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George Hincapie: Beyond the Bike

July 02, 2019

George Hincapie: Beyond the Bike
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In this episode of The Radical Company Podcast, Ryan sits down with George Hincapie.
George is one of the most well known names within the cycling industry, competing as a professional from 1994-2012. Defining the term, "domestique," and making a name for himself through serving his teammates and putting their needs above his own.
In this episode you will learn more about his background, servant-leader mindset, and his newfound love for hospitality & business since completing his professional cycling career in 2012.

Learn more about the agency - www.Radical.company
Connect with George Hincapie on Instagram: @ghincapie
Connect with Ryan Alford on Instagram: @ryanalford
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#NowThatsRadical #YeahThatGreenville


In this episode of The Radical Company Podcast, Ryan sits down with George Hincapie.

George is one of the most well known names within the cycling industry, competing as a professional from 1994-2012. Defining the term, "domestique," and making a name for himself through serving his teammates and putting their needs above his own.

In this episode you will learn more about his background, servant-leader mindset, and his newfound love for hospitality & business since completing his professional cycling career in 2012.

 

Learn more about the agency - www.Radical.company

Connect with George Hincapie on Instagram: @ghincapie

Connect with Ryan Alford on Instagram: @ryanalford

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#NowThatsRadical #YeahThatGreenville

Transcript

Ryan Alford [00:00:19] Hey guys, what's up? This is Ryan Alford, host of the Radical Company Podcast. I hope everyone is doing well, whether you're jogging, walking, wherever you might be. When you listen to this podcast, we haven't been active. We're getting back in. We've got a great schedule of things. So stay tuned. Keep following along on iTunes, Google, wherever you do your podcast, listening, you can find us under radical company. But, man, I'm super excited today to be joined by George Hincapie, a renowned former pro cyclist, still at Cycos La Dolce. It's like you never probably want to say former as much as you are the disgraced former and former professional recreational biker. Now exactly 17 Tour de Frances we were debating before the podcast if that was still the record and I think we're going to go with it, that it is absolutely so. A beast on the bike and even a beast in business and want to talk more about post by career, but also just being in Greenville. I'm a Greenville native and it's cool getting to do the podcast with other world known people that have chosen Greenville as home. Now I think the secret's out there. 

George Hincapie [00:01:40] I think that one of the biggest questions I get all the time is like what got me to Greenville? And it was simply that the writing here is world class. I mean, you go out into the mountains, the road networks, it is massive. No traffic or very little traffic. Although, like you said, we're getting more and more, which is fine. But the community seems to be still very bike friendly. And the main reason why I came here was for good cycling. And now I love it for a ton of other reasons. 

Ryan Alford [00:02:07] So I want to get into that for sure, especially as it relates to your businesses with the hotel and the restaurant and Hincapie Sports and all that. So we're going to get in all that. George, I know you've done a million interviews. I know people can find your bios out there, but let's at least start with, the basics a little bit just to kind of warm people up. So we move to that transition because I want to delve into more of like one of my good friends who's I don't know, he said he knows Andrew Gardner, biker biker, one of our best friends. We played in a golf tournament every year and he's in Amsterdam living right now. And that he's like, yes, you got to talk about how bad ass athletes that bikers really are. And I know because I've watched what he did to trade. And then just, what really the mindset that has to go into your site, into just getting in that kind of shape now. But let's start, let's do at least I know you've you've talked about this a lot, but, let's do a brief synopsis. The last, I don't know, twenty years, from biking and your experiences and then kind of leading into post bike career businesses and all those things. Sure. 

George Hincapie [00:03:22] Yeah. Well, I guess for starters, I grew up in New York, learned how to ride a bike in Central Park and in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. And a lot of people have a hard time understanding that just because New York isn't the most ideal place to ride a bike, but it actually is ideal in the sense that you're always surrounded by a ton of different influences. And I was racing against a lot of South Americans, Europeans that had that cycling culture and that cycling was ingrained in their sort of lifestyle. And they didn't care that I was a young kid. It was like they wanted to win races. So I kind of got through that thrown into that club and really learned a lot. Um, just just riding those races with those guys and riding around New York City, I think heightened my sense of awareness in the group, which ended up in the future. Being one of my strong, strong points in the peloton, was that no matter how stressful the roads were or how small they were or what the weather was, I was always kind of on top of my game and that those things didn't really affect me. Like most of the peloton, sometimes I might have not been the strongest guy or or the fastest guy, but I was able to be very efficient inside of the group of two hundred guys riding on roads the size of bike paths. 

