George Hincapi?Garc? and Hendrik Gerardus Jozef Zoetemelk are professionals from different eras in a sport that has both drastically changed yet remained the same.
But the cyclists have a lot in common. Neither rider uses his birth name. The former is George Hincapie, currently riding for the Santa Rosa-based BMC team. He's nearing the end of a long career dominated by technology.
The latter, now 63 and retired for 25 years, is Joop Zoetemelk. He rode a steeled-framed bike and wore woolen cycling attire early in his career.
Yet both riders' easy-going personalities made them ideal team riders. And most notably, Hincapie and Zoetemelk share legacies of longevity.
The most famous Dutch cyclist in history, Zoetemelk started and finished the Tour de France 16 times, winning once and placing second six times.
Beginning on Saturday in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Hincapie will participate in his 15th Tour de France — the most of any American — with hopes of gaining his 14th finish.
Although riding for an American-registered team, only Brent Bookwalter of Athens, Ga., will join Hincapie as Americans on a squad making its Tour de France debut. The nine riders will be led by Australian Cadel Evans, the reigning world road titlist and twice a Tour de France runner-up.
Hincapie, who turned 37 on Monday, is a three-time national road title holder who has one individual Tour de France stage win, three team time-trial stage wins and was the only teammate who shared all of Lance Armstrong's seven straight race titles.
During a recent visit to help unveil the new home of the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis, Hincapie spoke about the 2010 Tour de France and his enduring legacy in the sport.
Q: Early in the Tour de France this year in Belgium there'll be cobblestone sections. It's the type of riding that's suited you through the years. Are you looking forward to the early stages?
GH: We'll be going to the Tour de France with an overall contender in Cadel Evans, so we'll be doing a lot of work that day (stage 3) and I'll be the main guy probably to get him to position.
But it's going to be stressful. The first week of the Tour is always super stressful, no matter what. There are cobblestones in the mix and small roads and wind and possible bad-weather conditions, so it can be very hectic. I think the first week this year can blow the whole race wide open.
Q: Last year at the Tour ... well, we didn't know you signed with BMC and we didn't know the team would get picked to go to the Tour. But after a controversial stage in which you could have taken the race lead, you said something to the effect that you didn't care anymore about the Tour, or at least something like that. Your reaction was strong and a lot of people commented that they'd never seen George Hincapie so agitated.
GH: I get agitated all the time. I just hide it very well (laughing). It was a disappointing stage for me. At the time, I was upset with the tactics that took place. For me, it's water under the bridge. I lost a big opportunity that day, but I made up for it in other places.