Trading on the sterling reputation that enabled him to survive a widely publicized doping confession, American cyclist “Big George” Hincapie—a record seventeen-time Tour de France participant, Olympian, and key witness in the Lance Armstrong doping case—offers an insightful account of his esteemed career and a sports era defined by performance-enhancing drug use.
In this highly anticipated cycling memoir, Big George Hincapie provides the most comprehensive account of a dark period in professional cycling, in which doping scandals have decimated the careers of some of the top athletes in the field.
The Loyal Lieutenant reveals how Hincapie’s life has been intrinsically tied to the sport he loves, from his earliest days in Queens, where he was influenced by his Colombian father’s love of cycling and the Colombian “cycling warrior” archetype. Hincapie takes us through his amateur years to the Olympics, and chronicles his exhilarating ride as a professional, including finding his true calling as Lance Armstrong’s most prized “domestique”—leading his then best friend to seven straight Tour de France victories.
Hincapie speaks openly about his relationship with Armstrong, how he himself began doping, and why he quit long before the headline-making revelations. His personal evolution is the journey of a man dedicated to coming clean about his past and to restore honor to the sport he loves.
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This book is about a man who take a stance and proactively changes a culture bent on destruction of a beautiful and addictive sport. George goes about changing his life to create an atmosphere of freedom from hiding in the shadows. A world that ultimately could have destroyed the one thing that supported and fueled his success-his family. He goes about his business not as an Evangelist with zeal, but leading and teaching by example. This method increased his peers' respect in his talent and leadership 100-fold. His answer to his daughter and son in the final few pages is worth reading, ingesting on many levels. His wisdom and insight are exemplary.
I was ambivalent about buying a book from a cyclist who was ingrained in the culture of doping, but in the end I was curious. Not much passion comes through in this book written at the junior high level. The anecdotes seem contrived. One can only hope the profits are donated to charity.
The Loyal Lieutenant
I did not quite know what to think about this book and how it might change what I feel about Hincapie and the role he played in professional cycling over the past 20 years. In fact, I was reluctant to initially purchase it. However, as a close follower of cycling since my own triathlon days in the 1980s and then standing on the Champs Élysées as Lemond rode by in 1990, I was curious about what Hincapie might say about so many stories I had come to know well. Obviously, there was the doping and the history he shared with Lance Armstrong, but then there was also his transition to riding for Highroad and Cavendish and then BMC and Evans and Tejay. I was always curious about his Tour stage win as a 'climber' as well as the other back stories about narrowly missing out on yellow in 2009 and Horner chasing him onto the Champs Élysées as he completed his last Tour. Hincapie illuminated all of these events and added detail and subtlety that allows a better understanding of him. It is so true and tragic how the man who he shared so much with in his cycling career did not internalize a few more lessons from George Hincapie on humility and competing with grace. Lance and George were obviously so different but I guess that is one aspect of their story (and their time together) that is so fascinating. I came away from this book with a better understanding of the choices these guys were faced with and the reasons why some of them made better decisions for themselves and their families when they were faced with such difficult decisions. As a close follower of the sport, I would have liked some more candor about Contador and Bruyneel and a few others, but the scope of the book seems in keeping with the temperament of the man whose story is being told. Chapeau George and good luck with all that comes next...