Ryan Alford [00:04:36] Is that a team mentality? I don't mean to cut you off right there, but I just think there's something really fascinating about the kind of servers mentioned, almost like the team mentality there. I mean, is that just something inbred and you like. 

George Hincapie [00:04:47] Well, I mean, that came later on. I felt like I could win races on my own. Right. Some of the one day races. But in the races like the Tour de France, I was one of the best in the world at helping others win. And although a lot of people have a hard time understanding, well, why would you want to do that? But inside of a team, it's a massive role and it's a very important role. And I knew that I was very good at that. So I just chose to focus on that for now, the last ten years of my career. And it seemed to work. Pretty well, 

Ryan Alford [00:05:16] I would say so, yeah, yeah, continue on, I think, but I think that gets lost sometimes. I think it's an interesting fact. We were talking about some of the things with personal development, other things, I think taking in, seeing success in whatever role your best in versus wanting to be the perceived best in something like I don't think most people that from an outside or even understand the dynamics of the team of cycling. And so they go well, he doesn't get to be Lance Armstrong or like, why would he want to do that? But then but just but you take satisfaction and that role. 

George Hincapie [00:05:51] That role. I embraced it. I mean, once you get to that level, I mean, everybody is incredibly talented. Everybody was one of the best guys in their country. But you throw two hundred of these guys from all over the world into the same belt. It really doesn't matter. It's like who's the best at what they can do? Who can say the most focused, who's mentally the strongest? Everybody's got the talent. Everybody's incredibly gifted on the bike, but it's just those little things that make the difference at the end of the day. 

Ryan Alford [00:06:17] So cut you off a little bit on the story so we can start to keep down that path a little. 

George Hincapie [00:06:21] So I grew up in New York racing, went over to Europe as a 16 year old, and did pretty well. Thought I was kind of a bad ass then. So did my first Olympic Games at 18 and got completely crushed. I was like, oh shit. OK, maybe I'm one of the best in the U.S. But like I said, that doesn't really matter on the world stage. But in a way, looking back, that was good for me because it made me realize that my talent is only going to take me so far that in order to be a professional and to raise Razorlight, sort of France, you have to dedicate your whole life and sacrifice, the fun things in life as a, an 18 year old kid would want to do go out and party and go to the prom and do all this stuff is like I had to make a decision then and there that if I wanted to make it as a professional athlete, like those things were going to have to come second priority. And, after the Olympics, I really buckle down and up my training and my diet and my lifestyle, which is what goes into becoming a successful athlete at that level. And, soon after that, I did one more year as an amateur. And then I signed my first pro contract at 19 years old and went full time to Europe, got thrown into the den of wolves, so to speak, and moved into a coma in a small apartment in Como, Italy. Didn't speak. The language was lost for a while. But, I learned a lot and suffered a lot. And it took a long time to, uh, to get to the level where I wanted to be. But, I stuck I stuck with it and, and I wouldn't trade those years of suffering and not knowing if I was going to make it and always questioning myself, because that's where that's where I felt like I gained all of my experience and I gained all my my motivation to work hard and never take my position inside of the peloton, inside my team for granted. I knew that if I didn't put in the work and I didn't dedicate myself to the team in the sport, that I wasn't to be successful. And I never wanted to go back to where I was those early years as a pro, where I was just kind of backfill and just trying to make it to the finish line. That's not a fun way to ride a bike. 

Ryan Alford [00:08:22] What talk about just how grueling it is, the training process. I don't think people realize. I mean, like, it's not 

George Hincapie [00:08:30] I mean, it's anywhere from four to seven hours a day. And then it's not only just riding the time of yourself up the mountains and riding and heat like it. It's out there today. And but you're always focused on your diet. You're eating just to fuel your ride or your next day's work. Not really for satiating or enjoyment of food. It's just about fueling yourself. So it's a tough lifestyle. I mean, it's a very strict lifestyle. And, I'm glad I'm not a professional cyclist anymore. 

