Hincapie opens narrow lead

Thursday, September 13, 2007
Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, right, helped Team Discovery's George Hincapie put on the yellow jersey Wednesday in Springfield, Mo. (Mark Schiefelbein ~ Associated Press)

A rider ended up in the hospital after smashing into an armadillo.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- George Hincapie of Greenville, S.C., emerged from a group of 12 riders with a late surge Wednesday to claim the second stage and move into the race lead at the Tour of Missouri.

Hincapie, who rides for the Discovery Channel team and has 11 Tour de France finishes -- the most by any American -- won the 125.6-mile road race from Clinton to Springfield in 4 hours, 35 minutes, 26 seconds.

Frank Pipp of Boulder, Colo., was second and Dominique Rollin of Canada was third in the same time as Hincapie.

Hincapie, the 2006 U.S. pro road race champ who began the day 10 seconds out of the race lead, is now 4 seconds ahead of Rollin, a former Canadian national pro road titlist.

Discovery Channel's George Hincapie celebrated Wednesday after narrowly beating several challengers to win the second stage of the Tour of Missouri bicycle race in downtown Springfield, Mo. (Mark Schiefelbein ~ Associated Press)

The lead group broke from the main field after 32 miles. With 30 miles left in the stage, the group had more than a seven-mile lead, more than 17 minutes ahead of the main group.

"Once we got the lead to the gap to one minute, I knew it would hold," said Hincapie, who was a teammate of Lance Armstrong's during Armstrong's seven Tour de France titles. "Everyone was pulling so hard, it would have been hard for anyone to catch us."

The sustained breakaway left the top 11 riders within 52 seconds of each other in the overall standings, with former race leader Ivan Dominguez of Cuba, now 14th, trailing by 14:20. No other rider is within 14:20, likely meaning the race winner will come from Wednesday's top finishers.

"It's definitely not over," said Hincapie, who will be among the favorites in today's 18-mile individual time trial in Branson. "I still have to go as fast as I can. Like I said, all of the guys in the break were strong and taking pulls, so it's not wrapped up."

The race began with a bizarre incident.

Members of the peloton took a lap through downtown Springfield, Mo., during the final miles of the second stage of the Tour of Missouri on Wednesday.

Ballwin, Mo., native Dan Schmatz, who now lives in Colorado, was forced to abandon the race after crashing into an armadillo about three miles into the stage.

Schmatz, who rides for the BMC Racing Team, was in the main field traveling at about 20 mph when he and teammate Jonathan Garcia of Boulder, Colo., met with the wayward animal.

Schmatz was transported to Cox Medical Center in Springfield, where he was diagnosed with a broken collarbone and head lacerations, race officials said.

Garcia returned to the race and was part of the 12-rider early breakaway group.

The 562.2-mile, six-day race continues today with the 18-mile third stage, an individual time trial in Branson. The event concludes Sunday with a 74-mile circuit race in St. Louis.

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