stayed an extra few days in Singapore, missing the SF
Grand Prix in favor of SACA Road Race 6. He thought he was going to
race, but ended up running lapcards and stopwatches instead. All the hot
sun may have confused him about which race he was watching. Everybody
still calls the race the San Francisco Grand Prix, even though T-Mobile
has spent a lot of money trying to get people to say "T-Mobile
International, presented by BMC Software." Way too long, and it
doesn't even sound like the name of a bicycle race.]
Not that anybody cares outside of American bicycle racing fans, but George
Hincapie was the winner of the very first San Francisco Grand Prix.
Even though the Postal boys are kind of boring the way they win the Tour
de France year after year, I am a big George
Why am I a big George Hincapie fan? Because, unlike his more gifted,
famous, and storied teammate who races like a robot, never risks
anything, and says he doesn't particularly enjoy riding a bike except
that he's good at the job of being a professional bicycle racer,
George Hincapie attacks and wears down his opponents. You can tell he
enjoys riding a bike, and especially in front of people. He spends most
of the season as a teammate, with only a little support for winning on
his own. I have only met him a couple of times, but people say he really
is one of the nicest guys you could meet. How can you not be a fan of a
nice guy who risks it all to win in a dramatic way for the fans and his
What does the 2001 SF Grand Prix have to do with the 2004 SACA Road
Race 6, other than the striking similarities between the jerseys and
bicycles of the winners of both races? This really will be more of a
race report than my last one, I promise...
The open category race was pretty tame for the first five laps, at
least from my perspective at the start-finish line. Yes, their first lap
time of eight minutes, 20 seconds is much faster than any of the other
groups today, and a couple guys dropped off, but the pack stayed
together. After about eight laps, Sam and Lippy
are with a Malaysian rider at the front, but the gap to the rest of the
pack is only a few seconds.
Next lap, it's more like ten seconds, which certainly looks like it
should be easy to close, but that doesn't happen.
Next lap, three more riders have bridged the gap, which is now up to
twenty seconds. I don't know everybody who races in Singapore, but it
seems to me that the significant horsepower is now all in the break, and
the chase group has only eight riders, not much of an advantage over the
six in the break. The chase group drifts farther and farther back, and
eventually falls apart by the end as riders drop out. The race is among
the first six, and Lippy and Sam are together.
Sam and Lippy get separated by a few seconds at one point, but are
back together with the Malaysian guy next time around. The three of them
keep the front of the race to themselves until there is one lap to go.
The remaining three get together, too, but eventually time trial the
last part solo. Nick Swallow moved up from sixth to fifth to fourth but
still finished a couple of minutes behind the leaders.
With one lap to go, the final three are together. A short delay, then
179 bus, then a couple of minutes, then the rest of the pack.
My phone rings. It's Oldman.
"Five more minutes!" I say to answer the phone.
"Who won?" he asks.
"Five more minutes," I tell him.
"Did Sam and Lippy win yet?"
"We'll know in five more minutes." I don't think it's
dawned on him yet that this grueling race will run more than three hours
and still isn't over.
I explain that the final three are known, and Sam and Lippy are
together, but it could be close.
Five minutes later, Sam and Lippy round the final corner, hands
joined, arms raised in victory, and no other riders in sight. Lippy
crosses the line half a wheel in front of Sam. The crowd cheers, pleased
to see Team Singapore sweep the first two places so decisively.
After the race, Sam chews a banana as if he doesn't even have the
energy to move his jaw. It is the only time I've seen him force himself
to eat. Normally, he can put down a big plate of nasi lemak in the
middle of a 100 km ride! He's obviously tired. He explains why.
The end of the race didn't really come down to any one decisive
moment. It was a series of attacks throughout the race against the rest
of the group, and against the Malaysian rider near the end. Finally, Sam
wore the rest down, leaving Lippy reasonably fresh until the end. Sam
said he really wanted Lippy to win. I think he was surprised to be with
Lippy at the end. Lippy explained that he didn't ride at all the week
before on a business trip, and didn't know how long today's race was
until the Wednesday before! (Sting,
home asleep during the race and obviously a fan of resting, later
proffered the theory that the involuntary tapering was good for Lippy.)
Good, old-fashioned bicycle racing: attack, attack, attack. A
teammate willing to sacrifice himself if needed. A home turf victory to
finish off the season. And it couldn't happen to two nicer guys.
Kind of like George Hincapie. See? I'm a big fan of Sam and Lippy,
Besides, even though the hills of San Francisco don't really compare
in absolute terms to the hills of Nanyang Technological University, this
is as much of a hilly circuit race that Singapore is going to get.
Slogan I suggest for next year: "SACA Road Race 6: Singapore's
Toughest Bicycle Race!"