Ryan Alford [00:09:00] No, beers. With dinner. 

George Hincapie [00:09:04] No beers or very little. Uh, so, no, I feel like I've kind of got to flip the opposite side of that. I still exercise a lot, but I enjoy the finer things in life. 

Ryan Alford [00:09:13] Well, at the pinnacle of writing, with Lance's victories and being such an integral part. Can you describe that feeling being at the pinnacle of that sport? 

George Hincapie [00:09:27] It's incredible. I mean, it's some of my fondest memories on the bigger coming on to the Chambless that people would think like a big race that I won or of course, winning the national championships here in my hometown was huge because my friends and family had never seen me raise. Got to see me win one of the biggest races right in their backyard. But some of my fondest memories are rolling on to the Chamas Reizei as a part of a team that is winning the Tour de France. Even though I didn't win it or I knew that I had a major part in that. And just just getting into the Shamsie with a million people on the sideline, your family's there waiting for you and you've accomplished a major goal. So those are the things that stand out a lot. And those are the things that really solidified and why it made me realize why I've worked so hard and why I've sacrificed so much for moments like that. 

Ryan Alford [00:10:15] So a lot's changed. And I know you've been part of that with cycling. And, do you feel like it is headed in the right direction now with just some of the post draw out, let's call it post drama? We don't need to get into the drama. Everyone knows what the drama is. But like, is it getting to a better place? Got to know that it has gotten.

George Hincapie [00:10:38] I was lucky in that sense. I don't know if luck had a lot to do with it, but I always had. It was a really tough time for me to come out and admit the dirty parts of cycling. At the time when I had to do that, cycling was in a much better place. And I felt like I was a big part of that change. But looking back, I mean, I had a great support network that helped me get through that had a lot of understanding around me. A lot of my close friends and family were really supportive and advised me along the way. And, it was just a very tough one or two years. But looking back, I felt like it made me a much stronger person, made me meet a lot more people that I haven't met and made me take a lot more risks that I'm taking now that I probably would have never taken. So I think overall it was an important process for my growth. 

Ryan Alford [00:11:32] What do you think? This is kind of like a little bit of a left turn, but why hasn't cycling taken off? It's bigger. Yeah. In the US, most certainly. But what do you think it is that's made it so huge in Europe and otherwise? And like maybe just history? It's kind of like sometimes people ask me why a certain college football team sucks, but they've always sucked. They've never, they never had, they were never interested, never good. And then now they want to be good and they don't have any history. They say that about basketball, but what is it? 

George Hincapie [00:12:06] What a great question. And I mean, cycling as an industry is growing globally. Yes. Tremendously in the U.S., maybe not as much. But in terms of recreational cycling, it's very big and it's growing. It keeps growing year in and year out. But the sport itself, I think it has something to do with perhaps we don't have the Lance Armstrong's that are winning the Tour de France. So the attention might not be as big, but there's some guys coming up in the pipeline that I think can bring us back there. And, a lot of Americans don't understand all the interesting traces of the sport. Yeah. The dynamics of the teams. And, a lot of people don't understand what my role was as a teammate. So it's yeah, it's hard unless you're actually in the sport or if I can sit down one on one and explain it. Um, so I think it's a lot to do with an understanding of the sport and not like the major stars. There's no major U.S. stars. Yeah. Although I'm hoping this year working maybe change that. 

Ryan Alford [00:13:07] This whole cycling count, all these all these pop ups, cycling is really just massive. I know. Like yoga. So it's a cycle bar here locally in Greenville. We give them a plug as well. Yeah. Um, but I would live in New York and so, so cycling was starting to boom, uh, like twenty eleven or twelve and the now cycle bar is a different thing. So it's definitely like, like getting out there in different ways. But I mean, I don't know, I can and I feel like I'm in good shape till I get to do one of those classes. 

George Hincapie [00:13:43] And that's the thing with cycling. I mean, it's very difficult. You can push yourself, but there isn't that pounding on the body, too. So you can do it forever and not worry about injuring yourself as much as, of course, you can hit yourself on the road if you crash or you tweak something on your body. But it's less than running out and playing football or soccer with your buddies. 

