Hincapie’s U18 cyclists training in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Hincapie’s U18 cyclists training in Aspen

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
George Hincapie takes in the scenery Thursday near Ashcroft while on a training ride with friends and members of the Hincapie Development Team. Hincapie won the 2011 stage of the USA Pro Challenge that finished in downtown Aspen.
Dale Strode / The Aspen Times |

The young riders are taking to the roads around Aspen.

Cyclists with the Hincapie Development Team, all ages 18 and under, have been familiar sights of late on Castle Creek Road, Maroon Creek Road, Independence Pass and beyond.

The junior cycling race team is preparing for the upcoming USA Cycling Amateur Road National Championships in North Lake Tahoe, California.

“We’re here for 10 days for altitude training before nationals,” said 18-year-old Evan East of Little Rock, Arkansas. “It’s been really great riding here.”

East said the team decided to organize a camp in Aspen to help prepare for nationals, particularly since the East family has had a home in Aspen for many years.

“I’ve been coming here a long time. I’ve been skiing since I was 3,” said East, a recent high school graduate who will attend Southern Methodist University in Dallas in the fall.

“You can’t find such great riding like you have here,” he said, adding that the training group picked their ride options and took advantage of favorable training conditions — accented last week by a pair of rainy training days.

“Back home, it’s like 95 right now,” East said of central Arkansas, where the humidity can match the high temperatures. “This is so high up … isolated. It’s really good.”

He said the Aspen camp provided great preparation for the nationals at Lake Tahoe, in spite of the fact one of the young riders suffered a broken leg in a collision with a car in Glenwood Springs.

“We’re all grateful for the opportunity,” East said, extending a cycling thank you to George Hincapie and his youth development cycling program. “We have an opportunity to ride our bikes every day … it’s priceless.”

Hincapie also fields a pro-level racing team.

While the development squad is not a direct pipeline to the upper echelon pro team, East said the younger cyclists still benefit from all of the Hincapie resources.

The junior and senior racers train together at times. And the pro team directors also have worked with the youth team.

East, who grew up in a bike racing family, said the cyclists had a chance to ride with Lance Armstrong on a couple of Aspen training rides.

“That was cool … a really good experience,” said East, whose father Hunter East is a longtime avid bike racer.

The young riders also had a chance to ride with their namesake sponsor Thursday.

George Hincapie himself joined the riders, along with a few parents and friends and fellow pros, for a training ride.

Evan East, who plans to major in business at SMU, said he will keep riding and keep racing even in college.

“I’ll keep pursuing cycling … and see where it leads me.”

Hincapie made a triumphant return to Aspen for Thursday’s training session. Hincapie won the first USA Pro Challenge stage race to finish in downtown Aspen — in the rain in August of 2011.

During a 19-year pro racing career, Hincapie won three U.S. National Road Racing championships.

He was on four U.S. Olympic cycling teams.

Hincapie raced in 17 Tours de France. He lives with his family in Greenville, South Carolina.