapie in the overall lead..
This 95-mile race between Martinez and San Jose is one of those days that reminds me of the futility of doing a big breakaway. Three riders from domestics teams, Mike Creed (TIAA CREF), Tim Johnson (Health Net), and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Kodak) all took off and gained a more than 5 minute lead on the peloton.
Gerolsteiner, protecting Levi Leipheimer's golden jersey, finally started to tighten the screws with about 30 miles left. Their lead dwindled, until a 200-man chase group caught them on the daunting Sierra Hill.
Many of the race favorites were in this chase group: including Leipheimer, Hincapie and Landis. All three had served to help Armstrong over torturous mountain passes in the past.
The Discovery, CSC and Davitamon-Lotto teams all clawed their way to the front in the race into San Jose, with Discovery finally taking charge and setting up the sprint for Hincapie.
This might be Hincapie's biggest win since winning the Pla d'Atet last year at the Tour de France. Arguably one of the toughest days in the Tour, the route topped six mountain passes in the Pyrenees. Hincapie hung onto Oscar Pererio's back wheel on the last climb and took the Phonak cyclist in the last 200 yards.
Leipheimer and Bobby Julich (CSC) were 4th and 5th across the finish line. Check CyclingNews for all the standings and details.
The overall top 10 are:
1 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery – 7:20:28
Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner – .04
Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC -0.09
Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak – 0.10
David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC – 0.13
Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto – 0.16
7 Christopher Horner (USA) Davitamon-Lotto – 0.19
8 Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery – 0.21
9 Christian Vandevelde (USA) Team CSC – 0.22
10 Michael Barry (Can) Discovery – 0.22
Image from whileseated at Flickr.com