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Editorial: The World Is Our Oyster

Watching the Tour De France on television this weekend, we spotted George Hincapie, a familiar face for people who remember the Oyster Festival Cycling Classic that was featured in the early days of the event.

George Hincapie began his career racing in the Oyster Festival Cycling Classic. We watched him racing in the Tour De France this year as part of the Team Sky. He was honored by his team by having him lead them in the first of the final eight rounds of the race on the Champs-Elysées. George, an American, has ridden in the Tour de France for 17 years, the record. The race was won by a Brit, Bradley Wiggins, who is going on to race in the Olympics. He was the first Briton to win the race in its 109-year history. His win was wrapped up Saturday but the final run was on Sunday, July 22. It is a three-week race with the beginning and the end the same but with the course changing yearly, and announced in October, said Lynne Karppi Chute, who has become a fan of the race, after watching its voyage throughout France with great helicopter shots of the country and great commentary about the inner strategies of the cyclists and the event.

East Norwich is famous in the cycling community for the Visentin Pro Bike shop on Pine Hollow Road, now run by Dan Visentin. His mother, Claudia Visentin, remembered George and his family who lived here on Long Island.

Mrs. Visentin said, “He was a very, very wonderful cyclist for all those many years that he participated, for 17 years in the Tour de France. He was very good and represented our country very well.”

Bill Bauer of Bayville, the OFCC race director, said in 2010, “I even have a commissioned watercolor of the cyclists making the turn on Maxwell Avenue. I have another picture taken with George Hincapie, who did the Tour de France with Lance Armstrong this year. He was with him the seven years that Lance won the Tour de France. George won the U.S. Pro championship three times too. He went to Farmingdale High School and graduated in 1991.” George raced in the OFCC for a few years. He got his start racing the local hills.

“It was just before he turned pro and I actually raced against his father years ago. His father was Ricardo Hincapie. George’s brother who also raced at the OFCC, he is Richard Hincapie,” said Bill. George just finished his 15th Tour de France in July. It’s nice to think that for George Hincapie, it all started at the Oyster Festival.

George and his brother, Richard, practiced cycling here on the North Shore, going up and down the hills, which was good practice for him. The Tour de France is known for its challenging races with cyclists being crowned King of the Hill at regular intervals during the race.

George has been a racing pro now for 19 years. His first Tour de France race was in 1996 when he was 22 years old. He has shown his mettle, working to help others win in this team sport. He ran a recent race to the finish with a broken collar bone. He didn’t report to the medics but had it strapped up during the final rounds, otherwise he would have been eliminated from the race.

On Twitter, George wrote: “Happy that stage is over. Felt like a truck ran over me today. Actually my teammate @michaelschaer was run over today. Thankfully he is ok.” Just a reminder that cycling is a dangerous though exhilarating sport.

He also invited people to come to an event in October. George wrote, “Join me and ride in Washington DC on Team Hincapie at the Audi Best Buddies Challenge (ABBC) on Oct. 20.”

The ABBC team said, “We are thrilled that American cycling legend George Hincapie will be joining us at this year’s event as our new Ride Chair! With numerous world championships, national championships and professional victories to his credit, we couldn’t be more honored and excited to have ‘Big George’ on board!”

What was so great was recognizing the young man we had seen years ago taking his winning lap at the Oyster Festival. That race was a great beginning for him, a great memory for us, and another coup for the Oyster Festival. Save the dates Oct. 13 and 14 for the next celebration on the Oyster Bay waterfront and let’s see what memories we can generate.                               

- DFK