When George Hincapie decided to go in a long breakaway Saturday, he never thought he would be competing for the yellow jersey.
But as the time gaps grew and the finish got closer, that dream began to look more like a reality on the run into Bensancon. Then, the nightmare began.
A quickening of the pace, first by Astana, then by AG2R and Garmin, eventually shut down Hincapie's advantage and he missed the race lead by only a few seconds. His disappointment at the finish was obvious.
Afterward, in an interview with Versus, Hincapie blasted both Garmin and Astana, saying they had absolutely no motivation to chase the break down, unless they simply wanted him to stay out of yellow. However, others have said that was absolutely not the case.
Johan Bruyneel, director of Astana, said it would have been ideal to have the Columbia Highroad rider in front at the start of Sunday's mountain stage. Lance Armstrong said no one would have liked to have seen Hincapie in yellow more than him.
Armstrong said his team did take a turn at the lead, but only to keep the break at a manageable level. He said it was never his team's intention to close the gap so much that Hincapie lost the lead on the road. Rather, he blamed Garmin for that.
The tension between Garmin and Columbia has been building ever since the Giro d'Italia. The Tour de France just represents a different field of battle.
For their part, Garmin said they were just riding at the front to keep out of trouble and the pace kept pushing them along.
Given the history, there is reason to doubt that explanation. There is no reason to doubt Astana's.
Still, cycling is an individual sport as well as a team sport. You are rewarded for getting to the collective finish lines in the least amount of time in stage races—and Hincapie didn't do that. In some ways, that comes back on him.
Certainly, it was a disappointment and represented Hincapie's best chance to get a second, and likely last, yellow jersey in his career.