Ryan Alford [00:14:05] So post cycling even guess during some cycling business, getting happy sports. We've got the hotel, the restaurant. Um, let's go there a little bit. We're obviously the. The Hincapie sports to biking and all those things, I get that connection, but I am curious, like maybe where some of the passions came that have led you towards this and did the bike, did the team at everything that you learned with the team aspect of biking and everything that did that translate into business after the fact? What were some of just the influences that have gotten you into the business world the last 15 or so years? 

George Hincapie [00:14:46] Yeah, so I was very lucky. Lucky to have my brother as a partner. We started to think every sport when I was still a professional cyclist and at the time my only role was to promote the name and the brand. My last contract as a professional cyclist, I was able to bring on my company as a clothing supplier of the team team BMC, which kind of put us on that global stage, which a lot of people can't do with a small company like that. That would be very difficult to get into. But I was in that sort of position where I was able to negotiate and make a couple of requests. Yeah. Along with my contract. So that helped us grow as a company and by diving into the hotel, we still feel that that's closely tied into our brand. What we're trying to do and what we're trying to build, which is a health and wellness and cycling culture in the upstate of South Carolina. And, I always say if you take a overhead shot of our hotel and don't tell somebody where it's at, they would guess Provence or Tuscany, because all you see is the mountains and just this beautiful terrain. So I think it's really an asset to our community. And I'm fortunate enough to have a great partner to help me kind of foresee that vision and see it through now. I'm just excited about what we built and I have no hospitality experience, but I have a great team up there now that does a great operations team. And I think that was part of my strength as a cyclist was that I was able to make great relationships and have close relationships with the people that I worked with when I was cycling and the people that I work with now, which I know that I know what I don't know. And I know that I feel like I have a good eye for people that can always help me in their expertise. 

Ryan Alford [00:16:30] Does any of your culinary taste influence the restaurant? 

George Hincapie [00:16:34] Yeah, well, we sat down with our new chef, Heyden Chank, and we discussed the menu and we just hired him four or five months ago and he's doing an amazing job. He was very close with the farmer right down the street, the Broken Oaks Farm. We have some cool plans in the future to perhaps do more farm stuff that I think I'm very excited about. So I feel like our team up there, our restaurant, GM, our hotel GM, our chef, our head of operations is the best we've ever had. And I'm super comfortable up there. I love going up there now. It's exciting for me to go out there. It's exciting to see the people that we bring up there, people that just come to ride their bikes and check out hotels on seats that may have never come for any other reason. So it's great to have those people out there. 

Ryan Alford [00:17:20] What's been the most challenging part of the business side, whether it's in Kappy sports or the domestique or the or the restaurant or other ventures, what's been the most challenging? 

George Hincapie [00:17:32] So the most challenging as a cyclist, although you suffer like a dog all day long, it's a lot more predictable. Like if you work hard and you stay healthy, you don't get sick. You can kind of get unless you crash, you can kind of guess where you're going to finish or not. Guess where you're going to finish. But that you perform well based on your numbers and how you are feeling in the business world. And I'm still learning. I'm kind of like in my first years as a professional cyclist. That's where I'm at now. I'm learning I'm trying to become successful. I'm trying to, like, become good teammates around me. Yeah, that's the way I look at it, because I'm forty. I just turned forty six on Saturday and I'm retired from a 19 year professional career and um, jumped in headfirst with this new, these new things that we're working on. And I'm still learning. I'm fortunate that I have great, great relationships with a lot of successful people, people that have been in my place where I was a cyclist in the business world. So I have those people to lean on and have counsel with. So that's kind of where I'm at. I'm just in those early stages of my business career. 

Ryan Alford [00:18:36] How is the family business like that working with your brother? That's great. 

George Hincapie [00:18:40] Yeah, we're of course we have our arguments and we don't agree on everything, but we ultimately always come to agree to agreements. And, it's not hasn't always been this uphill sort of trajectory. I mean, we've had our downs, we've had our serious downs, but we're still here. We're still fighting. And we're very optimistic about all of our companies right now. 

Ryan Alford [00:19:10] What, um, what's the future hold? I mean, I know you're kind of living like you said. You feel like you're kind of in this first phase of the business still. I know it's not new, but, versus the 20 plus years on the bike, 17 Tour de France is like we're not, we're not 17 years into hell. We're not Mustique. So what is the future or is it just an improvement of what you have or other goals or other visions out there? 

