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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 July, 2004, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
Riding in Armstrong's shadow
Lance Armstrong (left) and George Hincapie
Hincapie will ride at Armstrong's side once more
Lance Armstrong has stood on top of the Tour de France winners' podium five times and, while other riders have come and gone, only one has remained constant at his side.

George Hincapie is Armstrong's closest friend in the peloton and has been a shoe-in for US Postal at every Tour de France since the Texan's winning streak began.

Alongside his team leader, the beanpole of an American has gone from strength-to-strength and here tells BBC Sport what it is like to ride a wheel's length away from one of the legends of the Tour.

By George Hincapie - US Postal rider

People are always keen to know what it's like to ride with Lance but, unless you've ever done it, you can never really fully appreciate it or understand it.

For starters, his focus has helped me massively. It has turned me from a competent rider to someone who can genuinely compete, whether that be in the mountains or over time-trial courses.

He's a hard task master at times. But which five-time Tour winner wasn't? And more importantly it's what he needs and the team needs to get the best out of it.

But all that hard work and pushing is rewarded - five Tour wins is sure as hell enough reward for me.

People often ask "do you ever get bored of sacrificing your results for those of your team-mate?" And I'm like "hell no".

Sometimes you're on a climb and you say: 'Oh, leave me alone Lance'
On riding with Armstrong

People don't understand that him winning is a lot about us winning as well. Should Lance win a sixth in Paris at the end of the month - and I'm confident he will - then the celebration is just as good for us as it is for him.

He's always thinking about the good of the team and is so enthusiastic about it all both in training and competition, it's difficult not to find it addictive.

That energy has rubbed off on the team in training, competition and pretty much everything we do.

We're always able to have fun on the US Postal team bus or when we sit down for a meal and our tight-knit group is like one, big happy family. It sounds corny, but it's just the way it is.

There are times when it's tough - don't get me wrong - and we have moments when we don't always agree. But which competitive team in sport doesn't.

The one time it's truly tough is when we're on some of the Tour's steeper climbs, I'll be helping Lance out early on and he'll be wanting to lift the tempo even further.

You know you need to but your body's just saying: "Oh, leave me alone Lance."

Almost always it's 100% worth it because, by the time I make it across the line, he's usually celebrating in yellow.

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