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Hincapie Gran Fondo 2012

PC with George

Thanks to PC for this post on his weekend at the Hincapie Gran Fondo.

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My Dinner with George

About a year ago, T. Edward Wines was announced as one of the sponsors of the 2012 Gran Fondo New York, an epic cycling event that led to an email from Rich and George Hincapie about our involvement.

A pro’s pro in the cycling world, George Hincapie has been on the winning team in The Tour de France nine times; he’s finished the race a record 17 times, and he’s probably the greatest teammate in the history of cycling – a selfless rider who has always put the needs of the team ahead of his individual aspirations. Big George, as he is affectionately known, was the Road Captain for many of the teams that he rode on and he was amongst the most respected riders in the peloton over the span of his 19-year long career.

Rich, the older brother (who constantly reminds George of this) runs the show at Hincapie Sportswear, a business that the brothers share.

A big time operation that supplies a number of high profile teams with their cycling apparel, Hincapie Sportswear also supports the Hincapie Developmental Team for young riders, while sponsoring numerous races and charitable functions around the country.  They also run a great website where recreational riders can find the goods to don that will make them feel like pros.

But, the brothers are also wine guys, and this is where our story really begins.

After some back and forth conversations and designs, we became proud wearers of our TEW cycling jerseys and shorts, made by Hincapie Sportswear; and George and Rich learned a thing or two about wine.  And as if the sporty cycling duds weren’t enough, we also gained two real friends – guys that laugh first and ask questions later.

George with Cadel Evans

Two weeks ago, just days before Hurricane Sandy hit NY, I went down to South Carolina to join George and Rich in what was billed as George’s Final Ride as a pro  – the Hincapie Gran Fondo. He was retiring after 19 years as a pro and this was to be his swansong.

With all sorts of events to be staged around The Ride, including invitation-only dinners, festivals for kids, pre- and post-event parties with big name chefs and big name wineries (led by our friends at ZD Winery), we were also treated to great food and craft beers!

On Friday, after flying down from NY to Greenville, South Carolina with Teresa from ZD, we checked into our hotel, picked up our registration packs for the ride, hit the Hincapie “warehouse sale” for some new cycling gear, and prepared ourselves for the special dinner that we were invited to at George’s place.

After driving up a long steep hill (of course!), we arrived at George’s spectacular home. Wandering through the kitchen we witnessed a fabulous meal being prepared by Chef Michael Chiarello, chef/owner of Bottega in Napa Valley and a favorite of the TV Food Network.

Cadel, Tejay & George

And though we knew that the attendees were going to be of the A-list of the cycling community – Jessica Phillips (a former pro-rider and our best friend from this summer’s Blue Ribbon Alpine Challenge) and her husband Tejay Van Garderen (Team BMC), Cadel Evans (BMC), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin), Dave Zabriske (Garmin), Ted King (Cannondale), Chris Carmichael (trainer of the stars), and many others – it was really great to spend the evening with them.

Also in attendance was George’s whole family – his mom and dad flew up from Colombia, his sister and brother-in-law came from Long Island, his brother Rich and his kids, and George’s beautiful and charming wife Melanie was the perfect host.  Even their young son Enzo and daughter Julia were making the social rounds.

The vibe that night was pure electric. With perfect autumn weather in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we were hanging on the back patio overlooking the city eating Shrimp and Razor Clams and Duck Breast and Pasta, while drinking ZD Chard and Carneros Pinot… Later on, George reached down deep and opened a 5 Liter of 2005 Vieux Telegraph CDP and another of ’05 Ken Wright Pinot.

Dustin Moilanen of ZD Wines with George Hincapie

There were heartfelt toasts made by Christian Vande Velde, George’s old friend and former teammate, and by Dustin from ZD who presented George with a beautiful bottle to commemorate the event.  In addition to toasts made by his brother Rich and his wife Melanie, most everyone championed George as a friend and as gentleman with an incomparable cycling career.

When those toasts were over, there were plenty more stories told and memories shared by his mom and dad, and some more made by dear friends. There were people laughing and drinking and making new friends and the night went pretty late, despite the early start time to the ride the next day, but nobody cared.  It was a very special evening, and I cannot believe my good fortune to have been invited.

I could tell you about the torturous ride that we all did the next day, just as I could tell you about the post-ride party that next night at Le Bastide, the magnificent hotel that the brothers Hincapie had bought and are renovating, because after all, I thought the ride was the reason for my going down to Greenville.   However, in the end, the weekend was made exceptional by the night at George’s and by the intimate club that I felt I’d joined, as a result of our overlapping passions for cycling and wine, on both sides.

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