Bicycling Fall Classic to take place Sunday, Oct. 6

George Hincapie lived through the so-called golden age of cycling in the 1990s and 2000s that included the infamous doping problems of Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, and finally, after years of denial, Lance Armstrong.

"There's no doubt that when I started racing, shortly after I started in the top level of the sport in Europe, it was like the Wild Wild West," he said during a phone interview this week. "You either did it or you were done. It was a messed up part of the sport. It is the history of the sport now, there's no denying that, but it is changing for the better and I don't think you can say that about other sports."

The last time Hincapie was in the Lehigh Valley, he was battling the likes of Marty Nothstein and competing in the 14-15-year-old class during junior nationals in 1988.

He's going to be back in Trexlertown the weekend of Oct. 5-6 to take part in Bicycling magazine's Fall Classic, presented by Specialized. The third annual Fall Classic is Sunday, Oct. 6, with four rides of different distances, all finishing with a Roubaix-style finish "victory" lap on the concrete crater that is the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Trexlertown.

"I know I'm not going to jump on a track bike, that's for sure," Hincapie said. "I haven't been back there since the last time I raced on the track."

Hincapie, whose 19-year pro career included 17 Tour de France races — including being a teammate with Armstrong — and an American-best-ever second it the Paris-Roubaix, will also take part in a special VIP ride and reception Saturday, Oct. 5, at Bear Creek Mountain Resort and Conference Center in Alburtis.

On Sunday the Bicycling Fall Classic will feature the premier 90-mile Gran Fondo ride, along with 10-, 25- and 50-mile rides. Hincapie plans on doing the 90-mile ride, although his brother, who will be accompanying him, may talk him into doing a lesser distance.

Hincapie, who turns 40 on Saturday, grew up in a European racing culture in Queens, N.Y., and used to make the trek to T-town on a regular basis as a youngster.

"It was there where I really learned how to ride the track," he said. "If we wanted to race the big boys, we'd go to T-town to get the top competition. I learned a lot about riding there, and that translated well to my pro career."

Hincapie also had early success on the road, and took his career in that direction. He won three national road racing titles, assisted in winning the Tour de France yellow jersey 1999-2005, 2007 and 2011, and competed in five consecutive Olympic Games from 1992 through 2008.

He publicly admitted to doping in 2012 and was one of the key dozen witnesses testifying to Armstrong's doping.

"I kept racing for many years after I stopped doping and was able to do it cleanly at the top level," he said. "I believe the majority of the peloton is now clean. Lance was doping, but the amount of commitment he had to win the Tour, he was arguably one of the most disciplined athletes ever. People have no clue as to the focus you need. The sport is so hard. If you are not 150 percent committed to making yourself stronger, it shows in an event like the Tour de France."

Registration for the Bicycling Fall Classic and the VIP ride is open at http://www.bicycling.com/fallclassic. Fees increase on Aug. 1. Anyone registering before July 12 will receive a free Road ID eCard, which is valued at $20.

"The Fall Classic traverses the quietest and most beautiful roads in the area," Bicycling editor-in-chief Peter Flax said in a press release. "Plus, we've designed the event to cater to riders of all skill levels: From the beginner who wants to ride with the family to the seasoned endurance road cyclist."

The rides feature nutritional, mechanical and medical support with a post-ride party, lunch massage and music at the Valley Preferred cycling Center.

The VPCC's Fall VeloFest flea market and equipment swap will take place the day before the rides, so it will be a very busy weekend in T-town.

Tour de France kicks off: The Tour de France gets underway Saturday. NBC and NBC Sports Network Plus Digitally via NBC Sports Tour de France Live will broadcast all 21 stages beginning 7:30 a.m. Saturday on NBC Sports Network, which will also feature a daily 3-hour recap show from 8-11 p.m.

The esteemed Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen will call the race with reports Steve Schlanger and Carolyn Manno chipping in, as well as for the first time, an inside-the-race view from Steve Porino on a motorcycle in the Tour's official motorcade. Todd Harris, Bob Roll and Scott Maninger will man the evening show.

Run with Bart: Bart Yasso, the chief running officer at Runner's World, who helped design the Via Marathon course, is going to run the race for the first time this year. Race weekend is Sept. 7-8, and the marathon, half marathon and 5-person marathon relay take place Sunday, Sept. 8.

To register, go online to http://www.viamarathon.org.

McCandless loves Minnesota: Northampton High School and Penn State graduate Tyler McCandless may be living in the high altitude of Colorado, but he seems to have found a new love in Minnesota.

McCandless finished 11th overall at the U.S. Half Marathon Championships in Duluth, Minn., last Saturday, completing the 13.1-mile course in a personal best 63 minutes, 16 seconds, 1:43 faster than his previous best. He finished exactly 2 minutes behind winner Mohamed Trafeh.

McCandless called it both a big physical and mental breakthrough on his blog, which is available at http://tylermccandless.com/10316/.

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