George Hincapie [00:19:38] It's the priorities, improvement of what we have. Keep trying to grow. Can sportswear, our clothing company, um, trying to make our hotel domestique, although it's a very small property, but a world class destination and not only a cycling destination, we want to do farm tours. We want to do everything that the upstate has to provide, which is hiking and fly fishing and just being out in nature. We want to be known as one of those destinations where you can get there and not only ride your bike, but get lost and, uh, really have incredible experiences. Yeah. Um, so we want to keep growing now. We have an events company now, which we do our grand final here in Greenville every October, and that's becoming one of the best. We've been voted one of the best grandfathers in the country at one point and we want to expand that. We have four grand finals now across the country of one in Fort Worth, one in Chattanooga, one coming up in two weeks in Boise, Idaho. And ultimately, I'd love to see us end up with five or ten of those across the country, which they all kind of are intertwined with our clothing company and our brand. And that's just cycling related brands. We make clothing, we have events. We have a hotel that caters to cyclists and they're all kind of going back to the cycling world. 

Ryan Alford [00:20:50] So you can't get rid of it, right. Rid of it. 

George Hincapie [00:20:52] I'm fortunate, too, that's why I don't have to ride six hours a day anymore. I still love to ride on my bike. I still love to exercise. I either playing tennis or or biking, five, six days a week. And that's an important part of my life. And I hope that I can continue to do that. 

 

Ryan Alford [00:21:09] We talked a little bit about this in the opener. But Greensville, I mean, what ultimately brought you? You got to Greenville and then what do you think about all the growth? 

George Hincapie [00:21:19] What's been incredible to see? I mean, my brother moved here way before me. I'd come to visit him, quickly realized that I moved from New York to Charlotte, um, to just get better weather. But I realized quickly that Greenville was a hundred times better cycling town than Charlotte and that so like I said earlier, I just that was the main reason why he brought me here. But now, just to see how much the community has thrived and how many restaurants and bars and cool hip spots we have to go now is incredible for the small town that we are and the people that it's attracting. I've been amazed by its growth and really proud of it. 

Ryan Alford [00:21:58] The downtown area. I mean, we live downtown and just watch the growth. And, there was like one apartment like twenty years ago. And now that it seems like there's every rise, luxury condos coming of everywhere. I think they're managing it as best they can. I mean, growth is always hard and people that want it to stay like it was and managing expectations and growth and all that. But I feel like we have as good a handle as you can around it. Yeah. And it's been fascinating to see the tears coming around to all travelers rest. 

George Hincapie [00:22:35] I mean, it's incredible to see how that town is transformed. Uh, the bike path has done so much for that. Yeah. I read an article today where they want to they'd ultimately like to expand it out to Slater and Marietta, which I think would be amazing, because not only not only would that be a big boost for that community, but it's a lot closer to the hotel as well. So that would be, I just think, getting more people out on bikes and running and out in nature is a good thing for any community. 

Ryan Alford [00:23:05] What's so biking and the pinnacle adrenaline rush. Like what, where do you how do you replace that? What is like what's, where did you get or do you not. And I don't wanna call you an adrenaline junkie, but I mean but a lot of these that what you did I mean, with just the grind and the achievement. I mean, I just you talk you read about professional athletes, like kind of that come down and like that reality or what people do to replace that. I mean, is that vintage? 

George Hincapie [00:23:38] So it's funny. I don't miss that hard core training and then my lifestyle being centered around being as fast as possible on the bike. Um, but I didn't really have that let down, whereas I just needed that competition. Sure. I miss my teammates. Yeah, I'm beyond that sort of stuff. But now it's like I call myself a weekend warrior. It's like I don't train full time anymore, but I can never let my body be better than me on the bike. Couldn't handle that. So I get those little, little wins, little with little spikes, that of adrenaline. But just riding with my buddies and I just have a great, great brotherhood of friends that you see, my friend mentioned the other day was not everybody has that, be able to. I was speaking to one of my old teammates today where, I travel a lot, I go to a lot of cool places, but for me, it's hard to put that up to a weekend at home where I go riding in the morning with my buddies two or three hours, and then we sit by the pool and drink and just have that camaraderie where, that's about as fun as anything I do anywhere I go. So I really enjoy that 

Ryan Alford [00:24:42] Drink of choice? 

George Hincapie [00:24:44] I love wine. Depends on the day. Usually red. Yeah. But summer I lean a little bit towards the white as well. 

Ryan Alford [00:24:54] You guys getting in any like doing your own thing. But once we have our own wine. Yeah. I thought y'all had something. 

George Hincapie [00:24:59] Yeah we do. Just a barrel a year which is about 50 cases. So we sell it at the hotel and uh to myself and my brother, we get a bunch of it as well. It's made by Pride Vineyards in Napa. That's kind of a funny story I went to. Pride has always been a fan of Pride Vineyards. Yeah, I went there for a tasting with a friend of mine and the head winemaker showed up with a Hincapie sweater on. And I was like, this is going to be, 

Ryan Alford [00:25:22] oh my God, 

George Hincapie [00:25:23] I was able to. I asked him if they'd consider doing a blend for our hotel. And, um, the owner, Steve Prior, approved it. And, uh, we're coming up on it. We just ordered our seventh year vintage and we're going to double up. We can get two barrels of it. And it's awesome. 

Ryan Alford [00:25:39] Well, we do a little feature called Secret Wine Tasting. 

George Hincapie [00:25:42] I'll bring it in. 

Ryan Alford [00:25:44] I love to have a huge red. I did not know that back. I knew you guys. I think I knew you had maybe a label or something, but I did not. Those made by private label front. You had me appraised. What a beauty. 

George Hincapie [00:25:59] Big vocab. Sally's a great winemaker and like I said, we're on our seventh year of making it. So it's super exciting. 

Ryan Alford [00:26:07] That's great. Well, George, man, uh, it's been a pleasure having you on and looking forward to getting to know you better through some of these other outlets and tasting some wine. And I'm not going to get on the bike with you, but yeah, you do bootcamp with me or 

George Hincapie [00:26:23] I'll suffer through it. But I would be ugly. 

Ryan Alford [00:26:27] Where can everyone we've had, we'll have in some of the videos. But let's plug, uh, the hotel. How everyone can find all of the businesses, your personal stuff. I know we've got Hincapie. Yeah. For Instagram. They can find stuff directly through there. But let's tell everybody where they can find everything. 

George Hincapie [00:26:47] Yeah. So, I mean, hotel don't ask a lot of people. It's funny. They think of it as kind of like an anniversary place or birthday is a very. But we like to think of it as an everyday place. I mean, we got a great burger up there and we have, of course, the fancier few food items. But, uh, I think it's a very approachable restaurant that can be should be visited any time of the week, not just on weekends or at lunch 

Ryan Alford [00:27:11] Fir dinner?

George Hincapie [00:27:12] Lunch is only open on the weekends. OK, but dinner is open Tuesday through Saturday. And that's got its own Instagram page, the Hotel Domestique and Restaurant Seventeen. And then we have our big event coming up in October out there .  I'll actually challenge you right now to participate in the fifteen or the 50 mile bike ride. OK, guarantee that you would love it. All right. If you become a cyclist afterwards, if that's one of my favorite things, is seeing a lot of my friends that have never even considered riding a bike, I can't. I just come to my event and they do it and they fall in love with the sport and they become regular cyclist. So October 19th, because the night before that, we do a big celebrity chef dinner as well. Yeah, we were bringing celebrity chefs from across the country. It's a very cool food and wine experience. So we like to look at it as a whole weekend experience and anybody can participate and it's easy to get tickets and all that. 

Ryan Alford [00:28:06] So and Hincapie Sports and KAP's Hincapie Dotcom 

George Hincapie [00:28:11] Actually, if you go to every dot com, you'll see everything that we do with sports, the clothing, the events, our training camps out at the hotel so we can go there and find pretty much everything we do. 

Ryan Alford [00:28:23] Well, you guys stay up to date on everything with George. We really appreciate him coming on and we look forward to the next episode. I hope everyone has a great day, night, morning, depending on when you listen. But this is Ryan Alford, host of the Radical Company podcast. Thank you.